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How Augmented Reality is Changing E-Commerce for the Better

Shopping online is great. Who doesn’t love the convenience of being able to buy almost anything they need and having it delivered to their home at the click of a button? At your fingertips is a wider variety of any kind of item you care to think of than you’d find in most shopping malls, sometimes at a fraction of the price.

e-Commerce has its pitfalls, however. Humans are naturally risk-averse and, particularly with expensive purchases such as furniture and cosmetics, we are hesitant to spend money on something we can’t touch or try. There are several ways to overcome this, such as a compelling returns policy, short trial periods before committing, and offering lots of free samples.

Or you could try Augmented Reality.

What is Augmented Reality?

Not to be confused with virtual reality (VR), which is an entirely new digital “world” and reality that one can explore using a VR headset. Augmented reality is an adaptation of our own world where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities (visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and even olfactory). Think of the popular Pokemon Go, where players could run around their own schools, offices and parks and capture the digital Pokemon that their phone screens showed as if they were really in those real-world environments. To see augmented reality, one only needs their mobile device, tablet or laptop. This gives it greater accessibility than VR.

A Local Example

Painting your home is a big risk. Not only could you end up spending money on a paint colour that clashes with everything you own, but there’s the added cost of having to cover up that mistake.

The Dulux app removes this anxiety by offering augmented reality on your phone. Just point your camera at the wall you want to paint, select the paint colour you’re interested in, and see, in real time, what that colour would look like on your wall. You can toggle between several shades and hues and, when you’re happy, you can easily access the paint colour ID code to get it mixed at your nearest Dulux outlet.

Why Should I Use Augmented Reality?

As the above example illustrates, augmented reality is a great way for your shoppers to visualise your products and remove a lot of the anxiety and risk around making the final purchase. IKEA illustrates this well with an augmented reality version of their catalogue. It allows you to see what the furniture would look like in your home and, more importantly, whether the dimensions would fit. This is in many ways superior to an in-store experience because customers can see the furniture in their homes before they even buy it.

Augmented reality is also a useful way of improving the shopping experience, both online and in-store. A great example of this is make up companies such as Sephora and L’Oreal, who offer customers the option of trying on make up in augmented reality. Customers can upload a photo of themselves and, using the app, see what different shades of make up look like on them. Not only does this let customers test the products from anywhere in the world, it is also a much more hygienic, hassle free alternative to trying on samples in-store.

In a world where everything is becoming more personalised, augmented reality can be a great help too. The Olay Skin Advisor app adds personalisation with augmented reality. It allows its customers to upload a selfie of themselves. The app then analyses their skin texture and tone, which allows it to offer a personalised skincare programme for that customer’s specific needs.

What are the Limits of Augmented Reality?

Firstly, the cost of developing and implementing a high-quality augmented reality app can be quite high, since it requires much more sophisticated programming than a standard app.

Second, touch is still an important part of the shopping experience and it’s hard to replicate that in augmented reality: few things are an adequate substitute for actually holding an item in your hands.

Finally, while augmented reality can improve the customer experience in a lot of ways, it isn’t a substitute for high-quality products, great customer service and smart UI and UX design. Those are all things that you should focus your budget on first, with augmented reality as an exciting extra to enhance the customer experience.

How does Neuromarketing Come into This?

If you’ve spent the money on developing an augmented reality app, you’ll want to know that it offers a seamless and engaging customer experience the whole way through. While standard app testing might reveal a few bugs or sticking points, neuromarketing can help you understand the customer experience on a more implicit, emotional level


You can gain actionable insights for the design and optimisation of your augmented reality user experience using consumer neuroscience. Galvanic skin response and facial coding will show you the level of emotional arousal your customers feel as they navigate the app, as well as the nature of those emotions. Eye tracking can show you how customers visually navigate the AR experiences, whether they miss any important features, or if they find the design and layout confusing. All in all, these neuromarketing tools can help you optimise the experience and ensure that it’s emotionally engaging, memorable and delivers on your business objectives.

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