Augmented Reality - New Era of Product Visualization

By James Tredwell on July 25, 2019

In the year 2019, shoppers’ behavior in concern to online purchasing has completely changed. One can say the shopping path has changed. Shoppers are purchasing products via smartphones instead of going to the desktop/laptop. According to the Statista report:

80% of consumers (shoppers) used a smartphone inside of a physical store to either look up product reviews or compare prices.

79% of mobile phone users have made a purchase online using their smartphone in the past 6 months.

With more shoppers moving on the smartphones, their expectations in concern to product personalization are also changing at a fast pace. Buyers want the shopping experience to be focused around them across all touchpoints whether it’s mobile, web or in-store. They want to try out the products, see them in the live environment or can wear (watch, t-shirts, etc.) or taste.

A lot of brands are finding difficulty in meeting buyer expectations in concern to product personalization. And as a result, losing potential customers or facing a sharp slowdown in their business growth. Now a big question arises i.e. how to deal with this challenging situation? Here’s where Augmented Reality plays an important role in improving the buyer journey when it comes to product visualization.

What is Augmented Reality?

The word augmented is originated from the word augment which means to enhance or append something. Augmented Reality is a type of interactive technology which is based on the reality-based display environment. It superimposes the capabilities of computer-generated images, sound, text, and effects to improve the user’s real-world experience. AR superimposes digital elements to a live view usually by using the camera on a mobile phone.

History of Augmented Reality

If you are a fan of using Snapchat, then you must have seen Snapchat filters. If you’re game addictive, then you must have played Pokemon Go game. Must be wondering now what’s common between both Snapchat filters & Pokemon game. The answer is Augmented Reality.

Augmented Reality is not a completely new technology in eCommerce or other fields. It was first originated in 1968 at Harvard University by electrical engineering professor namely Ivan Sutherland. Over the years, AR technology kept on growing but the main revolutionary phase in which AR technology took sharp growth is in between 2011–2013. In the year 2014, Google released a wearable AR device named as Google Glass. Months later, Snapchat introduced Snap Lenses, a unique feature that enables users’ to add motion graphics to photos and videos. Following the same trend major eCommerce giants likewise Shopify gave shoppers a relatively new way to experience the products.

Role of Augmented Reality in Retail World

Shoppers are thinking way beyond the expectations of brands. Let’s take a simple example to understand the concept. If you want to buy a smartwatch online, you would first need to feel

  • how it will look on your hand?
  • the right color match?
  • most importantly understanding how it would fit you before you buy it.

Between both the buyer & retailer there is some gap created between the physical world & the digital world. Because of this gap, a buyer can view the digital world but cannot interact with the physical world. Here’s where Augmented reality offers a unique solution to the above example & boundary limitation problem. AR brings out the best of the two worlds(digital and physical) to avail the users with a never before experience.

Another vital component of AR is the capability of superimposing the digital representation of products onto the physical world. When digital products are coupled with the physical world then our ability to understand will be enhanced.

Let’s have a quick look at a few case studies on how major e-commerce brands implemented augmented reality to answer their challenges and offer their buyers with an innovative shopping experience.

L’Oreal Virtual Stylist — Give Yourself a Virtual Makeover or Makeup Testing

Women’s loves fashion & when it comes to the makeup, they leave behind no stones unturned to give their face a perfect look. This is where L’Oreal brand stood up to meet their buyers’ expectation & came up with a unique idea of Virtual Makeover or you can say Makeup testing. L’Oreal’s Virtual makeup stylist gives its buyers’ a comfortable experience of trying on makeup via smartphone camera.

In the above image, you can see by uploading your face image, you can virtually test which lipstick will look more attractive on you before buying from the store.

Benefit achieved:

  • Successfully able to control the cart abandonment rate.
  • Successfully able to attract the buyers’ attention too much extent and thereby converting the same buyer to a successful checkout. As a result boost in sales.

IKEA Place — Augmented Reality Furnishing

Everyone in this world wants to give a perfect look to his/her room. But the customer is always confused about which type of furniture (color, size, etc.) will add a dashing look to his/her room or hall. This is where IKEA understood the buyers’ intention & came up with the first-ever AR-powered shopping solution.

With the help of IKEA Place app, one can quickly scan their room or hall & place IKEA products virtually right in it. It will give a clear picture to the buyer & accordingly he/she can buy the product which suited his/her need the most.

Benefit achieved:

  • At the moment, the company hasn’t provided any particular estimates on the sales stats. According to source reports, IKEA Place app has shown a big spike in the Google trends & the company has experienced strong news media coverage ever since the launch of their app.

TapPainter — Visualize Interior Spaces in New Colors

Have you ever thought that you can virtually check for which paint color to choose for your home interior walls before applying in the real-time? The answer is yes. Thanks to AR technology which made it possible. TapPainter is one such app available in the iOS store which lets you imagine interior spaces in new colors in concern to natural lighting conditions.

App users can easily select the paint from a broad selection of brands such as Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr, and more. You can choose contrasting colors for various walls to see the finished look.

