Guest contribution • 14.02.2022

Using augmented reality in online retail

Snap Inc’s new AR glasses – soon part of everyday life?

A portrait of the author Dr. Ulrich Clemens
Dr. Ulrich Clemens is chief marketing officer at Scanblue
Source: Scanblue

We are seeing a steady rise in the use of augmented reality apps on smartphones and tablets. California-based Snap Inc., the company behind the Snapchat app, is making new inroads into expanding the field of AR vision and with it possible applications for augmented reality via smart glasses.

The "Spectacles 4" look like a pair of futuristic sunglasses and, at just 134 grams, are only slightly heavier than your average, everyday eyeglasses. This makes them particularly attractive for e-commerce.

You might initially wonder: "AR glasses? For every day? Is that something I really need?" And, in light of the Google Glass debacle, might even be inclined to dismiss them outright.

But these spectacles are worth a closer look. To date, augmented reality apps that integrate digital content into the real world have primarily been used on small smartphone or somewhat larger tablet screens. A considerable limitation that might not be immediately apparent, since the excitement of adding a virtual sofa to a real environment initially outweighs it. But it is exactly this limitation that everyday AR glasses will eliminate.

An image of a shoe displayed on a tablet
Source: Scanblue

Enriching real environments with virtual objects

Experts are confident we’ll be seeing such AR glasses soon. It has long been rumoured that Apple and Facebook are quite far along in the development process. The idea is to enrich the user's real environment with virtual objects - without the limitation of looking at a smartphone.

That Snap Inc. is the one kicking off the race for a new generation of AR glasses is only surprising at first glance. In the AR field, Snapchat already offers users a range of exciting features and has been purposefully developing its app in recent years from something just for fun into a powerful marketing and e-commerce channel.

Snapchat can be used to scan and immediately identify products, companies, and brands, for example. A direct shopping feature – where users don’t have to leave the portal – was updated just at the start of this year.

Marketing and e-commerce with AR

The new AR glasses are the next important step. Outfitted with two cameras, four microphones, two speakers and a translucent display with up to 2,000 nits of peak brightness, they can track hands, markers and, of course, the surface of an environment. This presents exciting new options - and not just for the gaming industry. Using AR to expand reality is also a logical and, above all, very promising step for marketing and e-commerce. Augmented reality enhances product presentation, increases involvement, and can be an effective tool in significantly reducing customer returns.

A picture of a tent displayed on a tablet
Source: Scanblue

It doesn't get more personal: augmented reality at home

E-commerce managers understand the importance of perfecting the customer journey today: In the face of ever-increasing competition, offering customers relevant and interesting information, services, and offers is the key to success.  AR adds a new dimension to the shopping experience. Buyers can view products in their actual environment, increasing personal involvement and attractiveness. Products are also much easier to assess than from a simple photo in an online store. This cuts down on returns, which are expensive for retailers and annoying for customers.

Let’s look at an example: Vorwerk’s very popular Thermomix, a one-of-a-kind kitchen appliance.  Buyers can and want to use their Thermomix every day, so they don’t want the hassle of digging it out of a cupboard each time. But will it fit on the worktop? And will it be an attractive addition to the kitchen? Thanks to AR, customers can answer these questions without bringing in an actual Thermomix by using a smartphone to add a virtual Thermomix to the kitchen and view it from all angles.  

AR support is also a good way to select just the right TRIO lamp. Not only can customers view models from all sides on a smartphone; they can also place or hang them where they would actually go in their homes. This means a buyer can already see what the new lamp will look like in a room before placing an order.

Spectacles 4 is currently being tested with selected customers and the official market launch is still a way off. Still, retailers and manufacturers should be getting ready for this expansion in product presentation because one thing is very clear: Adventurous early adopters with the financial means will be eager to take advantage of every opportunity to try out the new technology, especially during the initial phase. This means AR content will be more in demand than ever before.

Author: Dr. Ulrich Clemens, Scanblue

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