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Augmented Reality is Changing Retailing

Augmented reality (AR) technology apps teamed up with smartphones and are changing retailing for the better.

For the brave souls who have made a living out of selling consumer technology (CT) products at retail, they have been sowing the seeds of their own demise for years. Many would say, “Yeah, by selling just on price.” That may be true, but CT retailers have been selling products for years that have educated consumers about new technologies.

Some of those consumers have become competitors by using those same technologies to change the business model, and making it easier for the rest of us to get better deals.

Well, CT retailing never rests and neither does technology. Augmented reality (AR) technology apps teamed up with smartphones and are changing retailing for the better.

AR technology enables consumers to digitally overlay selected products over a picture of a real-life home or apartment to see how the product fits in the room before making a purchase. AR technology is beginning to change the way retailers make sales and help consumers make informed decisions.

That’s the hope, and based on online reports the change has begun not just for CT dealers, but for retailers. If you’ve ever had to struggle to figure out if that 60-inch TV will fit in your family room – AR apps should give you the answer. And maybe entice you to buy another product at the same time.

A Few Examples

For instance AR developer Augment, with offices in Paris, New York and Orlando, posted on their blog that Lego, IKEA and Converse have used its app to boost their retail presence and sales “through enriching their customer interaction and buying experience.” The developer also said that you can thank AR for the runaway success of the Pokémon GO app.

In a blog on, Lior Levin says that, “while Google Glass may be the future of AR many retailers are using it today with existing devices. Whether it's tools that let you try on clothes virtually, apps that help you find your favorite restaurant or new ways for consumers to interact with a brand, AR is already making an impact on retail.” It looks like Google Glass has a ton of competitors.

Levin says that retailers who combine AR with localized SEO are reaching customers “that, previously, were beyond their grasp.” He adds, “Augmented reality makes it easy for retailers to be matched with relevant customers. Customers know how to localize businesses that are relevant to them, what businesses have to offer, and read up on other consumers’ product reviews, all without looking further than their cell phones.”

The WayfairView app

Elizabeth Woyke, reports for MIT Technology Review, about furniture retailer Wayfair’s new AR app, WayfairView, “which lets users place full-scale 3D virtual models of Wayfair products in real settings. Users select images of furniture from Wayfair’s online catalogue and use the touch screen on their phone or tablet to position the objects on their room’s floor, walls or ceiling.”

Anyone who has bought furniture and had to imagine how it might look at home will be thankful for that. Woyke quotes a survey by Walker Sands, a digital marketing agency, which said 55 percent of consumers think VR applications will influence their buying decisions in some way.

The era of retailers and brands counting on consumers to stumble upon their websites to generate sales, not to mention casual window shopping at a mall, may soon seem nostalgic.

Steve Smith