by Andrew Makarov
As greater numbers of customers turn to e-commerce and home delivery, retail brands must appeal to ever-changing customer behaviors and intense retail competition. Forward-thinking retail brands capture customers by enhancing the customer experience through familiar digital technologies that consumers already value, like augmented reality.
Augmented Reality Improves the Customer Experience
Customers expect efficient processes, seamless check-outs and little frustration. The 2019 Consumer Retail Technology Survey showed that 61 percent of shoppers seek ways to save time when they are shopping. In-store navigation is a time-saving, data-driven solution to this problem. Instead of walking down every aisle or seeking out staff for support and assistance, augmented reality apps transform in-store navigation by giving customers a self-service tool to help them quickly find what they seek.
Implementing In-Store Navigation
Over the last decade, retailers have invested heavily in digital solutions. Large shopping centers and brick-and-mortar outlets like the Mall of America, Harrod’s and Target have already experimented with in-store navigation. Beacon technology that was used for proximity marketing was logically extended to include indoor navigation.
According to Target CIO Mike McNamara, a typical Target store contains about 1,000 beacons. A high number of beacons increases navigation accuracy, but at an average price of $15 each, operational costs for installation and maintenance can increase rapidly.
In-Store Navigation Best Practices
Wi-Fi acts as a beacon alternative. In-store Wi-Fi access points triangulate a shopper’s location, making Wi-Fi a proven solution for venues with existing Wi-Fi networks.
Apple developed a Wi-Fi-based mapping program in 2014. It was marketed internationally to malls and retail centers. Product display and offer locations were uploaded to servers and shoppers determined their location and then navigated to their desired products. Multi-story buildings offered a challenge, but the technology was still functional.
Google also unveiled its own in-store navigation service for retailers with IKEA, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s being pioneers for this project. The first consumer applications of AR technology were apps that gave shoppers the chance to try a product before purchase. Today’s navigation developers use AR-marker methodologies that accurately position users within a few inches of their in-store location.
AR Blends Online and In-Store Experiences
Visual AR-markers are integrated within store interiors. Shoppers can begin a navigation session in the AR app by scanning a poster or a floor decal. The app will display a path to the selected product or aisle. As a result, in-store customers are given a time-saving experience that is similar to their online shopping experience. They quickly find exactly what they want and drop it in their cart.
As of May 2019, over a billion mobile devices are AR-capable. The wide availability of AR apps and the use of AR navigation technology is the latest revolution in the retail experience for both the consumer and the retailer.
Andrew Makarov, Augmented Reality Lead Solution Architect at MobiDev (USA/Ukraine). Andrew is experienced in integration of innovative technologies like Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, and Machine Learning in custom retail software solutions.