Last Thursday, Indix Founder and CEO Sanjay Parthasarathy delivered a webinar on “Augmented Reality and the Future of Commerce.” It was fascinating to hear Sanjay’s thoughts on the topic and the many possibilities that augmented reality offers to improve our shopping experiences. One of his concluding comments actually makes a good starting point for this post. Businesses need to focus on the problem that they want to solve. Technology will enable the solution. So, if your goal is to provide a better, more productive, and interesting shopping experience, then augmented reality can offer myriad opportunities. During the webinar, our Director of Product Marketing Jenn Steele volleyed questions at Sanjay that he then addressed.
When asked about the distinction between augmented and virtual reality, Sanjay pointed out that AR augments the existing physical world, while VR actually replaces it with a totally simulated experience. VR is totally immersive whereas AR is still connected to the present experience. And this is why AR can play an important role in the future of commerce. For instance, if you like a couch online, AR can allow you to actually see how it would fit and look in different parts of your living room, test out different colors, and so on.
The use of AR in sizing technology for apparel or shoes would completely change the product discovery and buying process. If AR is combined with deep and rich product information, it can allow people to see how a particular outfit looks on them, try it on with different shoes, get recommendations for matching accessories, and so on. This would help brick-and-mortar retailers tremendously to get more foot traffic and engage shoppers by providing additional value. It will also change the way they handle in-store inventory.
On the flip side, online retailers can implement AR to bring more of the tactile and emotional component of the shopping experience to consumers, as described in the couch example above. Both online and brick-and-mortar stores will benefit from using AR to give consumers access to very rich and comprehensive product information, from 2D and 3D images, videos, reviews, to attributes, features, audio, user generated content, etc.
If AR is informed by AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning, it will render an even more powerful and customized experience. For instance, AI can help Alexa learn more about the consumer’s personal preferences, thereby resulting in a more curated experience.
When Jenn brought up the failure of Google Glass and if that is a harbinger for AR, Sanjay pointed out some of the main mass adoption issues with Glass. First of all, it was expensive. It wasn’t easy to use and didn’t have very many apps either. Combine with that, the privacy risk that consumers are always weary of, and also, it didn’t look great. On the other hand, the unprecedented popularity of Pokémon Go gestures wildly at consumer readiness. It makes a case for ease of use, simplicity, and not having consumers pay more or buy new hardware for the enhanced experience.
These were just some of the highlights from our webinar on “Augmented Reality and the Future of Commerce.” For more insights, you can still watch the recording. Do let us know what you think!