As virtual, mobile shopping take root AR crucial for successful holiday season| Holiday Season Strategy

With the holiday season ahead retailers should prioritize deploying AR shopping to enhance mobile experiences.

We are now in the back half of the year, and retailers’ thoughts are turning toward the all-important holiday season – and human connections and personal experiences are key to e-commerce success. Add to that the majority of online shoppers are mobile gift seekers, retailers have their work cut out for them.

Mobile shopping growth continued on its strong trajectory during the 2021 holiday season. The majority of digital interactions with brands, 61%, occurred on mobile devices, according to Adobe, as shoppers searched for gifts online, returned to stores in force, and used their phones everywhere. M-commerce sales, however, continued to lag, with mobile purchases generating just over 4 in 10 online dollars spent, 43%.

That gap of nearly 20 percentage points between browsing and buying suggests retailers are missing a sales opportunity. Retailers struggle to present comprehensive product information — let alone immersive, personal experiences — within the constraints of the small mobile screen, with a third of consumers reporting 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 remedy. AR shopping enables shoppers to view high-fidelity three-dimensional images of goods in the context of real-life environments using their cellphone cameras. A recent survey by Snap subsidiary Vertebrae found 42% of consumers who had tried AR shopping said the experience made them more likely to buy.

Retailers that enhance digital experiences have the opportunity to convert more mobile browsers into buyers, and to provide experiences that are festive and fun along the way.

Gift shoppers can use AR to:

Pick the right gift and prevent post-holiday returns
When consumers view virtual items overlaid on their real-life physical spaces, they can easily determine whether products fit their environments from a size and style perspective. That’s perhaps why furniture and home decor top the list of popular AR shopping categories, with 40% and 36%, respectively, of those who’ve used AR to shop saying they tried it for those types of items. When it comes to holiday gifting, AR can help shoppers select the right big-ticket gifts, from flat-screen TVs for the family room to bikes for growing children.

Sizing items right helps avoid the post-holiday tidal wave of returns, when retailers see the e-commerce return rate jump to as high as 35%, compared with 20% year-round. Speaker and subwoofer manufacturer SVS has reduced returns by more than 12% year over year thanks to AR renderings of its audio systems that enable shoppers to view life-sized virtual products in their physical spaces. Combined with a jump in conversion rates of more than 250%, AR’s impact to the bottom line has been significant.

Check for must-have features and functions
Immersive features not only help gift buyers see the big picture, but they enable viewing fine details as well — crucial functionality whose absence on smartphone screens is a purchase hurdle. More than 1 in 5 shoppers, 23%, report imagery doesn’t render well or is too small on their mobile devices, while a quarter report information is poorly laid out and 24% say retailers don’t have mobile-optimized sites, according to Digital Commerce 360.

The ability to flip, spin, and zoom in on products easily within the mobile environment is a top shopper request, with 45% saying it would enhance purchase confidence, according to Vertebrae’s survey. With these capabilities, gift buyers can ascertain whether picks have the right plugs, ports, and controls — not only for electronics, but also for kitchen gadgets, DIY tools, and appliances. Verizon combined these capabilities with a themed holiday AR experience to help 2021 gift shoppers pick out the right mobile tech and accessories, with callouts for key features.

Share fun experiences and wishlist picks
While the days of roaming the mall shopping for gifts with friends may be forever in the past, AR shopping can bring back the camaraderie and fun of shared experiences. Nearly 4 in 10 Millennial and Gen Z AR shoppers (38%) say they find the tools fun and engaging, while 20% have shared screen shots of their AR shopping experiences, according to the Vertebrae survey. Consumers can share screenshots of their virtual try on experiments, making it easy for gift buyers to select the right colors and styles.

Brands are already starting to capitalize on AR’s fun factor. In 2021, Coca Cola partnered with Snapchat to replicate the experience of taking pictures with Santa in a festive AR environment, enabling participants to virtually gather with friends for a dose of high-tech nostalgia.

AR can also bring a new dimension to in-person holiday shopping. Walmart added in-aisle AR enhancements during the 2021 holiday season so that store shoppers could overlay virtual graphics on their view of the store to share with friends.

With the 2022 holidays fast approaching, retailers should prioritize deploying AR shopping to enhance mobile experiences. Not only can these tools improve m-commerce sales; they can infuse online shopping with humor and sociability, making brand experiences merry and memorable beyond the peak season.


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