Augmented Reality and the Future of eCommerce: Top Trends, Examples, and Benefits
Digital Transformation | 9 min READ
    
What Is Augmented Reality in eCommerce?
A significant step towards greater interactivity and immersion, Augmented Reality (AR) is a cluster of technologies that help enterprises create and recreate near real-life experiences on their device screens and through wearables. AR, named in a self-explanatory manner - is a technology that augments real-life scenarios visually.
Neha Aggarwal
Neha Aggarwal

AVP & Head

CX and Automation Practice

Birlasoft

Vijendra Kumar
Vijendra Kumar

Associate Director

eCommerce Practice

Birlasoft

 
For instance, AR can help place an object virtually into immediate surroundings through an interface like smartphone cameras. eCommerce can leverage this technology to boost engagement, build buyer confidence, improve the overall sales and post-sales service experience - more so for high complexity B2B products and services that fit in highly specialized and unique environments.
How is Augmented Reality Disrupting eCommerce – Top Trends
Today, B2C brands can use AR to create highly intuitive experiences - but B2B brands also turn the wheel using AR to disrupt the e-commerce landscape. Here are a few trends that highlight this shift.
Creating touchless digital experiences
Digital services and products or physical VR are helping enterprises create touchless digital experiences, which allow the customer to understand precisely how and where a product fits in their business. For instance, a heavy industrials manufacturer can quickly help their potential customers visualize how a turbine would work in their hydroelectric project and whether the design needs to be customized.
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Moreover, as customizability turns into a leading factor in revenue growth, AR-powered digital experiences are becoming the key to high conversion rates at the pre-sales stage. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend since a significant volume of B2B sales has now taken to online channels - it is no wonder that the AR market can grow to $95 bn over the next four years.
Driving engagement and boosting buyer confidence
B2C brands are already leveraging the success of AR in boosting customer engagement. However, B2B brands are still in the process of catching up - since most B2B companies still rely on in-person pitches or video conferencing capabilities to nudge the customer for the last mile.
However, AR experiences are 30x more effective in driving engagement than traditional methods, and leading companies exploit greater attention to build better buyer confidence through real-time simulations that obliterate the need for Q&As and costly demonstrations. The impact of AR on customer engagement has already placed it into a high-maturity technology that will power 40% of all B2B experiences by 2022.
How is Augmented Reality Disrupting eCommerce
How is Augmented Reality Disrupting eCommerce

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Service demonstrations and sneak-peeks
Some brands are also leveraging AR to elevate the core service - in other words, AR can be a high-RoI USP that can replace several traditional, outdated means of engaging with the end-user.
For instance, AR can simulate scenarios within training environments and can reuse these experiences at the pre-sales stage to give a realistic view of the product in question. Moreover, in the post-sales setting, AR is used to turn length handbooks into intuitive digital experiences that simplify the client's relationship with the product and reduce the need for overburdened support teams.
AR for eCommerce
Augmented reality eCommerce examples
Here are a few capabilities that demonstrate the potential of AR technology in B2B eCommerce.
Product Visualization
One of the most intuitive use cases of AR in eCommerce is its ability to render 360-degree views of a product in 3 dimensions. This capability can prove highly effective, especially in component sourcing scenarios, where engineering teams can quickly understand how a component will aid their end product's design.
These visuals fast-tracks deal closures and acceleration of sales for the provider and raise confidence in the client regarding the sourced components. In other words, AR helps ensure that the client gets what they see, even when complex product and component designs are involved.
Augmented reality eCommerce examples
Augmented reality eCommerce examples

