Consumer shopping habits are changing faster than ever. Prior to COVID, headlines such as “Brick and mortar is dead! Shoppers no longer go to malls… How will retailers survive?” were seemingly everywhere.
Then Covid hit and the headlines changed – but for retailers, the change wasn’t exactly for the better… We began to see stories like “Digital adoption amongst consumers speeds up, online shopping is here to stay, and e-comm is through the roof!” The list of how the pandemic was forever changing retail went on and on.
Taking a 50,000-foot view of those headlines from the past 24-to-36 months, we see a trend emerge. Consumers want the shopping experience – they just have some frustrations with having to make a trip to the store, only to find out that they don’t have what they want.
So, what is that ideal shopping experience? How can retailers give customers what they want – both in store and at home? For the majority of consumers it’s VR and AR
Research commissioned by Wool & Water confirms a few interesting trends:
● 83 percent of consumers said they think AR and VR is likely to improve their shopping experiences
● 80 percent of consumers said they would be interested in AR and VR as a way to interact with products
● More than 80 percent of US shoppers said they would buy from a retailer offering AR and VR over a competitor that does not
What this tells us is that consumers already have the technology that makes digital experiences possible. And it’s time for brands to catch up to where their consumers are. Thinking about it generationally, millennials were digital natives – they grew up with dial up internet and chat windows. Gen Z grew up on social media. Hot on the heels of these social natives, is Gen Alpha.
Today’s AR and VR shopping experiences need to be more than just entertainment for consumers. In order for brands to compete in the emerging digital world, they need to provide their customers with easy AR and VR shopping experiences. This requires sincere thought and effort into how brands can better showcase their products, in different environments, so that customers can feel comfortable and confident in what they are buying.
Brands are starting to recognize that shoppable VR and AR are something that consumers want, but they are missing the mark on execution. For some, AR means simple gamification, which can be fun for consumers, but fleeting to create. For other brands new to the AR space, they commission downloadable apps — at a time when consumers are tired of downloading apps. And yet other brands are starting to understand the power of web-AR, they miss the mark of consumer experience. Imagine a brand texting a consumer a QR code (it actually happened in real life).
At Wool & Water, what we see is the evolution of technology, the solution for reaching consumers the way they want to be reached in a way that solves their consumption problems and bridging the gap of physical and digital. And we call it “Extended Retail.” ER bridges physical and digital storefronts, and helps brands drive higher conversion and sales, increase basket size, and strengthen loyalty among their customers.
Extended Retail transforms a brand’s omnichannel footprint by integrating physical, digital, and mobile touch points. A basic example can start with a piece of traditional media, say a mailer, digital billboard, or product packaging — things typically only used to convey branding and awareness messaging.
Now, thanks to the prevalence of QR codes and smartphones, a consumer can scan that piece of media and be provided with an enriched, gamified experience – with never needing to download an app. At its most basic, Extended Retail turns awareness marketing into performance marketing.
According to Pew Research, more than 85 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Thanks to Apple and Android, that means more than 280 million Americans are capable of scanning QR codes that can trigger shoppable augmented reality experiences.
It’s Generation Alpha that is growing up as AR natives, along with Gen Z. These generations have only known life with social media, social media filters, and games, whether e-sports or VR, which immerse them into what they are doing. It’s only fitting that this generation will want a shoppable experience as they turn into consumers.
While brands are dabbling with this technology, the user experience for the majority of consumers today requires too many steps for generations whose time spent looking at ads is measured in seconds. Apps that require downloading from the Apple Store or Google Play add layers of steps, too. Anything that is more than one or two clicks from purchase sees a drop off in rates; abandoned carts and sales left behind.
From cars to vacations, glasses to scarves, upstart food brands and those looking for a digital leg up on their decades old competitors, consumers are now more than ever used to online shopping. Carvana and DTC brands such as Casper and Brooklinen proved this and now the technology and strategy to elevate e-commerce into Extended Retail exists.
This article was authored by Justin McAneny, Co-Founder, Wool & Water