As if it wasn’t tough enough to maintain a competitive edge, retail business can be extremely challenging by having to provide unique products that can also be trendy while also creating novel customer experiences that enhance engagement and convenience. It’s a lot.
It’s no surprise that technology can be one of the differentiators between brands. From eCommerce offerings to educational video content, the digital side of businesses is a key factor in building loyalty and repeat patronage from customers. This is why the incorporation of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are being viewed as viable solutions for reimagining how customers interact with retail brands.
See it to buy it
Virtual reality puts a user inside a virtual environment and this requires a special headset to create the correct visual experience. While the experience is breathtaking, it’s also quite expensive to build and maintain. This makes VR experiences a great option for brand activations but it may not be feasible in the long term.
What retailers and technology developers have realised is the advantage of augmented reality and the ubiquity of smartphones. In recent years, quite a few international retail brands have invested in AR technology to transform the way customers visualise and purchase products, particularly furniture.
Swedish home goods brand IKEA is a prime example with its AR app that features realistically-rendered, true-to-scale 3D products. As noted in a press release by the company when it launched in 2017, "The app automatically scales products, based on room dimensions, with 98% accuracy.”
Another example is American retailer Anthropologie whose mobile app allows customers to visualise furniture in a variety of finishes, colours and fabrics. In both these cases, the technology gives the customer the power to view their desired item in the way they intend to purchase it and effectively use “try before you buy” to make a confident decision.
Putting the customer first
Visualisation and customisation through AR technology for retail brands isn’t just for show or to have a one-up on the competition. Instead, the decision to embrace technology and create quality solutions is about the customer.
Technology has changed customer engagement and also what customers expect from the brands they choose to support. Most people are looking for solutions that make their life easier, saves time, makes them feel good and happy, and makes them feel that the brand truly cares.
In fashion, AR apps can help overcome some of the fear of trying on clothes in store dressing rooms and show what items look like in various sizes as a means of building confidence. For furniture and other home interior items, it allows for creativity and choice, and that makes people feel good in the purchasing process. Another advantage of AR apps is that product data is readily available and can inform customers of fabric characteristics and care instructions.
AR applications also aren’t limited to smartphones. Brick and mortar stores can include AR experiences with the physical element of being able to touch and experience home goods as well as speak with a knowledgeable brand representative. Together, one can see how AR technology forms part of a complementary and holistic offering that truly makes for people-centric retail experiences.
Getting closer to home
Whether it's for design or for shopping, the success of AR technology is dependent on ease of use as well as the quality of the visuals. If the images don’t look identical to the physical product, it doesn’t give the desired true-to-life feeling.
As more retailers include AR experiences in their digital offering, they can look to Twinbru for examples of how to set the industry standard in digital visualisation. Our fabric digital twins are identical to their physical counterparts of market-ready fabrics that can be purchased on some of our partner platforms.
We pride ourselves on taking the greatest care to perfect our fabric digital twins. The quality of the digital assets along with the embedded data means 3D designers can add value and be confident in their creations for furniture design and interior design use. There’s more to explore and understand in the future of digital twins and you can find it in our YouTube videos.