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Brand MarketingDecember 16, 2022

Can AR Save Brick and Mortar Stores in 2023?

December 16, 2022
Marilyn Wilkinson Prof Pic
Marilyn Wilkinson
Digital Marketing Expert

Over half of US consumers prefer to shop online, but many brands and retailers still rely on the in-store experience to connect with customers and drive sales. As marketers look for new and creative ways to drive foot traffic, can augmented reality help attract shoppers to physical stores?

Let’s explore how brands are using AR to elevate the shopping experience.

How Can Augmented Reality Help Brands?

Since the pandemic, online shopping is more popular than ever. eCommerce will account for 20.4% of global retail sales by the end of 2022, up from 10% only five years ago.

In a world where consumers can buy anything at the click of a button without leaving their couches, many people will only hit the streets and visit brick-and-mortar stores if they have a very good reason to do so. However, this has left a gap for businesses, as in-store customers tend to spend more per visit and are more likely to indulge in impulse purchases.

The in-store experience also plays a key role in brand loyalty. While online shopping is convenient, human interaction gives brands the opportunity to create an emotional connection through memorable moments that create a lasting impact.

Marketers are realizing that, if they want to drive foot traffic, the in-store experience needs to be exceptional. That’s why many brands and retailers are currently experimenting with AR technology to connect with customers and entice them back into stores.

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Augmented reality enhances our real-world experience by adding digital content to objects we see in front of us. You point your smartphone camera at something (like an item in a store), and augmented reality software recognizes it and delivers relevant digital content, creating an exciting and immersive experience.

While augmented reality has been around for a while (who remembers Pokémon GO?), it has recently become a popular strategy for brands seeking new, innovative ways to engage with shoppers in-store.

How Can Brands Use AR In-Store?

Let’s take a look at the most common ways brands and retailers can use AR to augment the shopping experience in physical retail locations.

1. Virtual Navigation

Don’t you just hate getting lost in the mall? AR navigation systems use GPS markers to guide shoppers through physical retail locations. This enables customers to navigate even the most complex malls and department stores and find exactly what they’re looking for.

For example, UK-based retailer M&S recently launched a shopping app to help direct customers through the store. Shoppers can create a shopping list and the app will direct them to the items using a live navigation system.

Source: The Telegraph

2. In-Store Displays

Digital in-store displays are a great way to engage shoppers with educational experiences and let them discover new products, prompting spontaneous purchases.

Nespresso’s experiential store in Leeds, UK, is a great example. The AR-powered “Coffee as Art” masterclass area teaches shoppers about coffee recipes, recycling, and Nespresso’s coffee heritage in an interactive way.

3. AR Windows and Storefronts

Looking to engage spontaneous shoppers as they stroll past your store? AR window displays are a striking way to grab customers’ attention.

For example, take a look at this un-bee-lieveable storefront from NYC-based designer Kate Spade. Passers-by could scan a QR code to experience bees buzzing. The AR-powered bees drew attention to the new summer collection and helped bring foot traffic into stores.

Source: Tulfa

4. Virtual Fitting Rooms and Virtual Mirrors

Virtual fitting rooms enable shoppers to try on items without physically touching them, saving time and offering a more hygienic experience. As more brands start to experiment with this technology, the global virtual fitting room market is predicted to be worth $6.5 million by 2025.

Many high-profile brands, including H&M, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, and Macy’s, have already added virtual fitting rooms to many of their stores, providing customers with more flexible shopping experiences while increasing conversions and reducing returns.

5. Enhanced Product Information

There’s only so much info you can include on a product label. Brands can use AR technology to share reviews, user manuals, product demos, social media, and USG content.

For example, Nike’s flagship House of Innovation store in NYC lets customers scan items with their smartphone to learn more, and they can enter a VR world to find out how the items were produced.

How Brands Can Integrate AR Into Their Brand Strategy

Let’s dive into how you can use augmented reality to build a stronger brand, and how to ensure it fits into your overall marketing strategy.

1. Understand Your Target Audience

As with any marketing campaign or in-store offer, knowing your customer is key. The better you understand your target audience and their specific interests, needs, and pain points, the more likely it is that you will be able to create special in-store moments that resonate with them.

2. Brand Consistency Is Key

As the line between online and offline shopping continues to blur, most consumers come into contact with multiple touchpoints on their way to making a purchase decision.

Ensure your branding is consistent and that customers can expect a high-quality experience on every channel. For example, AR experiences should also show your brand colors and logo, staying true to the look and feel of your brand.

3. Add Value

How can you make the shopping experience easier and more convenient? Map out any potential sources of friction, like returning items or waiting in line, and think about how you can use technology to solve those problems — like contactless checkout, digital product previews, and AR fitting rooms.

For example, 66% of shoppers claim AR visuals would make them feel more confident that they’re buying the right product.

4. Create “Wow” Moments

In-store “surprise and delight” initiatives are a great way to build customer loyalty, and 55% of customers say shopping with AR makes the experience more fun and exciting.

5. Don’t Use AR Just for the Sake of It

Yes, augmented reality is fun and exciting, but it must have a purpose. Consider your target audience and how you can drive real value for them.

Final Thoughts

Augmented reality offers a promising opportunity for brands to bridge the gap between online convenience and a more impactful in-store experience.

As 71% of shoppers say they would shop more often in a store that offered augmented reality, the technology could be the answer brick-and-mortar stores need to up their game and get customers through the door in 2023 and beyond.

Nonetheless, for optimal results, businesses will need to ensure the AR experiences are on-brand and deliver genuine added value.

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