10 ways augmented reality shopping is transforming retail

There’s a revolution taking place.

It’s a quiet kind of revolution, though no less impactful because the companies who miss it might just find their own life expectancy has been lowered. 

Brands all over the world are seizing tools provided by augmented reality (AR) shopping to improve the customer experience and increase conversions. Ignoring these new assets may mean your competition leap-frogs your company and leaves you in its rearview mirror. 

If that sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll discover:

  1. What is AR shopping?
  2. 10 benefits of AR shopping
  3. How you can incorporate AR shopping into your marketing strategy

What is AR shopping?

AR shopping refers to the use of AR tools at any step of the shopping process.

We’re talking about:

  1. 3D visualisation
  2. 3D product configuration 
  3. Product preview
  4. Virtual ‘try on’

In all these examples, AR shopping is a potent weapon in the hands of any company wishing to boost its conversion rates, increase user engagement, or lower return rates. 

AR shopping is a revolution in the field of online sales, bridging the difference between the experience of retail stores and eCommerce. 

10 benefits of an AR shopping experience

1. Try before you buy 

The inability to test a product prior to purchase  is one of the biggest drawbacks of online shopping. Customers can’t be sure if the product delivered will match their expectations.

Of course, this isn’t a problem with books. All you need to know is what a book is about, and that’s it. But the more complex and expensive the product, the more pronounced the problem becomes. 

Customers viewing 2D product pictures and reading product descriptions have to imagine how the product will fit into their lives. 

Clothing companies have partly solved this problem by offering free returns. But returns cut into profit margins and lead to mind-boggling return rates. 

For companies offering more expensive products, returns aren’t an option. Customers are far less willing to take the chance that a piece of furniture won’t fit into their room, or that a home appliance won’t look as it’s supposed to.

All players need a better solution. And that’s where AR shopping comes in. 

With 3D viewers, 3D configurators, product preview, and virtual ‘try on’, companies have a range of tools at their disposal that allow customers to test products and overcome their hesitancy to buy.

2. Create an exciting shopping experience

Have you ever owned a PlayStation? Did you enjoy the many thrills and delights it offered?

Do you remember what happened to your old PlayStation on the day the new one came out? Did it suddenly lose its appeal? 

That’s what AR shopping has done to the traditional online shopping experience. 

And customers are aware of it. They don’t want the old sales process that’s dull and predictable. They want AR shopping, which is why 75% of consumers now expect brands to offer platforms with AR experiences. 

Whether customers are buying makeup, furniture, or anything in between, AR changes the game. A family can get together after dinner and use product preview to experiment with various pieces of furniture to decide which sofa would suit their living room best. 

That’s an experience retail stores cannot hope to match. 

Furthermore, there is a social aspect to augmented reality shopping. People using virtual ‘try on’ can take screenshots of their various looks and send them to their friends. Companies can even offer the social dimension on their apps, so users can find like-minded enthusiasts. 

The social dimension is a big reason why YouCam Makeup’s app has achieved 160 million downloads.

3. Increase conversion rates

This is where AR shopping truly reveals the extent of its powers. You thought Lance Armstrong winning seven Tour de France’s was unfair? Think again. 

Increased conversion rates are the culmination of everything that AR shopping has to offer, proof that every part of its process works. 

The list of companies that have used augmented reality shopping to increase their conversion rates is a collection of success stories fit for the Hall of Fame. 

HouzzThe app had its conversions go up 11x with the adoption of AR. Their conversion rates tripled just with the use of 2D stickers that their customers could preview within their chosen environment.
L’OrealThe company saw its conversion rates triple with the use of AR.
Bailey NelsonThe company saw a 400% increase in online conversion rates
Single Speed CyclesExperienced over 40% increase in sales growth
Shopify reports that conversion rates on its platform go up by as much as 250% when a company features AR on its product page. 

 That’s the kind of demand that’s out there for AR shopping experiences. 

4. Reduce returns

Returns are a necessary sacrifice. A company needs to raise consumer confidence to the point where customers could be persuaded to buy a product without ever holding it or trying it on. 

It works to an extent. 

Clothing companies, in particular, made that sacrifice and succeeded to the point where a lot of people feel confident in buying clothes online. The downside is that free returns have taken a significant bite out of their profit margins. 

