Retail mobile innovation soars: 3 reasons AR apps may yield CX success

By Jasmine Henry

| Retail

Smartphone featuring an AR app in a retail store.

Executives in the retail industry face serious pressure to deliver on mobile innovation. Redefining the customer experience (CX) isn’t optional in today’s fast-changing marketplace of mobile consumers. STORES Magazine Editor Susan Reda recently described 2018 as one of the most transformative periods of retail she had experienced in decades in an article featured on NRF’s website.

Retailers who use mobile to improve in-store experiences are projected to achieve 146 percent sales growth in 2018, according to Business Wire. Simultaneously, 75 percent of respondents said they do not have the right mobile apps in place. Though it may be clear that development is a priority in 2018, there’s less certainty about which retail mobile innovations are worth investment.

Forbes reports that 69 percent of customers expect augmented reality (AR) apps from retailers in the next six months. From customer satisfaction to individualization, there are multiple reasons augmented reality apps may offer high returns on mobile innovation investments this year.

1. AR provides product education

The most common reason 60 percent of customers use smartphones in stores, per Retail Dive, is researching product and pricing information. AR can enable easier access to the information customers are already seeking. Not only is this convenient, it’s an opportunity to win customer loyalty with product education.

British retailer Tesco has spent the last three years testing and improving its Discover app. Customers can scan products in the store to quickly identify which groceries meet their requirements for price and nutrition and access product suggestions. With the help of IBM, Tesco is working to perfect in-app product identification for immersive in-store AR without RFID.

2. AR enables one-to-one personalization

While organizations realize the value of ultra-personalized experiences, many are struggling to deliver individualized experiences due to barriers that are both technical — poor data centralization and the continued use of legacy technologies — and cultural. Just 35 percent of organizations have achieved true personalization or are experimenting with it, according to BCG.

AR apps can enable retailers to deploy shopper-driven, individualized in-store experiences. Last year, Sephora launched two Beauty TIP Workshops that allow customers to browse RFID-enabled displays and test products in AR. The brand’s Virtual Artist app also allows customers to virtually try products on their selfies or get product recommendations by scanning RFID displays in the store.

3. AR drives customer satisfaction

AR guides customers to make the right choices by providing full product knowledge, real-time product availability and smart recommendations. These augmented in-store experiences can drive returns on customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Luxury fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff is partnered with Zeekit, allowing customers to try on the brand’s clothes in-store, at home, or at Fashion Week shows in New York. The technology can “make a very accurate estimate” of customer measurements, Operations Manager Samantha Kufield tells The Eagle, allowing customers to select the right size without stepping foot into a physical dressing room.

Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ikea and Anthropologie are four examples of home-focused retail brands offering AR apps for previewing how furniture and other products would look in the customer’s home.

Are AR apps a necessary mobile innovation for 2018?

As retail mobile innovations remain at peak levels, there’s a lot of potential for brands that use AR apps in-store to drive individualized experiences, product recommendations or customer education. Successful case studies from grocery, home and fashion retailers can further boost confidence in AR investments.

But while AR can yield remarkable returns on CX, there’s no need to force it. An app must fit naturally into the customer journey to produce notable benefits, reports Retail Dive — and remember, few customers are going to eschew a store simply because they don’t offer VR experiences.

Written By

Jasmine Henry

Jasmine E. Henry, MS

Jasmine is a commentator on emerging technology and freelance writer in the greater Seattle area. With a professional background in analytics, big data, mobility, and security that spans both the for-profit and government sectors, her professional interests include artificial intelligence…

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