During yesterday's annual developer conference, Apple revealed its bold move into the augmented reality (AR) market with the introduction of their headset, Vision Pro. Scheduled to be released next year, the headset processes sensor data lightning-fast and allows users to navigate content easily by using their eyes and fingers. Apple’s latest marvel can also be used in conjunction with a trackpad and keyboard, mimicking the functionality of a traditional computer with multiple displays.
With its exciting technical features, Vision Pro might open new doors in the implementation of AR for eCommerce purposes. Fast processing of sensor data, for instance, would enable users to seamlessly navigate through immersive eCommerce experiences using their eyes, enhancing the sense of presence and engagement. Additionally, innovative interaction methods such as tapping fingers together for clicks, as well as flicks for scrolling further would enhance the user experience by providing intuitive and natural ways to interact with products. Moreover, compatibility with a trackpad and keyboard is likely to prove useful in offering a familiar interface for users, allowing a smoother transition to using such technology.
Augmented vs. Virtual
Distinguishing itself from the technology giant Meta's headsets, the Vision Pro features a visually striking element – an exterior display that showcases the user's eyes to individuals in the surrounding environment, making it "the first Apple product you look through, not at", as the CEO Tim Cook puts it. While this outer screen is turned off when a user is completely engaged in a virtual world, in case of a person approaching the user, the headset then shows the user and the outside person to each other. The user, in this case, sees the outside world through a more basic video feed.
According to Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, the fundamental difference between Apple's headset and Meta's is that Meta aims to create a virtual world that users inhabit, while Apple seems to prefer to keep users firmly rooted in reality and simply enhance it. In the context of eCommerce, whether AR is more advantageous than virtual reality (VR) is, of course, dependent on the use case. One key strength of AR is the ability to maintain a connection with the real world. By blending digital content seamlessly with the real world, AR allows users to stay connected to their surroundings while adding digital elements to their view. This might be argued to be particularly beneficial for eCommerce, as it enables users to visualize products in their own environment and make more informed purchasing decisions.
While VR has its merits in creating immersive experiences, it may limit the user's ability to interact with the physical world by isolating users from their physical environment and putting them in a virtual world. However, to underline again, different eCommerce usages of these technologies might favor one over the other. In any case, Apple's emphasis on enhancing reality rather than creating a separate virtual world aligns with the idea of AR as a powerful tool for complementing the eCommerce experience.
Implementation of AR in eCommerce
Fancy headsets aside, there are already noteworthy applications of this revolutionary technology in eCommerce. Metaverse Fashion Week, for example, is a digital fashion event held on the Metaverse platform Decentraland, offering shoppers wearable collections through the use of AR. This year’s edition of the event included the likes of Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss, adidas, Alo Yoga, Tommy Hilfiger, and Dundas Worldwide.
In addition, AR technology is also a good tool to implement for companies that intend to diversify their business. As a part of its efforts to become more involved in eCommerce, Snap Inc. is one of the many companies that have embraced the usage of AR. Through the “Lenses” created by a community of over 300,000 creators and developers, the company gives customers the opportunity to try on clothing and accessories in an immersive online shopping experience.
Retail chain IKEA, too, has incorporated AR into their repertoire. Through the app IKEA Place, users are able to virtually place 3D models of furniture from IKEA’s catalogue in their own space, helping them visualize and experiment with different products before making a purchase. This smart and simple idea offers an engaging and convenient way to explore furnishing ideas through the lens of a smartphone camera.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The future of AR holds exciting possibilities for eCommerce. It can lead to improved personalization by analyzing user preferences and context, enabling highly tailored experiences that recommend products, styles, or sizes aligning with individual tastes and needs. Additionally, AR can also enhance social shopping by allowing users to share their AR experiences with friends, enabling virtual shopping together, seeking opinions, and making group decisions.
Furthermore, AR has the potential to enhance in-store experiences by overlaying additional information, personalized offers, or navigation assistance onto the physical environment, benefiting brick-and-mortar stores. Moreover, gamification elements can be incorporated into shopping using AR, making the experience more engaging and enjoyable for users.
Overall, AR’s potential to change the way consumers shop online cannot be overstated. Though a healthy dose of skepticism is always important when it comes to novel technologies, implementation of such immersive experiences will surely have an impact on customer satisfaction and engagement by bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds.