As Virtual and Mobile Shopping Takes Root, Augmented Reality is Crucial for a Successful Holiday Season | holiday strategy

As the holiday season approaches, retailers should prioritize the deployment of augmented reality shopping to enhance mobile experiences.

We’re now in the second half of the year, and retailers’ thoughts turn to the all-important holiday season – and human connections and personal experiences are key to e-commerce success. Couple that with the majority of online shoppers looking for mobile gifts, retailers have their work cut out for them.

Mobile shopping growth continued its strong trajectory during the 2021 holiday season. According to Adobe, the majority of digital interactions with brands, 61%, occurred on mobile devices as shoppers researched gifts online, returned to stores in full force and used their phones everywhere. Mobile commerce sales, however, continued to lag, with mobile purchases generating just over 4 out of every 10 online dollars spent, or 43%.

This nearly 20 percentage point gap between browsing and buying suggests retailers are missing a selling opportunity. Retailers struggle to present comprehensive product information – let alone immersive and personal experiences – within the confines of the small mobile screen, with a third of consumers reporting at least one issue with mobile shopping, including multiple complaints regarding poor design.

To overcome the challenges, brands need a new approach – and augmented reality is proving to be an effective remedy. AR shopping allows shoppers to view high-fidelity, three-dimensional images of goods against the backdrop of real environments using their mobile phone camera. A recent survey by Snap subsidiary Vertebrae found that 42% of consumers who had tried AR shopping said the experience made them more likely to buy.

Retailers that improve digital experiences have the opportunity to convert more mobile browsers into shoppers and deliver festive and fun experiences along the way.

Gift buyers can use AR to:

Choose the right gift and avoid returns after the holidays
When consumers see virtual objects superimposed on their actual physical spaces, they can easily determine if the products match their environment in size and style. Perhaps that’s why furniture and home decor tops the list of popular AR shopping categories, with 40% and 36%, respectively, of those who have used AR to shop saying they have tried it for these types of items. When it comes to holiday gifts, AR can help shoppers choose the right expensive gifts, from flat-screen TVs for the family room to bicycles for growing kids.

Proper sizing of items helps avoid the post-holiday returns tidal wave, when retailers see e-commerce return rates soar to 35% from 20% year-round. Speaker and subwoofer maker SVS has reduced returns by more than 12% year-over-year thanks to AR renderings of its audio systems that allow buyers to view life-size virtual products in their physical spaces . Combined with an increase in conversion rates of over 250%, the impact of AR on the bottom line was significant.

Check must-have features and functions
The immersive features not only help gift shoppers see the big picture, they also allow viewing the finer details – a crucial feature whose absence on smartphone screens is a barrier to purchase. According to Digital Commerce 360.

The ability to easily flip, rotate and zoom products in the mobile environment is a top request from shoppers, with 45% saying it would improve buyer confidence, according to Vertebrae’s survey. With these capabilities, gift shoppers can check to see if picks have the right outlets, ports, and controls — not just for electronics, but also for kitchen gadgets, DIY tools, and appliances. Verizon has combined these capabilities with a holiday-themed AR experience to help 2021 gift shoppers choose the right mobile technology and accessories, with callouts for key features.

Share fun experiences and wishlist choices
While the days of roaming the mall shopping for gifts with friends may be over, augmented reality shopping can bring back the camaraderie and fun of shared experiences. Nearly 4 in 10 Millennials and Gen Z AR shoppers (38%) say they find the tools fun and engaging, while 20% have shared screenshots of their AR shopping experiences, according to the Vertebrae survey. Consumers can share screenshots of their virtual try-on experiences, making it easy for gift shoppers to select the right colors and styles.

Brands are already starting to capitalize on the fun factor of augmented reality. In 2021, Coca Cola partnered with Snapchat to replicate the experience of taking photos with Santa Claus in a festive AR environment, allowing attendees to virtually reunite with friends for a dose of high-tech nostalgia.

Augmented reality can also bring a new dimension to in-person vacation shopping. Walmart added AR enhancements to the aisles during the 2021 holiday season so store shoppers can overlay virtual graphics on their store view to share with friends.

With the 2022 holidays fast approaching, retailers should prioritize the deployment of augmented reality shopping to enhance mobile experiences. Not only can these tools improve m-commerce sales; they can infuse online shopping with humor and sociability, making brand experiences joyful and memorable beyond peak season.

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