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  • Writer's pictureRameez Hashmi

Is Augmented Reality the Future of Global Retail?

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Rameez Hashmi examines the future of augmented reality (AR) in the retail landscape, exploring technological innovations in the beauty, consumer goods and furniture industry.

With the onslaught of Covid-19 surging once again in the form of a second wave, it seems that the chances of store reopenings are bleak, at least in the near future. Yet, consumers and retailers alike thrive on the experiential nature of shopping — a need to try and touch the products. The effects of Covid-19 have undoubtedly changed the retail experience. A survey by Global Web Index, predicts that consumer behavior established during the pandemic, such as BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store), curbside pickup and e-commerce, will be here to stay post-pandemic. The combination between the ‘touch and try-on’ shopping experience and health concerns has led retailers to find ways to bridge the gap between the in-store experience and the realm of e-commerce.

Their solution? Augmented Reality (AR).

Essentially, AR Technology enables an immersive digital experience by superimposing images, text and sounds on real-life objects. Intuitively, this technology allows for companies from nearly every industry to leverage AR in their digital retail experience both in store and remotely. Jewelry brands such as Kendra Scott use an AR tool that enables customers to virtually try-on various earring styles from their homes. Similarly, the global premier beauty brand L’Oréal, in partnership with Facebook, offers users the ability to try on makeup products with varying shades, textures and colours. Such applications help to recreate the in-store experience and drive personalised engagement with customers regardless of location.

Meanwhile, companies such as Lego and Ikea have rolled out the use of AR in their printed catalogues, enabling customers to take a product and view it in its real world setting alongside details, pricing, and instant buying options. Research shows that such 3D models powered by AR have increased conversions by 250% stemming from providing consumers with the ability to visualise dimensions and objects within their home. They have also helped reduce customer returns. In particular, the furniture industry has seen a boost in customer satisfaction.

The scope of AR is continually evolving as technological capabilities become more robust. An intriguing emerging area includes the rise of virtual goods as commodities, as seen in the sale of virtual merchandise from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton which offers digital skins in Esports games as well as the rental of AR sculptures at virtual art exhibitions. At a time when physical retail has been forced to revolutionise, AR has proven to be the frontrunner for brands and leaders with a vision for the future.

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