Virtual reality and augmented reality are technology trends that companies have been increasingly attempting to harness, to increase performance levels and create immersive customer experiences. Organisations have previously been slow to adopt these technologies, due to the assumed expense and concerns over ROI, but we are starting to see this change.
Our blog looks into the various ways that AR technology is being utilised by brands and we outline 6 great uses for augmented reality in business.
Leveraging augmented reality
Perhaps the most prominent places the public has seen augmented reality being utilised is in gaming and social media marketing, but AR is not just a gimmick for fancy selfie filters. With the launch of integrative AR solutions, such as of Apple's ARKit and Google's ARCore, augmented reality is no longer a near-future trend, it's here.
With heightened consumer expectations, people expect brands (especially retailers) to be exploring and offering augmented reality experiences. Meanwhile, companies are more aware of the potential of AR technology for increasing process efficiency and performance.
AR in business - the stats
So, what of augmented reality in business? How are organisations viewing AR technology?
Well, Market and Markets revealed that marketers are starting to invest in AR, with forecasts for the revenue of AR to reach over $60 billion dollars by 2023. If this seems like a big figure, consider what this consumer survey from Retail Dive revealed:
"40% of consumers are likely to spend more on products if they experience them through AR, whilst 61% of shoppers would like to buy from retailers offering AR over retailers which don’t." (Source: Retail Dive)
Who needs more persuading than that to explore the uses of augmented reality?
Furthermore, the survey also reveals that 71% of consumers would buy more frequently from a retailer which integrates AR in its business.
Top uses for augmented reality in business
1) AR for staff training
Augmented reality is being used to train staff across a range of industries, from manufacturing and utilities to energy and even aerospace.
When working with expensive tools and equipment, AR technology offers a great way for companies to virtually test machinery and train on systems before working on them. The same can be applied in industries like healthcare and pharma, involving risk-intensive procedures.
Walmart uses Oculus Go headsets to train its employees, whilst the U.S. Army announced a deal with Microsoft to use the HoloLens in military training.
2) Homeware AR product trials and placement
Brands like IKEA are using AR technology to help customers virtually place furniture and homeware in a render of their home or office environment.
The Ikea Place app, powered by ARkit, assists shoppers by allowing them to superimpose IKEA products in a graphics environment to see how they would look in their home. This helps consumers make better buying decisions. A win-win for brand and consumer alike.
3) Enhanced online shopping experiences
AR is really taking off in retail, driven by the experience-led consumer demand for seamless multichannel shopping capabilities. Look at the stats below on how people shop today:
- 20% are online-only shoppers
- 7% are store-only shoppers
- 73% of shoppers use multiple channels
(Source: Harvard Business Review)
AR technology can be used as both an online and offline tool. Here are some of the retail brands that have used AR to enhance customer experiences online:
Gap tested a Dressing Room app to allow consumers to “try on” clothing using a virtual mirror. Using this app, shoppers try on outfits virtually and select them based on size, shape and how the colour and style suits them. Ideal for those who find the process of using an in-store fitting room a pain or who just prefer to shop online.
Converse & Lacoste
Both Converse and Lacoste did something similar for shoes. The Converse Sampler App was launched, to allow users an AR experience of its trainers, and Lacoste also enabled customers to virtually try on its footwear via an app.
Unsurprisingly, online retail giant Amazon has seen the potential in the technology and has patented a “virtual changing room” app, which could really shake up the High Street.
L’Oreal & Sephora
The international cosmetic brand L’Oreal recently purchased ModiFace, an AR app which enables customers to try their makeup on via the front-camera of their smartphones. It’s gone down well with shoppers, as audience engagement in L’Oreal’s app led to a jump in sales.
4) In-store AR experiences
Augmented reality can also enhance the in-store shopping experience. It was revealed that nearly 60% of shoppers look up product information and prices on their mobile phones whilst inside retail stores. (Source: Retail Dive)
Scan products on your mobile for more info (American Apparel)
Sometimes, as a shopper, you’d like further information on products that you can’t get from looking at the packaging. American Apparel created an AR app to allow customers to scan signs in-store that offer key product information and even customer reviews.
