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Strategy, Creativity, In-store Experience, Shopper Moments

Home, Smart Home: How AR Captivates Shoppers

POSTED BY: Dona Peters on 07/10/19

Online shopping for furniture, decor, and do-it-yourself projects lends itself to a modern-day dilemma. On one hand, there’s the convenience of having something delivered to your doorstep. On the other hand, it’s important to see how an item will look—and fit—in a room. What about color, texture, and overall feel? Despite the e-commerce boom, consumers are still looking to home decor retailers for brick and mortar inspiration and confirmation.

Turns out, home decorating and smartphone-wielding consumers are the perfect combination for in-store shopping.

Augmented reality (AR) is the major buzzword gaining traction with consumers right now—and it’s transforming retail experiences. Using AR in stores can give brick and mortar retailers a leg up against online-only platforms, and it can make home and DIY shopping less of a struggle for buyers.

Home decor shoppers and DIYers: the intersection of traditional retail and technology

Millennial and Gen-Z consumers are dominating the marketplace, and their shopping habits are defining the majority of trends that emerge. Retailers need to keep up. Despite the fact that the two generations are often lumped together, recent data shows these hot-button groups have different purchasing habits (blame it on the age gap).

63% of Millennials feel online shopping saves them time and effort, compared to 53% of their Gen-Z counterparts. Interestingly, though they grew up immersed in tech, Gen-Z’s are more likely to step foot in a brick and mortar store than Millennials are. Neither generation has completely phased out traditional retail—but both Millennial and Gen-Z shoppers prefer to shop at stores that cater to their love of technology.

65 percent of Millennials are also renting homes (with Gen-Z following suit, as they transition into adulthood)—which means more moving and, subsequently, more shopping. Faced with nomadic shoppers, brick and mortar retail has to make selecting something like a new couch as effortless as possible.

E-comm shoppers can see an image of a chaise lounge on the internet, but they can’t necessarily tell how its proportions will match up in their homes. Now, home and furniture brands are toying with apps that allow consumers to “try on” items in their space before purchasing. Buyers can either see what an item will look like at home before they head into a store, or, conversely, visit a retailer and project what a vase or loveseat will look like in their own living room in a hyper-realistic way.

This is where AR comes in: it’s brick and mortar’s most powerful asset to enhance—or should we say augment—the in-store environment. Click To Tweet

Today’s shopper is on the hunt for hacks that make shopping more convenient, provide a rich experience, and save them time; not something that necessarily replaces IRL retail.

The great thing about augmented reality is that it’s still reality, meaning that in-store, consumers can use this futuristic software while still getting to touch, feel, and see.

Augmented reality in action

Brick and mortar retailers of all sizes are merging the digital and physical arms of their business model via AR. Global furniture mammoth Ikea is known for combining convenience and accessibility via their one-stop-shop model and affordable pricing. The brand was an early adopter of AR technology with their Place app, that projects items into the user’s home at scale for added convenience. The aim of their AR function is to streamline the amount of time customers spend wondering or wandering, and to give them greater confidence about what to purchase.

Magnolia Market, the Texas-based store from reality TV celebs Chip and Joanna Gaines, also uses Apple’s new ARKit software to offer AR try-on for customers. Magnolia Market is known for their vibrant and Instagrammable in-store experiences, but they developed an AR app for those outside of Texas to experience the store. People can now see how a woven basket accents their coffee table, giving them a taste of what it’s like to visit the Magnolia Market. It’s driving sales—and also foot traffic for those who want to make the Magnolia pilgrimage.

A new shopping platform, Wescover, aims to become a living database where users can see where the furniture and decor they are coveting at a hotel, restaurant or friend’s house is can be purchased. The company is building a “see now, shop now” AR platform that paints the world as a showroom and directs users to a store or online destination where they can find the piece.

Of all the brands and platforms implementing AR, Wescover best captures the spirit of brick and mortar retail. The model reinforces how it’s the in-person interaction with a piece that sparks the “where can I buy that?”mentality and fuels the inspiration to discover and purchase.

Smart home

Are AR apps designed to replace the shopping experience? Not quite. But AR is one puzzle piece powering in-store customer engagement.

Great AR reduces friction at the point of sale by providing a level of personalization that enhances the shopping experience, and ultimately the sale. For example, information such as inventory availability (in the exact color or size a patron wants) can be immediately disseminated to a shopper’s digital screen while browsing—saving both the customer and the sales staff valuable time in the transaction.

It’s still important for shoppers to have the full-fledged 360-degree experience. Observing colors in natural light, feeling the texture of a pattern or material, and gauging the comfort level of an investment piece—these are many layers shoppers can’t get through on a screen alone, no matter how high-tech.

And in-store, AR can make the in-person experience more robust and sensorial. Once a consumer walks through the doors of your store, their experience can be enhanced through AR-Activated Signage. Signage placed in strategic locations lets shoppers know what you’re offering, and how it can benefit them. All it takes is pointing their smartphone at a sign to unlock a rich dimension of virtual reality. Imagine Joanna Gaines talking right to you about the inspiration for her a new throw collection. Or one of the founders of Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams explaining how their sectional sofa can be reconfigured. How cool—and informative—is that?

Lead consumers to the augmented storefront

Using AR-activated signage to engage consumers helps brick and mortar retailers cater to shoppers looking for a deeper, more engaging—and yes, time saving—experience. Ultimately, AR can bridge the gaps between physical and digital retail and reality. AR technology is a perfect storytelling device that helps consumers visualize how an item relates to their own life—and makes buying that new couch totally worth it.

Medallion Retail has a history of expertise and the forward-looking tech tools needed to move your store into the future and captivate tech-savvy consumers. Reach out to Michael or Chris of Medallion Retail at engage@medallionretail.com.

Have you used or are you considering added augmented reality-enabled signage in your store? We want to know—tell us about your experience!

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