How online retailers are using augmented reality to boost their profits

Brands like IKEA and Nike first laid the groundwork for AR in e-commerce, but now the technology has found more applications in other niches.

Technology can move at the speed of light, but more often than not it takes a surprisingly long time to get used to it. This is precisely the case of augmented reality (AR). First introduced in the 1960s, the concept has only matured now and still raises doubts about the time, cost and mechanism of implementation.

Meanwhile, customers expect the convenience of in-room viewing and try-before-you-buy technologies. According to Deloitte Digital and Snap Inc. Report, augmented reality is generally considered a “toy”, but 76% of people expect and want to use it as a practical “tool” in their daily lives. Interest is particularly high among younger audiences and is associated with the boom in mobile usage.

For its early adopters, AR offers a promising future, increasing conversion rates and making online shopping more seamless. Integrating AR can be your first step to bridging the gap between physical and digital in your online store. Let me walk you through more about how AR works in e-commerce and which niches have the most successful AR use cases to inspire your brand.

See also: Luxury Brands Are Embracing Augmented Reality: Businesses Should Take Note

No Need for Bulky Headsets: How Augmented Reality Works in E-Commerce

Embedding AR in an e-commerce store allows users to experience products in context through their phone, computer, app camera, or AR headset. It brings most of the benefits to mobile shoppers, but desktop users will also benefit from AR in e-commerce.

Unlike virtual reality (VR), which requires a special headset to immerse users in a new reality, AR works with the existing environment. It overlays digital elements and filters over real-world elements, and your customer won’t need additional sensors to experience your product. So, technology-wise, AR development works quite easily: all you need are solid 3D models of your SKUs and integration with the browser or mobile OS’s AR kit.

Step 1: Prepare digital content compatible with augmented reality.

These include high quality 3D models based on a number of reference images and created by a skilled designer. Remember that taking a simple photo of your product is not enough. Also, if you have a large catalog of products, I highly recommend starting with a few SKUs, a single product category, or a few bestsellers. This way, you’ll evenly distribute the budget and track the results of your AR campaign as you scale.

Step #2: Integrate the AR kit of your choice.

For Android, there is a Google AICore SDK that lets you add AR functionality to your mobile shopping app. AIKit and RealityKit work the same for iOS devices. Integration with WebAR will bring AR content to your web products, especially displayed in Google Chrome and Safari browsers.

All of the aforementioned kits rely on three core components: motion tracking, environment understanding, and light estimation. They all allow an AR system to

  • Understand flat surfaces, such as floors and walls
  • Enlarge and reduce 3D objects
  • Move these objects as the user integrates them into a real environment
  • Apply realistic brightness and shadows.

Captured by a simple camera, the images of your products can be placed in a real interior design, on the user’s body and even on a moving object. As a retailer, you don’t need to do anything to make the illusion work except extensive preparation for AR integration.

AR use cases that will last long into the future

Brands like IKEA and Nike first laid the groundwork for AR in e-commerce, but now the technology has found more applications in other niches.


Apparel and fashion brands have found augmented reality to be a perfect fit amid the pandemic. With consumers unable to visit physical stores, augmented reality offered immersive shopping experiences and try-before-you-buy features to build shopper confidence and drive sales.

This is the case with AR clothing fitting, where a 3D model of a product is mapped onto a customer’s body through a quick scan from a smartphone camera. The technology can be applied at a native mobile app, Google Shopping or social media level. For example, Gucci, an Italian high-end fashion brand, implemented AR in its iOS app and on Snapchat to a virtual trial from their Ace sneaker collection. The result? Higher customer conversions, increased engagement, and improved customer base used to retarget campaigns from other retailers.

Even though the world is returning to normal after the pandemics, the trend of AR in fashion retail is not fading. High street fashion retailers will continue to invest in technology for the sake of user experience, as UX itself sells in this e-commerce niche.


The need to use AR for furniture and home decor businesses is driven by convenience and confidence in purchase. Because let’s be honest: you don’t want to order a sofa only to find it won’t fit in your living room.

For an industry that is losing $428 billion one year of returned goods, AR presents a huge opportunity to reduce returns and reduce the additional expense of shipping bulky items. In fact, there are many successful cases where Macy’s reduced product return rates to

And the AR trend in furniture will thrive despite forces outside the market. Users can interact with product models – not just plop and spin – and see how it works in their space. Customers therefore have a better idea of ​​size, color and dimension, following a more transparent purchase process.

Beauty and makeup

Virtual make-up fitting is rapidly following the maturity of augmented reality fashion and furniture shopping. Not only does this take the user experience to a whole new level, but consumers also tackle the questionable hygiene issue of using the same swatch of lipstick or shades as other shoppers in the store.

In terms of technology, AR in cosmetics works like a mask. The system is trained with thousands of 3D models and photos of real faces and then applies a beautifying filter with the lip color, tint or contour cream available in the retailer’s product list. Leading brands like NYX, Glossier, Maybelline, L’Oreal, etc., have already successfully experimented with this technology.

Some beauty brands go the extra mile to add an element of entertainment to the selling experience. This applies to both social media filters and in-game games which are rather easy to implement and inexpensive, but drive higher conversions. This was the case for hair color company Madison Reed, which recorded a 38% conversion rate on its hair color tool AR Virtual Try-On, or Aquafresh encouraging children to brush their teeth with a mini-game. .


Just like in furniture showrooms, the driving force behind AR in automotive is shopping convenience. Car dealerships don’t necessarily have the space to display a wide range of products, and buyers may not want to visit many stores just to view the vehicle.

AR successfully fills these gaps. Experiences vary from in-store, such as Audi City allowing a customer to choose and customize their car model from mobile devices to Jeep using an app to see the interior of the vehicle and place it in the car garage. ‘a consumer. The AR strategy in automotive facilitates product discovery and accelerates the buyer journey while instilling trust in a brand.

Consumer electronics

Tech giants not only remain at the forefront of AR development, but also leverage it to sell their products. This is especially true for consumer electronics companies who care about product design as much as device functionality.

So Apple has made it easier to view Mac Studio on your desktop before it ships. Customers can see a new iMac in AR by visiting Apple’s product page from Safari on their iPhone or iPad. Not only will a device’s camera scan a flat surface and place an AR object, but you can also rotate it and move your gadget around for a better look. This feature is relatively new but promises to become a model for other consumer electronics brands.

Conclusion: Taking the reins of AR

Augmented reality is the first important step towards the metaverse. Even though many e-commerce brands have successfully implemented it into their strategy, less digitally mature brands can still jump on the trend that promises to soon become an industry standard. Start with reality-enhancing experiences and bring a plethora of benefits to your e-commerce business now and in the future.

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