Technologies Involved in Augmented Reality

So far we are now clear with the concept of Augmented Reality & the role it is playing in the eCommerce industry. Now, the next question arises technologies that AR uses or AR technology methods. So let’s discuss on the same

1. Marker-Based Augmented Reality:

This technology utilizes your smartphone camera and marker will yield a result when the visual pointers are sensed by a reader. A visual marker can be anything, as long as it has enough sole visual points. In marker-based augmented reality, the images which have to be recognized are provided before-hand. In this technology, you will have an exact idea of what the application will search for while obtaining camera frames. The apps which are coming these days are based on the marked-based technology likewise IKEA Place, TapPainter.

2. Markerless Augmented Reality:

You can say this technology is a vice-versa of Marker-based augmented reality. Visual marker is not required. In this technology, there is no need for prior knowledge in concern to the user’s environment to superimpose 3D content into a particular scene. Implementing this technology is a bit difficult reason because the recognition algorithm operating in your AR application has to identify some key features that may exist in your camera frames. Basically, this technology is used in 3d maps & navigation systems.

3. Projection-Based Augmented Reality:

This technology overlay computer-generated graphics onto the user’s view of the real world. You can view the 3d projections after pointing the camera frame onto the real object.

Benefits of Augmented Reality in the Retail Industry

Improving Buyers’ Experience:

The AR technology grants buyers’ who typically buy online the opportunity to observe the product in the real-time just like the same way as they would if they were viewing the product in the physical store. It gives the buyers’ a more genuine feel of the product as compared to the old technique of viewing product online.

More Customization:

Nowadays, buyers’ tends to search for various options & choices before making a final deal. With the help of augmented reality, buyers’ can now experience the real view of the products from their home/office itself, eliminating the need of visiting a physical store.

Improved Shopping Support to Buyers’:

Without shopping support in eCommerce, it’s very hard to sell a product to the potential customer. Here’s where augmented reality played an important crucial by bridging the gap between the shopping support experience. If you take a case of L’Oreal’s Virtual makeup stylist, you can see how they are giving excellent shopping support to their customer base. They are providing a unique way to test out products virtually before making a purchase.

Cons of Augmented Reality

Privacy Concerns:

Augmented Reality concept is based on the open-source architecture. And the history itself speaks that open-source architecture is more vulnerable to potential threats & cyber attacks. So, thereby breaching privacy concerns up to some context.

Implementation Cost on Higher End:

The cost involved in developing the AR-based application is on higher-end reason because of the higher costs involved in beta testing of the AR-based app. The developer needs to assure that the coding required for one integration doesn’t negatively affect the integration of another part of the hardware.

eCommerce Platforms which supports Augmented Reality


Shopify is the first full-fledged eCommerce platform to provide you the Augmented Reality experience. At the moment, Shopify added this experience to iOS users only. They have launched their app 3D Warehouse, which permits AR experiences by enabling you to upload 3D models & link them to products present on your store. For complete detailed information on how to install 3d Warehouse, you can go through Shopify AR powered by 3D Warehouse.


If I talk about the next eCommerce platform which has added Augmented Reality concept into its store is the Woocommerce. Back in 2018, Kijo developers launched the plugin named WooCommerce AR Quick Look plugin. To view the complete effects of the plugin, you just need to be using a Safari browser on an iOS 12 based device & you can bring real images to life!

Magento 2:

Magento is another popular eCommerce store which has integrated Augmented Reality concept. Magento store has one very popular app Magento 2 Mobile App Builder, which will not only convert your Magento 2 store into the mobile app but will also facilitate Augmented Reality. An online retailer in Germany, Ikarus has successfully integrated the concept of Augmented Reality in its Magento store.

Apart from above-supported eCommerce stores, I have also been able to find 3rd party apps which has claimed to support all the eCommerce stores likewise Shopify, Magento 2, BigCommerce & Woocommerce. Those apps can deliver the same 3D experience of your products present on the respective stores and thereby resulting in increased chances of more sale & higher revenue.

Future of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is slowly & steadily picking up the pace with the latest upcoming trends in eCommerce. As per the Statista report, the AR market will increase by approx 34 times in 2025 compared to 5.91 billion market size. AR technology is not limited to eCommerce but is gaining popularity in every field from the real estate industry to healthcare, enhancing outdoor & indoor navigation.

With more companies likewise Shopify, Facebook & Google is investing in Augmented Reality, it is indeed possible that in the coming future AR technology will be multi-billion dollar industry. The designers around the globe have already commenced working on improving their UX designs using AR technology trends. I strongly admit that AR technology will surely give a lot of advantages to UX specialists.

So, its wake up call for all the major retailers across the world to adapt themselves to this emerging technology. This technology can certainly change the buying decision of buyers’. And if you as a business owner successfully able to understand your buyers’ intention, then you would be on the top of the competitive market.

This article is contributed by Kunal Khullar — Co-Founder at The Brihaspati Infotech Pvt. Ltd

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