We’re now halfway into the year and retailers’ minds are turning to the important holiday season – and human connections and personal experiences are key to e-commerce success. In addition, the majority of online shoppers are looking for mobile gifts, and retailers have their work to do.
Mobile shopping growth continued on its strong trajectory during the 2021 holiday season. The majority of digital interactions with brands, 61%, happened on mobile devices, according to Adobe, as shoppers searched online for gifts, returned to stores, and used their phones everywhere. However, m-commerce sales continued to lag, with mobile purchases generating just over 4 in 10 online dollar spend, 43%.
This nearly 20 percentage point gap between browse and buy suggests retailers are missing a sales opportunity. Retailers struggle to showcase rich product information — not to mention immersive, in-person experiences — within the confines of the small mobile screen, with a third of consumers citing at least one issue with mobile shopping, including multiple complaints about poor design.
To overcome challenges, brands need a new approach – and augmented reality is proving to be an effective tool. AR shopping allows shoppers to use their cellphone cameras to see high-quality, three-dimensional images of goods in the context of real-world environments. A recent survey by Snap subsidiary Vertebrae found that 42% of consumers who had tried AR shopping said the experience made them more likely to make a purchase.
Retailers that improve digital experiences have the opportunity to convert more mobile browsers into shoppers while providing festive and fun experiences.
Gift buyers can use AR to:
Choose the right gift and avoid post-holiday returns
When consumers see virtual items lying on top of their real physical spaces, they can easily determine if products fit their environment in terms of size and style. That’s perhaps why furniture and home accessories top the list of the most popular AR shopping categories, with 40% and 36% of those who’ve used AR for shopping, respectively, saying they’ve tried it for these types of items. When it comes to Christmas gifts, AR can help shoppers choose the right big gifts, from flat-screen TVs for the family room to bikes for growing kids.
Proper item sizing helps avoid the post-holiday tide of returns, when retailers see e-commerce return rates soar to as high as 35%, compared to 20% year-round. Speaker and subwoofer maker SVS has reduced returns by more than 12% year-over-year thanks to AR renderings of its audio systems that allow shoppers to see life-size virtual products in their physical spaces. Combined with an increase in conversion rates of more than 250%, AR has had a significant impact on the bottom line.
Look for must-have features and functionality
Immersive features not only help gift buyers see the big picture, but also allow for finer details to be viewed – critical features that smartphone screens lacking in a barrier to purchase. More than 1 in 5 shoppers, 23%, report that images don’t render well on their mobile devices or are too small, while a quarter of the report information is poorly designed and 24% say retailers don’t have mobile-friendly websites on digital commerce 360
The ability to easily flip, rotate and enlarge products in the mobile environment is one of the top shopper requests, with 45% saying it would boost buying confidence, according to Vertebrae’s survey. These features allow gift buyers to determine if picks have the right plugs, connectors, and controls—not just for electronics, but kitchen gadgets, DIY tools, and appliances as well. Verizon combined these features with a themed holiday AR experience to help 2021 gift shoppers choose the right mobile technology and accessories, with pointers to key features.
Share fun experiences and wish list picks
While the days of roaming malls with friends for gifts may be gone forever, AR shopping can bring back the camaraderie and fun of shared experiences. According to the Vertebrae survey, nearly 4 in 10 Millennials and Gen Z AR buyers (38%) say they find the tools fun and engaging, while 20% have shared screenshots of their AR shopping experiences. Consumers can share screenshots of their virtual try-on experiments, making it easier for gift buyers to choose the right colors and styles.
Brands are already starting to embrace the fun factor of AR. In 2021, Coca-Cola partnered with Snapchat to reproduce the experience of taking pictures with Santa in a festive AR environment, allowing participants to virtually meet up with friends for a dose of high-tech nostalgia.
AR can also add a new dimension to personal Christmas shopping. Walmart added AR enhancements underway during the 2021 holiday season so store shoppers could overlay their view of the store with virtual graphics and share with friends.
With the 2022 holiday fast approaching, retailers should prioritize the use of AR shopping to enhance the mobile experience. Not only can these tools improve mcommerce sales; They can bring humor and conviviality to online shopping and make brand experiences fun and memorable beyond the peak season.