TECHNOLOGY

Study: Employees and online will drive AR in retail, not stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Augmented reality (AR) will see major adoption in the retail sector, but not in the way many have predicted.

According to a new report from market advisory firm ABI Research, AR will struggle to take root among customers in brick-and- mortar stores. Instead, its use in the sector will be driven by the retail workforce and online shoppers.

“The Augmented Reality in Retail” report noted that AR experiences can prove extremely useful for online customers unable to interact with the physical products they intend to purchase. And for in-store employees, AR can deliver operational efficiencies and raise the quality of the service delivered.

“For consumers in brick and mortar stores, however, AR can disrupt the customer journey and provides little additional value overall,” said Nick Finill, senior snalyst at ABI Research.

As has been occurring across other industrial sectors, retail will see a steady rise in the adoption of AR-devices. Smart glasses from manufacturers such as Vuzix are already starting to be used by retail employees to assist with front and back-of-store operations.

ABI Research forecasts that by 2022 over 120,000 stores will be using AR smart glasses globally, with deployments evenly split across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. This will be driven by the need for efficiency savings to compete with rival retailers and the online sector generally.

Additionally, ABI Research forecasts that, by 2020, 3% of e-commerce revenue will be generated because of augmented reality experiences. That equates to  $122 billion in revenue worldwide.

“The relative ease of integrating AR into existing m-commerce platforms and the impact this can have on the user experience will largely drive customer demand,” Finill said.

The benefits of using AR will be unable to overcome the barriers which exist in physical retail, however, which is inherently less reliant on the use of a mobile device.

For retailers and AR solution providers, the challenge is now changing the perception of augmented reality from a novelty gimmick into a technology which can truly engage customers online and improve the bottom line in-store.

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