For example, in some apparel markets, return rates can reach nearly 50%. Worse yet, every year some five billion pounds of returned merchandise end up in a landfill, and some 80% of those aren’t due to defective products. 

Augmented reality shopping is the solution for these products. For clothing companies, tools such as virtual ‘try on’ experiences can more than halve returns. 

For the broader eCommerce market, Shopify reports a 40% decrease in return rates for companies using 3D product viewers

Return rates have been what could be described as collateral damage of online shopping, but AR shopping experiences can significantly minimise both the financial effect of return rates, as well as the environmental effect.

5. Tells the product story

The marketing industry has long known the value of a good product story. 

It is the perfect way to show customers what a company stands for. It can illustrate the brand’s history and tradition, and emphasise exactly what the inspiration behind a product is. 

It humanises the company in a way that makes it easy for people to relate to and that, in turn, fuels sales and spreads brand awareness. 

AR shopping is a powerful tool to help tell that story. The immersive technology helps customers connect to the brand’s history and nurses the desire to become part of its future.  

Take Jack Daniel’s. The company is using marker-based AR on the label of its bottles to trigger an animation showing the company’s first distillery and the process that goes into making its famous whiskey.

6. Allow customers to explore products

The biggest problem of 2D product photography is that it doesn’t allow for interaction, or closer examination. 

Human beings respond to visual cues and all the product descriptions in the world cannot hope to compete with an interactive 3D model. 

Using AR, customers can examine a product from every angle. They can:

  • Customise it, adjust it to their needs
  • Place it in the environment they mean to use it in
  • Engage animation features to see what it might look like in action 

AR shopping experiences allow them to come as close as possible to experiencing a product in their hands, examining its hidden features. 

7. Increase buyer confidence

The secret of a good sales process has always been to slowly and surely remove customer doubts until they cannot think of why they shouldn’t buy, and a boatload of reasons for why they should. 

AR shopping experiences excel in achieving this. 

First, the customer is able to  examine the product from every angle, as though they’re holding it in their hand. They can customise it, and visualise it within their environment. 

This is why 71% of consumers say they would shop more often with AR.

Not only that, but, AR shopping experiences have gone so far as to fuel impulse buying. In a recent study, 72% of people said they purchased products they didn’t plan to buy because of AR.

And the only way people indulge in impulse buying online is if you’ve truly removed all the obstacles in their path, allowing them to sprint straight to the ‘Check Out’. 

8. Allows customisation

With 3D product configuration, customers can customise products to their needs and desires. 

Product configuration is the perfect tool for companies offering complex products, or products with a number of variations – an effective  method of illustrating to the customer exactly how many options the company has on offer. 

The ability to customise presents an exciting user experience, which is why 40% of customers say they’re willing to pay more for a product if it allows customisation.

This makes financial sense for companies. By offering customisable products, they can fulfill orders as customers place them, meaning they can save on stocking costs. 

9. Supports post-purchase service

We all know the famous IKEA problem. We’ve seen enough comedy sketches of it, even if we’ve never bought any of their furniture. 

A customer buys a piece from IKEA then loses their mind trying to assemble it. It may be funny, but people have mostly come to accept that it is unavoidable. 

But maybe it won’t be for long. AR can guide customers through the process of assembly, taking dull manuals out of the equation and making the process simple and smooth. 


Furthermore, AR also comes into play with servicing. Instead of forcing customers to leaf through boring PDF files, they can use AR to guide them through the servicing process, clarifying any issues customers may have in assembling their flat-pack furniture

10. Increases customer loyalty

Customer loyalty has become a fickle thing in the past few years. People no longer feel any sort of allegiance to the brands they have used for years, especially if the competition is offering superior shopping experiences. 

AR shopping can change all that. 

  1. 63% of consumers say AR would improve their shopping experience. 
  2. 61% of consumers say they prefer to work with retailers that offer AR functionality. 

By providing an AR experience, companies position themselves on the cutting edge of progress, and in a world where only 1% of online retailers offer AR experiences, it is the best way to set your company apart from the competition. 

How you can incorporate AR shopping into your marketing strategy

Now that we understand the positive impacts of AR, how do you integrate it into your business? 

