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Augmented Reality can be developed in (at least) 3 different ways. But how can AR actually make a difference for your business?

In Italy, the lockdown ended almost one month ago, but wearing masks is still compulsory – especially if you can’t keep the social distance, in public. As these rules are also valid for economic activities, many owners had to adeguate: before entering the shops, customers must sanitize their hands – and during purchases they must avoid any form of contact. Paying cash is discouraged, and reservation is required both for restaurants and hotels.

A few days ago I went downtown to get a new shirt. I went into the shop and I saw some very nice t-shirts, but in the end I didn’t buy any of them. I couldn’t try them on because of the pandemic, so I thought it wasn’t going to be much different than an online purchase.

The only reason I have always avoided buying clothes online is that I need to see how they fit me. otherwise, I prefer free returns without moving my car.

The pandemic has certainly changed our consumer habits – but it has also profoundly changed our shopping needs. These last months strengthened the e-commerce all over the world. Online sales are no longer a choice: they are a valuable assets for many businesses. But being online is not enough to sell. You have to be different from the others. But how? You need to take the weaknesses of others and make them your strengths.

Augmented Reality is a technology that allows people to experience the existence of some perceptual information “as if” it was real. The most common declinations of AR are Instagram’s camera filters: users can view their own image enriched with elements and effects, on the screen, changing their perception – not the reality itself.

Actually, AR is not (only) about make-up and bunny eras. This technology can enhance almost any kind of online business by imitating some elements of the shopping experience in the online environment.

Therefore, AR reduces the difference between “real” and digital reality and it facilitates consumer choice. How?

Basically, in 3 different ways.

1. Contextualization.

The product itself does not say much: it is its use that convinces us to buy it. Obviously, the use depends on the product: we read the preview of a book and wear a pair of glasses. Different uses imply different experiences. Augmented Reality allows to insert the product in its context of consumption: a table in our living room, an eyeliner around our eyes, a picture on the wall of our bedroom. When the result is clear, the choice is easier…isn’t it?

2. Customization.

If your customers had special needs, would your product satisfy them? Customization works in two ways: the user gets a personal version of the product, and the seller gets information on the customer’s choices. If you are also a manufacturer, you can even try to entrust your customers with the realization of your products. User-generated-products. You wouldn’t be the first, but a good idea never dies.

3. Entertainment.

This doesn’t look much exciting to you, does it? Yet, it should. Entertainment is the most effective form of advertising, and the interactions generated by AR are the winning formula. Even if you don’t sell it, your product becomes part of the user experience – an experience that is often shared with others. Your product becomes part of an environment that will be seen and communicated (therefore, “populated”).

Looking carefully at these 3 different ways of using AR, we can notice that even if they are inspired by the offline shopping experience, they don’t just imitate it: they improve it. The use of products no longer necessarily takes place in the store, but can be transferred elsewhere (on social media, for example): therefore, consumption becomes ubiquitous. And the more ubiquitous you are, the stronger your business is. It is on this “strength” that you can make a difference – both with your competitors (online) and with your roots (offline). After all, this is the meaning of “growth”.