Augmented reality (AR) technology has been around for a while. In reality, most of us have seen it, possibly without realising. For instance, every time you use a Snapchat filter or chase a Pokemon using Pokemon GO, you are using an AR experience.
However, how are shops using AR technology to attract consumers and how is this technology perceived by UK consumers?
We asked over 1,000 consumers based in the UK (*full methodology at the bottom of this article) to understand if British consumers have adopted AR technology and what are their shopping habits.
Below are the main highlights of the study:
- The majority of respondents haven’t used AR technology before to buy something online (53%) or in a physical store (51%) but are interested in trying it.
- Women are more interested in trying augmented reality experiences in both online and physical than men.
- Men aged 18-35 have used more augmented reality apps in both online and physical stores.
- Clothes and accessories are the most popular items bought using augmented reality in both online and physical stores.
What is AR?
Gartner defines augmented reality (AR) as:
Augmented reality technology works by superimposing a computer-generated image on a user’s view of real life, using a person’s phone camera on a mobile device. Gartner estimates that by the end of this year, 100 million consumers will shop in AR online and in-store.
UK consumers are willing to try augmented reality
Only 15% of consumers in the UK have used AR technology to buy something online. However, out of the 85% that haven’t used the technology to buy online, more than half (53%) would be willing to try it.
When asked about using augmented reality in physical stores, only 11% have used AR to buy something in store. Out of the 88% that haven’t, 51% are willing to use it.
This poses a great opportunity for retailers. Offering augmented reality to consumers can help increase brand loyalty, as well as transform the way a business works by providing another way for shoppers to experience the products.
AR technology can help enhance the in-shop experience, like virtually trying on new products. It’s even possible to try them on before they are physically available in the store, so the customer can see how it looks and place an order to purchase it once it is available.
In recent years, a number of British retailers have incorporated AR technology to its offering. For example, John Lewis, launched last month a new feature to its augmented reality app that allows users to visualise how a sofa or an armchair would look in their living room before buying it.
More women consumers are willing to use it
A higher percentage of men have used the technology in both online and in-store. 53% of the respondents that have used augmented reality online are male, and 62% of men have also used it in physical stores.
However, the results reveal that there is a high percentage of women respondents expressing a willingness to try the technology in both online (55%) and physical stores (56%). This could mean there is an opportunity for retailers to offer more targeted products to women using AR.
In fact, the results show that AR technology is also used when buying cosmetics like make-up in physical stores (40%). In recent years, there has been an increase in the offer of augmented reality apps in beauty and accessory items like handbags.
Global make-up brands like L’Oreal or Sephora have started using AR to help customers visualise the lipstick on them before deciding on buying it in stores.
Cosmetics have a lot of potentials to attract new consumers using augmented reality. British make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury used the magic mirror as a new way of attracting customers. These would sit in front of a mirror that, using AR, would scan their face and be able to see a number of the brand’s looks on them, without wearing any real make-up.
Clothes and accessories are the most popular items
90% of respondents agree that AR is most useful when buying clothes online, followed by 70% stating accessories (handbags and glasses) and 59% stating furniture.
Visualisation is the key driver for choosing AR online
When asked about the reasons to choose augmented reality for online shopping, 60% of respondents state that they can visualise the product better and/or visualise it in the right place (makeup on their face or furniture in their apartment, for example).
Health, one of the main drivers behind choosing augmented reality
Minimising interaction with people is another key reason to choose augmented reality, as highlighted by half of the respondents.
Other factors behind choosing AR technology include the ability to choose from a wider range of products that may not be in store (45%) and also making purchases faster (43%) are the other two chosen by respondents as main reasons.
78% of the people that have started using augmented reality stated that they see themselves buying in a physical store a lot less or a little bit less since they have tried the technology.
For the respondents that have not used it, those aged 46 and over, stated that being able to try and touch the product (47%) is the main reason. Requiring the installation of an AR app (45%) is the second most important reason for not having used augmented reality yet.
COVID-19 has made people more aware of AR
Almost half of the respondents (47%) have changed their perception towards augmented reality and are more willing to use the technology.
The crisis has impacted all (or most of) aspects of our daily lives, accelerating the digital transformation of companies and changing our own habits. AR technology can be a great opportunity for retailers when looking to expand the current shopping experience to their customers.
* Survey methodology
Data for the “GetApp AR/VR Survey 2020” study was collected in August 2020 from an online survey of 1,406 respondents that live in the UK.
The survey data used for this article comes from 1,006 participants who qualified to answer. The information in this article corresponds to the average of all surveyed participants.
Note: There were several answer options available for the graphics so that the total of the percentages exceeds 100%.