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AR and Voice Tech Grab Customers


The use of augmented reality (AR) has gradually come onto the retail scene, and not just by technology merchants. For instance, three years ago my wife Marion and I were shopping for a new couch at Ethan Allen Interiors, and instead of taking the cover samples and draping them over a model, the sales associate showed us on a computer screen what two or three cover samples would look like. And last year, the upscale furniture manufacturer and retailer announced the Ethan Allen Design Studio on Amazon.com will display and offer furniture and decorative home accessories.

Not only are technology retailers selling AR products, but soon AR will become an everyday marketing experience for all types of consumer goods in stores and online. Just like computers, tablets and smartphones transformed the way consumer electronics retailers interacted with their customers, the same will be true for AR technologies. 

Successful brick-and-mortar retailers that sell consumer technologies have developed more sophisticated digital marketing strategies, using websites and social media to reach out to customers online. The use of AR, instore and online, is one of the next big technologies retailers must embrace via smartphones.

For example, in 2013, IKEA launched its AR catalogue to allow shoppers to visualize how certain pieces of furniture could look inside their homes. The app measures the size of the furniture and products against the surrounding room and fixtures to offer a true-to-life scale where possible. 

Just Say It 

And it isn’t just AR. With the popularity of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, voice search is becoming the next big technology that retailers should embrace now. A recent survey by Narvar, a business platform developer, shows that shopping by speaking into a device saw a double-digit increase in the last six months, with consumers using the technology to research items, add products to shopping lists, track packages being shipped and actually buy products.

CTA’s new research provides insights into the use and consumer sentiment of voice shopping. Among consumers who use a digital assistant to shop, three in four are satisfied with the experience. What are they shopping for? Electronics devices followed by food. 

If dealers or websites do not embrace voice search, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers of all types will be left out. And the evolution will become more pronounced as 5G is set up as a nationwide network which will transform not only retail, but entertainment, education and human interaction as a whole. 

Will these new technologies completely eliminate brick-and-mortar retailing, as some claim? My opinion is no, since shopping is still a social experience as well as a financial transaction. And these new technologies will make retailing even more social than before. For instance, retailers will be able to offer special deals to customers on a daily or hourly basis.

Retailers must embrace, understand and reach out to consumers via the media and devices customers interact with the best. Many opportunities await for retailers that implement AR to expand profits and benefit customers with their purchasing decisions.

Steve Smith

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