Extended reality part two: Shop and share ideas

In our first blog, we explored how extended reality (XR) changes the way we work and learn. Here, we dive into how XR is used to shop and share ideas.

Imagine being able to try on a pair of glasses without going to a store — or even holding the actual glasses — simply by taking a selfie with your smartphone. That’s exactly what Warby Parker’s latest XR innovation allows. This technology not only enhances the customer experience in a world where retail is increasingly an online operation — it can also help reduce product returns, thereby creating massive cost savings for retailers on shipping and other processing costs.

Or imagine being able to see how a piece of furniture fits in your house before making an expensive purchase, blending the physical and virtual worlds to instill more consumer confidence, shorten time to purchase and eliminate returns.

Or imagine being interested in a new car but wondering what it looks like in a color the dealer doesn’t have. Thanks to an app on your smartphone, you can custom-configure that car to your exact specifications, selecting from every option the manufacturer offers — even loading camping gear into the trunk to make sure it’s the right fit for your lifestyle.

These aren’t the shopping experiences of the future. Augmented-reality shopping is today’s reality, and XR technology makes it happen. Companies such as Ikea, Converse, Carmax, Lowe’s, Northface, 1-800-Flowers and Lego are using AR to give consumers dynamic extended reality shopping experiences.

More than 3 billion smartphones with AR capabilities will be in the hands of consumers by 2020. Augmented reality is powering the next wave of retail experiences and is setting new consumer expectations:

  • IDC expects the AR/VR market to more than double annually through 2021, driven by the consumer and retail segments.
  • 32 percent of consumers already use augmented reality, per MarTech Series.
  • 64 percent of consumers want a virtual shopping assistant that combines AR and artificial intelligence, says Business Insider, and one in five consumers expects retailers to have AR tools.

Digital technology has allowed retailers to offer consumers an unprecedented level of personalization, encouraging new levels of customer confidence and making purchase paralysis a thing of the past. Consumers are experiencing the impact of an item before clicking the “buy” button, and it has become their expectation for every online purchase.

Extended Reality, Improved Reality

The combination of AR and AI enhances the in-store shopping experience by serving as a consumer’s personal shopping assistant, displaying information about where products can be found along with information — such as features, ratings or ingredients — within view of the shopper’s smartphone camera.

Also, XR benefits retailers by empowering sales associates to provide superior and faster customer service. Sales associates or designers can use AR to collaborate with customers on unique configurations and designs, and even send an AR design to customers after they’ve left the store, allowing them to share their experience with friends and family or on social media.

Continuing to support customers after the sale is far more meaningful with augmented-reality user manuals, instructions and feature guidance. Imagine an AR user manual for your home electronics or AR step-by-step instructions for furniture assembly — transforming what used to be frustrating, tedious tasks into digitally delightful moments.

Driving Digital Progress

The automobile industry has aggressively adopted XR, harnessing augmented and virtual reality technologies both for online customers and for those visiting brick-and-mortar dealerships. Dealers are digitizing showrooms to allow customers, through VR headsets, to experience different features and options in a vehicle, to see a vehicle in different real-world settings (such as a beach) and even to virtually “pack” a vehicle’s trunk full of supplies, strollers and suitcases to gauge its real capacity.


Share ideas

Enterprise are using XR to turbocharge collaboration

XR turbo-charges the shopping experience for consumers, but it also helps enterprises in business-to-business markets better share their products and designs with clients and potential customers. Think of it as a next-generation corporate brochure. For example, heavy equipment manufacturers can use AR headsets to show customers different types of machinery, allowing them to work with customers to customize equipment for their specific needs, while architectural design firms can share with their clients design options they can see in 3-D.

A New Digital Revolution

Consumer demand, competitive pressures and technological advances are fueling a revolution in how B2B and B2C enterprises market their products and services and interact with customers. AR-enabled smartphones and headwear — whether it’s glasses, visors or goggles — will provide users more immersive, delightful and informative experiences, which in turn will boost customer satisfaction and sales while reducing inefficiency and returns.

The companies that learn how to deliver these experiences today will be better positioned in the near future to ensure differentiated experiences as XR technology continues to rapidly improve.

IBM iX offers enterprises the XR tools, experience and strategies they need to succeed in the digital economy. View our earlier post, Welcome to Extended Realty, and visit here for more information.


Go deeper: Work, Learn, Shop, and Share Ideas

Extended Reality Infographic