1. Embed AR in eCommerce 

To embed AR in eCommerce, there is a process every company has to go through, involving the creation of 3D models, either through a 3D product provider or with the help of 3D artists. 

Once these 3D models are created, they have to be published and embedded within your website. Luckily for companies without any technical resources or know-how, this can be accomplished with platforms such as Plattar featuring a drag-and-drop editor that requires no coding.

These 3D models can then be used in a wide range of ways to capture customer attention by offering unique experiences. 

2. Use AR to bring products to life

By offering 3D viewers, you can provide your customers with a far more engaging alternative to 2D product photographs. 

Your products come alive on the computer screen by allowing your customers to examine them from every angle and interact with them for as long as they like. Features such as 360-view have proven to be effective tools when it comes to increasing conversion rates and improving customer experience. 

3. Use 3D product configuration

3D product configurators are currently one of the best tools for transforming the shopping experience.

By using 3D configurators, companies offer their customers the chance to customise their products as they wish. It is an effective method of demonstrating more complex products or highlighting the wide array of variations available. 

Product configuration is a tool that increases customer engagement as customers feel as though they are able to buy a product that’s been tailored to their needs. That’s why it’s no surprise that interactive 3D significantly increases conversion rates. 

  • 82% of customers activate 3D product configurators when visiting websites 
  • 95% of customers prefer 3D configurators to video playback.

It is a must-have tool for any company that wishes to keep up with customer demands.

4. Enrich ads with AR triggers

This option is often under-estimated, but the results speak for themselves. 

Using marker-based AR, triggers can be embedded within the label of your products. These triggers can jump-start AR experiences and animations on the customer’s devices. 

This option provides your marketing with a new tool to drive user engagement and further your company’s reach, but beyond that, it has the potential to create a unique user experience. 

Take Hell Pizza: Zombies From Hell. Working with Plattar, the company sought to create an AR experience that could differentiate it from the competition. 

So Plattar added AR to the company’s app. When the customers ordered the pizza, they could download the app, point it at the pizza box and the marker-based AR in the app triggered the game. 

Their customers got to shoot zombies on their phones while eating pizza, and the response was overwhelming. 

  • The app became the eighth most-downloaded app in New Zealand
  • Reached over 400,000 people on social media
  • Sold an estimated $2 million dollars worth of pizza. 

Not bad, huh?

5. Add AR to retail stores

It is a common misconception that AR can only help with online shopping, but in reality, there are a number of retail brands using AR to improve their customer experience. 

Lowe’sThe company is using AR to help customers with in-store navigation, allowing customers to find what they are looking for quickly.
Dulux They offer customers the chance to match colours and create colour palettes that fit their styles and environments. 
Timbaland The company is using AR to offer AR fitting rooms, giving their customers the chance to try on different shoes without having to put them on.
SKOPEPlattar’s turn-key SaaS solution was easily implemented onto SKOPE’s website, where current and prospective clients can now have a rich and engaging product experience.

6. Include post-sale experience

AR can help you drastically improve your customer’s post-sale experience by providing them with guidance on how to assemble or use the product. 

You offer them a chance at interactive manuals that cut down on assembly time as well as servicing headaches.  

In the past, pdf manuals have forced customers to figure the problem out on their own, but with AR, that pain point disappears off the face of the map. We saw this in our IKEA case study, where AR can be used to empower customers while they interact with their purchase. 

7. Empower your sales team

We know that if we want an effective sales team, we need to provide that team with the tools they need to close deals. 

A key tool sales teams need is content. 

Engaging content makes it easy for customers to develop an understanding of the product and AR can play an important role in that process. 

It allows your sales reps to demonstrate the features and benefits of your products by interacting with them and allowing potential buyers to see the products in action. Your sales team can use AR to simplify complex products and offer demos that end up sealing the deal. 

Also, by using 3D models, your sales team can put your entire portfolio into their pockets and take it wherever they want. 


AR shopping is the future of not just eCommerce but retail shopping as well. 

The benefits of AR are too numerous and too powerful to be denied. 

Whether you want to increase conversions, improve customer experiences, or merely wish to adopt these tools to keep up with your competition, augmented reality is becoming a necessary asset for any brand. 

In an industry that is evolving at the speed of light, it is important to find a way to keep up, so book a demo with Plattar and we’ll show you how.