Augmented Reality – it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but it’s here, and it’s coming to a screen near you very soon!

To your mobile screen to be precise.  And its purpose is to make your online shopping experience more immersive.  You’ll be able to see items that you’re interested in in close-up detail, and from every conceivable angle, and all without having to visit a store.

In fact, very soon, you won’t need to bother with taking measurements and performing complicated mathematical calculations to see whether that armchair or sofa will fit in your sitting room – you’ll be able to place it exactly where you want it to go, via your mobile screen, and see for yourself whether it looks right, before parting with your cash.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality, also known as AR, is not to be confused with Virtual Reality, or VR.  Virtual Reality provides a completely immersive experience, transporting you via a dedicated headset to another place entirely.  You can enjoy a roller coaster ride, travel to the depths of the ocean, or even walk on the surface of the moon, all without leaving your chair. But VR shuts out the outside world completely, so you’re not able to see your actual surroundings at the same time.

Augmented Reality, on the other hand, allows you to see something through your device screen that isn’t actually there.  The technology lets you add items into your actual world as you look through your smartphone, combining real life and virtual reality in one seamless experience.  So you can examine your potential purchase from all angles before you buy it, or view a piece of furniture in situ in your home, before making the commitment to go ahead and buy it.

Augmented Reality – in the beginning

According to an article published in Wired IKEA was one of the first companies to explore AR as a marketing tool.  Using data from its catalogues, backed by thousands of 3D photographs of its products, the company introduced an early AR system that encouraged its customers to see how a piece of furniture might look in their own homes.

But it was Pokemon Go, launched in 2015, that really saw the technology take off.  Using their smartphones, players were encouraged to explore their local areas, tracking and capturing Pokemon characters that seemed to exist in our reality, yet were actually confined to the device screens themselves. The game was a global phenomenon, attracting children and adults alike in the race to capture these quirky characters that seemed to have found their way into our world.

Augmented Reality today

With so much to offer consumers, it was only a matter of time before companies started to see the possibilities offered by this new technology.  As IKEA launches a new app available on both iOS and Android, for viewing its products in three dimensions from the comfort of your own home, other retailers have been quick to seize the marketing opportunities on offer.

A recent article in the Telegraph indicates that the retail sector is starting to see the potential that AR offers to consumers, with millennials initially being the prime target, thanks to their familiarity with digital interactions.  Most recently, Zara, the popular fashion chain, has announced that it plans to introduce AR displays into its stores, allowing fashionistas to view themselves in virtual outfits without the need for changing rooms.

How can Augmented Reality help my business?

Here at Brookstone, we’re incredibly excited about the rapid growth in AR technology.  It offers all types of businesses a real advantage over their competitors, allowing customers to view products in minute detail, from every conceivable angle, without having to visit a bricks and mortar store.

Now your website can work harder than ever before, helping to promote and sell your products at all hours of the day and night. Customers won’t have to visit your physical shop to find out whether those soft furnishings will suit their home.  Consumers can see your products, close up, and from all angles, which enables them to make the most informed decisions about each purchase.

One of the great advantages of the technology is that it offers businesses without a showroom a superb way of showcasing their products.  That means less expenditure for you, yet at the same time offering your customers an enhanced shopping experience.

And another important point that needs to be taken into consideration, is the reduced risk of items being returned due to customer dissatisfaction.  In fact, by removing uncertainty about dimensions, colour and size, it’s likely that you’ll see an increase in overall sales.

After all, once a prospective customer has seen your products miraculously appear in their own home, albeit in AR form, they are far more likely to want to go ahead and complete the sale.

How can I incorporate Augmented Reality into my business?

Al the signs seem to indicate that AR is set to become increasingly widespread throughout 2019, with many industry insiders believing that the technology will become commonplace by 2020. So it’s important to act fast, and introduce the concept as quickly as possible before your competitors cotton onto its advantages.

We’d be delighted to discuss your business, and explain how we can help to grow it effectively, using AR to drive sales and provide your customers with a more meaningful shopping experience.

So give us a call, or drop in and see us, and let us explain how we can help to take your business to the next level.