In recent years, e-commerce has seen considerable success and is now, by and large, an integral part of our lifestyles. In fact, in 2015, online shopping giant Amazon eclipsed the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, in terms of valuation.

Given the convenience of online shopping, the many available choices and the unbelievable discounts, it is still surprising that conversion rates in online shopping range from 2% to 4%. These rates are not even close to conversion rates of brick-and-mortar retailers, which hover around 20% to 40%.

Yes, online shopping does come packed with its own set of perks, but it deprives shoppers of the option to ‘try’ things before they purchase. Users do not get to actually see the product, feel it or evaluate it personally. Based on the reputation of the retailer and the product’s reviews, consumers trust that the shipped product is exactly how they saw it. No wonder reviews and return policies are so important in the era of e-commerce.

However, with the increasing popularity around Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, this scenario is expected to change.

Virtual Reality in Retail

Virtual Reality provides the user with an immersive experience, usually through the help of a VR headset, such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or a Samsung Gear, among other options. There are numerous examples of brick-and-mortar retailers using VR to enhance interactivity between the products and the user. At outlets of Tommy Hilfiger and AT&T, you can try a VR headset and watch 360-degree runway shows or go on a virtual Carnival cruise.


Other brands are escaping the friction that comes along with VR and leveraging 360 video experiences solely. NARS cosmetics, the famous French cosmetics company. It utilized Facebook 360 to create 360-degree videos of makeup tutorials that you can watch right in your Facebook news feed. The user is virtually seated in a room and can watch beauticians applying makeup to models. And what’s more exciting? This doesn’t even require VR headsets.

Grab Your Free Omnichannel Report: Merging Online and Offline Retail

Lowe’s, the home-improvement retail store, also tried to bridge the gap between home shopping and innovation. They launched an experience called the Lowe’s Holoroom which allows the user to redesign a virtual room with the company’s product and then watch it on YouTube 360. Homeowners can try an immersive, intuitive experience in the room of their dreams. The Lowe’s Holoroom was introduced in 2014 as the first concept from Lowe’s Innovation Labs, and it’s now available in 19 stores across the U.S. beginning in November 2015.

Virtual Reality lends itself to allowing customers to resonate with a location they aren’t currently in. Within this immersive environment they can construct their future room, furnish a home, essentially create virtual scenarios as if they are actually there.

Augmented Reality in Retail

The growth of Augmented Reality (AR) is presenting a different kind of experience. AR takes the idea of an immersive experience a step ahead, by blending together these virtual objects with your surrounding environment, in real-time.
Many companies are working on the development of a headset that can render projections into our reality but with the advancement of AR through smartphones, augmented reality has seen a real opportunity in retail. In the not-so-distant future, we can expect AR headsets to show you how outfits would look on you before you even have them in hand. Decorating your new home, trying on new makeup, and even seeing how complex products function are all uses that augmented reality is positioned to address.
In ecommerce, the average conversion rate is 1.33%, while the top performing online stores convert at a 3.65% rate.
Many factors can contribute to a customer’s buying decision and Augmented reality is encouraging more consumer interactions while boosting retail sales.
  • Create an Engaging Buying Experience
“61% of shoppers prefer to shop at stores that offer augmented reality, over ones that don’t” – Retail Perceptions

While shopping online, a customer has to imagine and interpret what an item would feel like in their hands, or look like in their home. AR technology helps overcome this online buyer’s challenge by transforming an imagination into a reality.

A customer who can accurately see how any product will actually feel in their environment, at-scale, will be able to purchase with more certainty and satisfaction.

  • Modify or Customize Selections

Augmented reality makes it easy for consumers to explore their options and make personalized modifications while online shopping. With retailers who offer augmented reality, shoppers can change the color of furniture they’re looking to buy to see how it looks in their home first.

“77% of shoppers want to use augmented reality to see product differences such as a change in color or style” – Retail Perceptions

  • Visualize or Understand Products and Features

Both online shoppers and in-store customers wish that they could interact with a product to get a feel of how it works before heading to the cashier. Augmented reality is allowing shoppers to trigger animations to show how complex products like appliances or electronics work and function.

At Augment, we power augmented reality for brands and merchants to allow consumers to see how your products will look when placed in their homes. Shoppers can see how your products work before purchasing, or take a picture and share it with a friend, all from your online store.

The future of augmented reality in retail will consider augmented reality SDKs like Augment’s SDK that allows retailers to leverage AR through their own, branded platforms.

This is a very exciting field with constant innovation on the horizon, solving today’s problems with the next platform of computing. Online retailers must realize that there is more to VR and AR than mere gaming. As futuristic as these “realities” feel, it’s all old school again ﹣the touch-and-try charm, just virtually!

Foundations and Future of Augmented Reality and Ecommerce