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How augmented reality will change the online retail industry

Do you enjoy shopping online? Have you ever taken the time to really examine the online retail industry, including how companies compete with one another?

If you pay attention, you’ll soon find that a growing number of companies are spending more time, money and resources on developing interactive reality technology. Augmented reality is just now beginning to change the online retail industry. While this is an expensive undertaking for retailers, consumers are in position to benefit.

The Story of Gap: Undertaking Augmented Reality

Many years ago, the online retail industry was in its infancy. At the time, there were companies looking forward to this as well as those that were shying away.

The same holds true with augmented reality. While many companies are ramping up in this area of technology, others are holding back and waiting to see how things play out.

Augmented reality technology is beneficial to consumers and online stores alike.

Gap, for example, was one of the first companies to really take a step forward. With its virtual dressing room app, consumers have the ability to make more informed and confident purchases, all without having to visit a local store.

One of the biggest problems consumers face when buying online is the inability to know how something will look once they put it on their body. While the Gap app has a long way to go in regard to development, this is an early example of what to expect in the online retail industry as far as augmented reality is concerned.

Even better is the fact that the Gap app is simple to use (which is a surprise to many). Getting started is as easy as choosing a style that you are interested in buying. From there, consumers can select one of five body types that most closely align with theirs.

For many years, the fashion industry has ignored how a piece of clothing actually fits. Sure, they want their clothes to fit and look good, but they leave this up to the consumer. Gap is hoping to change all of this, even when consumers are shopping online.

On the other hand, Gap is also looking to augmented reality technology to bring benefits to the company itself.

Did you know that return rates at online retailers can be as high as 40 percent? This is a huge problem for retailers, as it takes a lot of time and money to process a large number of returns.

By making it easier for a buyer to understand how a piece of clothing will fit, Gap is hoping that its return rate takes a nosedive.

In a recent blog post, Gap vice-president of global strategy and business development Gil Krakowsky had this to say:

“One of our top priorities is continuing to improve our technical knowledge around how fabric stretch, drape and feel impact the sensation of fit. A lot of that customer information was inputted into the Avametric technology, backed by the Google Tango platform and ASUS hardware, to develop the DressingRoom by Gap pilot app we’re looking at today.”

While Krakowsky is sure to put the consumer first, it goes without saying that Gap could be a big winner over the long run.

Technology is the Key to a Better Future

It’s clear to see that retailers could continue to travel down the same path in regard to its approach to selling online. However, with the growth of augmented reality, this would be a mistake. There is an opportunity for online retailers to take advantage of this technology.

Consumer shopping behaviors continue to change with each passing day. What worked in the past will not work in the future. This is why augmented reality is so appealing. It’s something that could truly change the shopping experience for the better.

It’s not up to the consumer to change the online shopping experience. It all comes down to the decisions made by the many online retailers that control the industry.

What are your thoughts on augmented reality and its place in the online retail space? Do you have any experience with this technology, such as through the Gap app? Share your thoughts on what the future will bring in the comment section below.

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by Gary Wilkinson
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