Gone are the days when people jostled for seats in the front rows of sports stadiums. Gone are also those days when shoppers carried a bundle of clothes into trial rooms of garment stores to find the best fit. Today, virtual reality technology has brought the stadium to the sports fan, permanently deleting the signboard of ‘Sold Out’. In the second of our five-part series on Virtual Reality technology, we take you on a tour of how e-commerce has donned a new look with Augmented Reality.
Planning a vacation doesn’t stop at just skimming through an online gallery. Global hotelier Mariott is “teleporting” its guests to exotic locations virtually allowing them to decide on a vacation spot. Strumming along is travel manager Thomas Cook which is also making use of Virtual Reality technology to showcase its tourism experience to customers in its Concept Stores in England. Not far behind is giant advertising brand Coca Cola. The company turned its entire advertising platform into an entertainment zone during the FIFA World Cup, taking people in Brazil’s Maracana Stadium right into the locker rooms and then onto the pitch, allowing them to score a goal – all without leaving their seat.
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While e-retailers have been exploring Virtual Reality technologies for advertising in the public domain to a large extent, automobile giants such as Fiat and Toyota have taken it a step further offering customers and engineers an opportunity to experience “what’s different” in their brand. Fiat has been leveraging VR technology to allow customers to experience its various models in virtual mode. Its virtual reality console also gives customers the opportunity to compare its product offerings with that of its competitors. Toyota, on the other hand, has a well-equipped VR unit in its Lexus centre in Japan that allows customers to test drive in various driving conditions and enjoy a virtually real experience of a vehicle’s performance.
From advertising companies to automobile giants and e-retailers, virtual reality has changed the entire e-commerce scenario. The sector has seen a boom in recent years and virtual reality brings in a whole new experience. As e-commerce becomes more interactive with the advent of virtual reality, all real life queries and experiences can be incorporated in the virtual market. From finding the right colors that suit your home décor to finding the perfectly matched hairstyle for an ensemble, virtual reality has given e-commerce a powerful tool to enhance customer experience and purchase decisions.
Mobile Augmented Reality Retailing
E-commerce has been experiencing unprecedented success and the next best way forward for this industry is to make shopping online all the more interactive and compelling through augmented reality. While virtual mirrors and 4D imaging of products is making that tad difference, Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR) for the retail world is practically revolutionizing e-commerce activities on mobile phone platforms. In a recent report Juniper Research said that e-retailers are set to spend $300 million just to deploy VR capabilities.
MAR technology runs on a mobile phone and depicts the social content and networks as well as product information associated with various consumer items within a visual context. By aiming a mobile phone’s camera at an item’s 2D bar code, a consumer can visualize this information as a swarm of animated 3D avatars that appear to be hovering above the item in the physical world. MAR avatars have different roles such as online reviewers, designers of the system, sales representatives, and even other consumers who have physically been in the store and have shared their opinion on a product.
IBM’s Augmented Reality Shopping Assistant (released in 2013) provides consumers with a personalized shopping experience with immediate product comparisons and special offers as they move through the store. It captures images via the built-in video camera on a user’s Smartphone or tablet and uses advanced image processing technologies to quickly and accurately identify a product or row of items. This app also allows users to see information based on their stated preferences of products and offer coupons or special discounts. The technology is based on IBMs patents US 8451266 andUS 6025839. IBM is collaborating with Tesco, one of the leading retailers of the world to ensure that its in-store displays are arranged according to the plan.
Ads with a personal touch
E-commerce stores are augmenting VR technology to make advertisements more personalized and tailor-made to individual users. Leveraging this potential technology appropriately can help e-retailers reduce the number of clicks it takes to convert a prospect to a customer.
Global giant toy manufacturer LEGO launched the LEGO Connect App in January 2013. This app allows consumers to point their mobile to a Connect icon on a LEGO catalog anywhere and bingo! all product information, 3D assembled models, reviews and a link to purchase it is displayed right there. This app has earned much positive feedback with at least 24,000 return users spending anywhere between four to 10 minutes interacting here.
Home improvement store Lowe’s Canada connected with digital agency Red Piston to explore AR’s potential to take customers where they had never been before. Lowe’s Canada used the mobile to deliver a unique virtual product experience within a traditional flyer using an app. When the flyer was viewed through the mobile device’s camera, appliance images popped out into the real world, inviting users to actively engage and interact with the products. They could turn on a dryer to see how it spins and open a refrigerator to check out its compartments. With hotspots of product information appearing at the right time, users could glean even more from their immersive experience.
For the Middle East market, Toyota sought forward-thinking marketing promotions to accelerate interest in the 86 while enabling consumers to enjoy the look, feel and driving experience first-hand. The carmaker embraced mobile experiential technology and launched the “Made to Thrill” advertising campaign. The Toyota 86 AR mobile app simulates test-drives to help consumers feel and experience everything the new Toyota 86 embodies. Using smartphones and tablets, consumers could activate the app from posters at shopping malls and trendy hangouts, and as the app gained online momentum, they could also print their own posters from the toyota86ar.com website. In the first 10 days following its launch, the Toyota 86 AR app reached 70,000+ downloads.
The Guinness World Records book is sold in 100 countries and offered in 25 different languages. Being a reference- and image-driven book, Guinness wanted to bridge this traditional medium with digital assets and to make them more remarkable for the readers and partnered with Appshaker to develop compelling AR enhanced visuals. One of the most popular factoids in the book features the world’s shortest man, Chandra Bahadur Dangi, from Nepal. Standing 21.5 inches tall, Dangi pops out of the pages when a device loaded with the app is pointed at an extra feature layered behind his photo. Readers can actually have their picture taken with him and send it to friends and family, a feat never before accomplished in a hybrid print/digital publication.
While VR technologies have taken entertainment to a new high and are giving consumers a wonderful shopping experience, these technologies are offering an absolute edge of precision for the armed forces and medical fraternity. The third of our series covers interesting insights into the worlds of militia and medicine, and their integration with virtual reality.
(Featured image source: https://pixabay.com/en/laptop-internet-reality-cyberspace-1104066/)