Retailers Are Turning to Augmented Reality as the Pandemic Forces Them Online

To marketers in January, augmented reality (AR) was either an early stage innovation at best or a pipe dream fad straight from Back to the Future at worst. However, it’s popularity is steadily rising as the coronavirus pandemic makes it more difficult and dangerous to visit in-store retailers. 

A July report published by Commerce Next showed that 48 percent of e-commerce marketers saw increases in their budget and increased AR investments by 21 percent, up from 8 percent in the previous year. 

Before the pandemic, some retail establishments offered customers the chance to use 3D body scanning and virtual mirrors to try on clothes. As coronavirus is forcing retailers online, AR has become an attractive option for marketing and sampling

Bollé Brands, which manufactures sunglasses, goggles, and helmets, developed a try-on experience through Instagram, allowing users to try on sunglasses while experiencing their own environments through the lens. 

“As soon as Covid-19 happened, people didn’t want to go into malls and sunglasses stores to try on glasses,” said Chris Abbruzzee, vice president of trade marketing for Bollé brands.” Who wants to touch something that was on somebody’s face? I’m not supposed to touch my own face, let alone wear glasses that touched someone else’s face.” 

In 2017, Ikea launched an AR application that allowed customers to place furniture items in spaces to see how items would fit before purchasing them. Years later, the app has allowed customers to access goods safely from their homes during the pandemic.

In July 2020, Snapchat, which has AR features, clocked in at 238 million daily active users worldwide, up from 203 million at the same time last year.

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