Virtual pop-up stores (Airwalk)
Shoe brand Airwalk combined AR and geolocation technology to create a virtual pop-up shop, in support of its limited-edition Airwalk Jim relaunch. Shoppers wanting to buy the shoes had to download the Airwalk app and head to one of the brand’s virtual pop-up store locations.
5) Immersive AR experiences in the Arts
We’ve seen great examples of augmented reality being utilised in an engaging way in the Arts, including music and art exhibitions.
Music (interactive David Bowie experience)
To celebrate the work of David Bowie, on what would have been his 72nd birthday, AR technology was used to enhance the sensory experience for fans online and via a touring exhibition. The AR-based mobile app allowed Bowie fans to explore different aspects of the late singer’s life.
Fans can enjoy a virtual version of Bowie’s exhibition in their own home, including costumes, artwork, videos, lyric sheets and handwritten notes, accompanied by inspiring and informative narration from Oscar-winning actor, Gary Oldman. A truly immersive experience.
Artwork (AR for museums and exhibitions)
Artivive CEO, Codin Popescu, believes augmented reality can seamlessly add digital elements to existing artworks to enhance them and make them more accessible. He wants to build a community and art movement around augmented reality art. Artivive has already created AR experiences for the “Monet to Picasso” collection in the Albertina Museum in Vienna.
Meanwhile, in New York’s MoMA, the Jackson Pollock gallery has been turned into an AR experience. The MoMAR Gallery app enables users to see Pollock’s paintings remixed or replaced, challenging preconceived ideas and offering different perspectives.
6) AR technology uses in manufacturing
The manufacturing industry is leading the way with leveraging augmented reality in business. AR offers a range of benefits for companies in this sector, including increased speed in assembling kit. For example, fighter jet engineers use AR glasses with cameras, depth sensors and motion sensors to overlay images into the real world, to see renderings of parts and their instructions, to help them assemble components. This improves accuracy and increases work speed by 30%.
Some other key benefits of AR technology in manufacturing are:
Problem-solving - AR offers better ways to demonstrate issues, view KPIs in real-time and diagnose and resolve issues without interfering with production.
Reduced maintenance - Bosch uses AR firm Reflekt for its app, the Common Augmented Reality Platform (CAP). It superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's real-world view, for additions to be made to the live image, helping to improve maintenance efficiency.
Reduce production downtime - machines breaking down means production downtime, which can prove very costly.AR provides an interactive, visual way to identify and resolve machinery issues and reduce downtime.
Error prevention - Airbus uses its Smart Augmented Reality Tool (SART) in several ways, including superimposing virtual images from its camera to inspect the aircraft and help the engineers to detect potential flaws. It’s being used by over 1000 employees each day.
Accessing data - IoT technology gives engineers information from a company’s back-end ERP system to access specs, location, inventory and lead times, whilst AR-enabled mobile apps can scan QR codes to view live video feeds, graphics and images.
The future adoption of AR
VR and AR are perhaps most closely associated with gaming and entertainment, where CGI and advanced special effects combine with these technologies to create immersive visual and sensory experiences.
Beyond gaming, film and TV content, AR users believe the technology has huge potential in marketing and social media. Augmented reality has virality, most prominently demonstrated by Pokemon Go and its gamification, using AR and geolocation to provide incentives to drive user engagement.
Facebook has developed its AR Studio tools and Snapchat was an early adopter of the transformative visual effects of AR for its younger, visual-focused audience. With the weight of advertising behind AR technology, we should see it driving impressive brand engagement and boosting product launches and campaigns.
As we’ve seen, augmented reality can really enhance the shopping experience and retailers will continue to invest in AR technology to deliver more ways to help customers make buying decisions. Rising consumer returns and the “showrooming” trend can be combated in retail by using AR to help shoppers virtually test out products.
Augmented reality in business is becoming less of a luxury, or fancy tool for big brands, and more of a progressive tool to be harnessed by innovative companies, to improve processes, reduce errors and create better user experiences. Check out our latest articles for more insights about innovative digital technologies.