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Real-Time Product Fitment Analysis
Another critical issue for the buyer in B2B eCommerce is to ensure that the sourced components are a suitable fit in the overall design. What's more, for the client, such AR-based experiences can also aid in making efficient design decisions while generating high-fidelity leads for the producer. Today, this is relevant across all industries - from oil and gas to discrete manufacturing, healthcare to telecom and cement, and construction.
Ultimately, infrastructure at the field level powers products and services at the end of the value chain. Therefore, real-time fitment analysis can speed up decisions that empower a faster movement of value from start to finish and make the ecosystem much more efficient as a whole.
Virtual Testing
In an age where in-person product demonstrations are becoming increasingly unviable and inefficient, AR can help clients examine and test-drive every aspect of a product or a service virtually without compromising the experience's thoroughness. For example, how does your conveyor belt work on your client's production floor? Is the range of incline sufficient to link the feed and discharge points? What variety of materials and weights can its surface handle? These questions, which a client might be looking for answers to, can be intuitively built into an AR experience that showcases such a product - thereby allowing the client to visualize, test, and virtually configure your product in their environment.
Real-Life Examples of eCommerce
As AR adoption has sped up over the last year, highly innovative use cases have emerged - here are a few of them.
Training for catastrophic scenarios
A leading safety and performance training provider serving Fortune 500 clients in the energy industry saw a consistent volume of training requests after the pandemic. But, with the executives immobilized by distancing and social isolation directives, there looms an uncertainty over the company's core operations.
Augmented Reality and the Future of eCommerce: Top Trends, Examples, and Benefits
Seeing this, it decided to invest in acquiring devices and creating content to power AR-based simulations and learning environments for its clients. The company initially developed simulations of three catastrophic events and engaged the client's trainees in a gamified experience where their coworker's safety and lives were at risk.
The experience nudged them towards the right actions and capabilities that helped them learn more about the safety equipment in their environments interactively. The company made investments in headsets, tablets, and laptops, with which we could deliver simulations in remote and underground areas, thereby making the solution feasible and context-appropriate.
While the initial investments in the solution were high, the company took just two months to roll out and generated 3x RoI through the solution. A part of the solutions roadmap involves building collaborative capabilities where team members can work towards group actions.
This method shows the importance of approaching AR investments with a strategic, long-term vision, which can truly bring a differentiating premise to the service portfolio at the end of the day.
Cataloging products and reusing AR content
A leading networking and IT enterprise held a massive portfolio of 800 high-demand products it supplies to its customers. However, the sales teams scattered around the globe find it difficult to access and effectively market these products to customers across all channels - from expos to in-person pitches and video conferences.
The company decided to curate a VR catalog of its portfolio supported by its sales teams, channel partners, and customers alike. While this strategy significantly drove up engagement with the end customers, it also facilitated the sales and marketing teams to address customer queries through 360-degree realistic animations.
What's more, the company reused this content to power walkaround experiences at pop-up stalls during expos and to conduct real product demonstrations digitally after the pandemic.
While this strategy boosted access to products for sales teams, it also increased engagement with end-users. The enterprise continues to innovate its AR-powered experiences to stay at the top amidst rising competition.
Explosive marketing in food tech
A food-tech manufacturer introduced a new sorting product for which it wanted to drive awareness amidst plant engineers and managers at leading FMCG companies across the globe - with the ultimate goal of running a high conversion campaign.
The company's marketing teams partnered with an AR technology company to create a see-through AR experience of its sorting product. The experience helps the customer see precisely how a grain of food or any other product went through the entire machine from start to finish which sparked interest amongst tech enthusiasts. As a result, the company's campaign was a massive success. It generated more leads than were forecast, and the company booked more opportunities within 14 days than it ever had.
More and more companies are leveraging AR to reinvent traditional eCommerce and technology is finding greater acceptance across the B2B spectrum.
Augmented Reality and The Future of eCommerce
Over 70% of businesses believe that AR and VR technologies will become mainstream over the coming years - just like the pinch-to-zoom and other touch features that have made inroads into the digital experience through and through. AR headsets become more lightweight and tolerant of extreme situations, AR experiences will reinvent the eCommerce landscape significantly. Here are three of them:
Highly integrated experiences
AR capabilities are likely to be integrated across marketplaces. Soon, buyers will shop for similar products while conducting fitment analyses and virtual testing of multiple products seamlessly. In addition, voice and gesture commands will make the purchase experience more realistic, effortless, and intuitive.
Touchless worker training
With AR capabilities released from their use case-specific environments, one can train front-line workers remotely. AR will arm them with portable skills that can help them get things done right every single time - including the very first.
AR as a USP
When AR goes mainstream, more companies will integrate the technology with their analytics capabilities to make their data-driven services cognitively easier by placing them within AR environments. This technology can help optimize the products and services for the buyer while releasing the numbers from computer screens and bringing them to the field.
AR is no longer in the hype-cycle - the B2C world has made this point clear. It is already driving significant improvements in its marketing and engagement models through AR-powered experiences. The B2B world needs to catch up fast because it needs this technology more desperately. Once the end customers get accustomed to the ease and intuitiveness of AR-powered digital experiences, the early mover advantage will become apparent, and disrupting the leadership position from there on is only going to get tougher. AR investments can produce reusable results, and the key to a driving value with them is to approach investments in AR from a strategic perspective. Now is the time to take the conversation to the board and build an AR roadmap with a long-term vision.
 
 
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