One of the biggest challenges of online shopping is that it doesn’t lend itself well to a full sensory product experience. In a brick-and-mortar environment, you can try on clothes, touch fabrics, or see for yourself just how big a couch looks in a room.
While those things aren’t technically possible in ecommerce, augmented reality (AR) applications offer a way to give customers deeper and more complete information about your products — right from their own home.
What is Augmented Reality?
Retail presents a number of opportunities for AR, particularly when it comes to ecommerce. As much as people have gotten used to the idea of ecommerce, there are still some purchases for which we need a little bit more contextual information. That can be a barrier to selling certain product categories online.
That’s why DTC furniture merchant Burrow created an AR app allowing shoppers to customize and place true-to-scale 3D models of Burrow sofas in their own living rooms.
How is Augmented Reality Different From Virtual Reality?
The terms “augmented reality” and “virtual reality” are often used interchangeably, but they are actually very different.
1. VR is fully immersive, while AR simply augments the real world.
Augmented reality simply augments a world that already exists and that you will still perceive, to some extent. Virtual reality, on the other hand — like Meta’s Oculus Quest — is an immersive experience that lands you in a world completely of artificial creation. You typically cannot see and are not meant to experience the real world.
Think back to Pokemon Go, one of the most well known applications of augmented reality. Users would be playing the game while walking down the street, looking at the real environment through their phone, which overlaid digital characters in specific places.
Augmented reality is more portable, while virtual reality requires equipment.
With virtual reality, you’ll need to wear a headset and, potentially, hold controllers in your hands. You also have to make sure that your physical environment is safe from — well, you. (Don’t be the person who punches their television while boxing in VR!)
AR, on the other hand, typically just needs a smartphone or, in some cases, AR glasses. Since you’ll be fully aware of your environment, you won’t need to clear the room to enjoy the experience.
3. More people have the capability to experience AR than VR.
Finally, because AR requires less equipment and fewer safety precautions, it’s also more accessible. If you create a VR application, the number of people who have the equipment available to experience it are far fewer than the 3 billion smartphone users in the world today!
Types of AR Applications