Why Retailers Are Embracing AR

April 7, 2023
-min read

The future of shopping is here and we’ll tell you now: it’s not ecommerce. Major retailers are turning to AR to enhance customer experiences, provide better product visualization and reduce return rates.

Their reasons don’t stop there, though. Involving AR in the sales process brings about plenty of marketing and branding opportunities, as well as a competitive advantage over competitors. 

This isn’t a stab in the dark. It’s future-proofing. According to Statista, over 80 million people in the US used AR every month in 2020. By the end of 2023, this number is expected to grow by 30% to more than 110 million people. It’s hard to say how many of those are using AR for personalized shopping — but, this significant growth—in the US alone—perfectly demonstrates the demand for this technology. 

So, which brands are using AR and what could it mean for your retail business? Read on to find out.

Who's Using AR Right Now?

There are at least 30 well-known brands working with AR right now, some of which are newer to the party than others. A handful of the most interesting, good-to-know cases can be found below. 

IKEA: IKEA is one of the earliest adopters of AR, having put out its app back in 2013. Initially, users required an IKEA catalog to be able to select furniture and see how it looked in their rooms using the camera on their mobiles and tablets. IKEA Place was launched in 2017 as an improved version of the original app. This doesn’t require the catalog to function and has over 3,000 items installed. 

Home Depot: Home Depot took its first step into AR back in 2019 with an update to its ecommerce app. Users can see how furniture and fixtures look in their homes by simply selecting the items they like and aiming their phone and tablet cameras around their rooms. Home Depot is on record stating that they experience three times more conversions when a customer uses the AR feature. 

JD.com: The AR Styling Station is JD.com’s app that lets users sample cosmetics before they purchase them. They can ‘try on’ cosmetics from a bunch of major manufacturers using their phone cameras to create a visual representation of what products look like on their faces. JD.com has partnered with Sony and its distance measuring technology to help people get an accurate sizing of their feet and realistically try on footwear, too. 

What Big Brands Adopting AR Means for the Average Retailer

Honestly, at this moment, not a lot. The application of this technology has remained fairly static in retail over the years. But, interest and demand for AR are forecasted to grow.

As the ‘average retailer’, you have a couple of options. You could involve AR in your sales process now—offer better brand storytelling, increase conversions and gain an edge over competitors—or, you could wait until everyone’s using it. 

AR can provide a competitive advantage now but, when more companies are working with it, you may find yourself on the backfoot — trying to take a piece of the AR pie when, frankly, it could be too late to get a substantial slice.

Our Thoughts

We think that now is the time. The fact that major retailers, some of the most widely recognized and essential-to-commerce companies, are using it, is a surefire green flag that you should be, too. That being said, it may not make sense for all retailers to offer it, at least not right now. Whether you’re a web-based or in-store retailer, keep an eye on what the likes of IKEA are doing and be ready to make AR a part of your selling experience. It’s coming — or, maybe, it’s already here.