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The Real Advantage Of Augmented Reality

Monday June 10th, 2013 - 11:03AM

The difference between reality and illusion in this digitally enhanced era may be hard to decipher at times. 

And now we’re finding out that technology can make reality even more real.

It’s called augmented reality: an application that animates specially coded  images or items when they are scanned by and viewed through a mobile device.

Enhanced Experience

Magazine publishers are being presented with augmented reality solutions to enhance the utility and vitality of print content. For example, by hovering a smartphone or a tablet over a photo in a magazine, users can watch a video within the frame of the photo.

Unlike QR codes, augmented reality doesn’t pull readers away from the printed page to websites. It requires them to stay engaged with the print backdrop to get the enhanced virtual experience.

Retailers are now looking at such technology to keep brick-and-mortar stores innovative, influential and instrumental as the e-commerce race accelerates.

Target Stores last fall opened a technology lab in downtown San Francisco at the gateway to the high-tech incubator that is Silicon Valley. Target, among other things, is exploring how to give shoppers augmented reality-enabled views of store aisles. Viewing a display through a mobile device, for example, would illuminate sale items or products aligned to a shopper’s preferences. 

More major retailers should be primed to invest in innovation that brings shelves to life in a digitally enriched dimension when costs and other operational restraints make it impractical on the actual selling floor.

Counter-Showrooming

HomeWorld’s Home Office Furniture Report in the June 10, 2013, issue highlights the opportunity for a new generation of multi-tasking, intuitive, lifestyle-adaptable task furniture. It’s the kind of design that begs for shoppers to interact with products. If the Apple Store approach is not an option, however, that may be an opening for some form of augmented reality on the selling floor.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are clamoring for counter-showrooming solutions. Many of today’s shoppers aren’t just mobile tech savvy: They are mobile tech dependent. Merchants need to explore ways to grip in-store browsers with digitally fulfilling experiences that discourage them from surfing competitors to save a couple of dollars.

Stunting e-commerce growth is not the objective. Retailers implementing technology that helps convert sales along the aisles likely are enjoying robust online growth. But they embrace the importance of reinforcing physical stores as a critical foundation for sustainable growth on all platforms.

Enable The Extraordinary

New technology alone is not the solution. The availability of augmented reality applications— and other mobile tech innovations to drive store traffic— is expanding at a rapid rate. 

What will make such technology proprietary over the long term is how merchants implement it to facilitate brick-and-mortar engagement and conversion while keeping customers on the leading edge of digital merchandising innovation.

It doesn’t take long in today’s world for intuitive new technology to become fairly ordinary to the end user. The content and experience enabled by such technology needs to remain extraordinary.

That will sustain the relevance of stores as an essential backdrop for today’s multi-platform marketplace.

A technological illusion that augments reality isn’t enough. To retain the shopper, the benefit has to be very real.

—peter Giannetti