Augmented reality in retail

Technology is helping retail make shopping fun again. Shoppers no longer have to visit brick-and-mortar stores and peruse for neon “open” signs. Now your smartphone can function as a personal computer and you can have access to a digital shopping cart and register with just a few simple clicks. For the most part, retailers have done an adequate job of adapting an omniexperience model for their customers, but something was still missing. However, this changed when augmented reality (AR) arrived on the scene.

Apple (ARKit) and Google (ARCore) are facilitating this change by embedding AR technology into their respective smartphones to allow developers — and by extension, retailers and marketers — to create incredible AR experiences. In fact, Digital Bridge shows that 74% of consumers now expect retailers to offer some type of AR experience. AR is set to reconnect physical and digital retail.

This includes building deeper messages via AR in all in-store signage, having AR hosts that direct consumers to specific departments within a store, co-branded augmented products with shelf-talker callouts and instant coupon delivery based on AR actuation.


As far as applications go, updated its iOS app to allow users to view its products via augmented reality thanks to Apple’s ARKit. (Full Disclosure: and AkzoNobel are VR/AR Association members.) This feature allows users to actually see what certain pieces of furniture might look like in their own homes or offices, much like the IKEA application. Thanks to AR, which uses visual search or image recognition, it’s making it much easier for consumers to find exactly what they are looking for instead of doing traditional Google Searches. The technology also encourages customers to test the app out and pull the trigger on purchases. According to Amit Goyal, SVP of product and engineering at, the company has seen an increase in adoption and conversion. “The major win is the increased customer engagement in the app.”

As every new technology, AR is primarily being used by the innovators and those who are ahead of the curve. But even struggling retailer Toys R Us, a company I used to work for, has tapped into the potential of AR to bring back fun and excitement into it stores woo shoppers. Based on 2016 data, the vast majority of Toys R Us’ revenue is still generated it its stores, so in-store experiences that drive foot traffic and are in line with customer expectations are essential. Although it’s doubtful that Toys R Us’ AR experiences will ever reach the popularity of something like Pokemon Go, the company made a smart move in creating several next-gen AR experiences for your smartphone and tablet that can be only activated in the store, making the landmark retailer a fun destination.


AkzoNobel, a Dutch company that creates paints, launched an AR app called the Visualizer, which has been downloaded 18 million times globally. The app is a great example of how AR technology can solve a specific use case. Choosing the right paint color for a room in your house can be stressful because it’s hard to envision what the room will look like once it’s completely painted. In order to help give you confidence in your color selection, the app allows users to see what a room could look like in a variety of different colors in real time — all before any paint is applied to the wall.

AR solutions are not out-of-reach solutions in the retail space — they are real, and consumers love them. In fact, 69% of customers expect to have access to AR apps from the stores they love to shop at over the next six months. The more users feel connected with the product in AR, the easier it is for them to purchase items and share fun content with friends and family online.