Augmented Reality became a household term ever since PokemonGo was launched in July 2016 and had everyone raving about it. But in fact AR is not new. AR has been used in different ways for almost a decade across a myriad of industries.

Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), AR does not obstruct the view of our own surroundings, but rather, ‘augments’ the real world with images, text, video, graphics, etc. This is what lends AR to wide-scale applicability, especially in retail.

Just as VR has completely taken the entertainment industry by storm, AR has found a strong foothold in the retail industry. Using AR, businesses can provide a level of interaction between their products and consumers by immersing them in a completely new environment. Providing advantages both in-store and through online retail, Augmented Reality has already begun to change the way we shop forever.

In this article, we’ve narrowed down a short list of AR’s earliest presence in the retail and ecommerce industry.  

IKEA Catalog:

IKEA was one of the earliest retailers to integrate AR into its product catalogue.  

IKEA has been using AR technology to bridge the gap between the customer’s perceptions and the reality of the products.  When shopping at home for new furniture, it is difficult for customers to visualize how that new couch or coffee table in their space.  AR helps bridge that divide. 

Ikea Augmented Reality - Augment App

In 2013, IKEA launched an app, which used AR to overlay 3D models of IKEA’s products on the real-time feed of the camera, pointed where the customer wants their furniture to be placed.

Further, in 2014, IKEA released their iconic catalog to make visualization easier. Customers simply place the catalog where they want to place the furniture piece. When viewing through the AR app, customers could see actual products in place of the catalog and assess if it fits their taste.    

Converse Shoe Sampler:

Converse was another pioneer in merging AR and retail. Converse launched an AR app in 2010. If customers wished to try a shoe, they simply needed to point the camera at their feet and the app overlays a projection of the shoe on their feet. Converse even had an ecommerce platform linked to the AR app to make purchasing easier and faster.


In 2012, Uniqlo, a Japanese-based retail store, known for their affordable clothes and excellent customer experience, decided to enhance the latter by deploying augmented trial rooms. This trial room consisted of a mirror with an LCD screen that let’s you choose the apparel you wish to try on and then overlays different colors of the clothing to help you make the best choice possible.

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By eliminating the hassle of trying numerous clothes and colors, Uniqlo sparked a trend.  Other companies including Gap and Adidas followed, launching their own smart fitting rooms. 


Lego introduced augmented reality in-store kiosks back in 2010. Customers simply needed to hold up the box in front of the screen of the kiosk, and the finished Lego appeared on top of the box on the screen.

Further, in 2015, Lego released another app called the ‘Lego X’, which uses networked Lego bricks to create a 3D model on your device. The bricks are sensor and gyroscope-enabled which allows the software to track them and render a real-time model on a tab as you proceed to design. By enabling designers to design with 3-D models in the first place, Lego not only made designing more tactile but also addressed one of the most common problems designers face: converting their 2-D projections to 3-D models.

Yihaodian AR:

Yihaodian, China’s largest online grocery store, deserves a special mention. Yihaodian utilized AR not only to enhance customer experience online, but also to expand to new locations, without spending a single dime on real estate.

By using Augmented Reality, Yihaodian opened ‘virtual’ stores nationwide in parking lots, parks, and tourists spots. Customers with the Yiahaodian app could use the mobile platform to shop virtually at the designated locations. The app uses the phone’s camera to guide the user through ‘virtual aisles’, where they can simply touch a product on the screen to add it to their cart. When they are done, they can arrange for the products to be sent to their home.

By using AR, Yihaodian was able to turn the tedious process of grocery shopping into an engaging AR experience.

AR is being used by retailers of all sizes, offline and physical stores to blend the boundaries between online, mobile and real world.


Augmented reality for retail