How Can Retail Take Advantage Of Augmented Reality?

Tablet showing a virtual sink installed on a real wall

Augmented reality (AR) gets a lot of talk about how much of a game changer it is for the modern world. Speaking recently with Inc. Magazine, Scott Belsky, co-founder of Behance now executive at Adobe, says augmented reality is the future of commerce.

It’s actually quite astounding how quickly the technology has become available to the mainstream. There are about 3 billion smartphones capable of AR already in the hands of users.

Having a 3D version of your product on your website has proven to double conversion rates.


Here, we will talk about how the age old and highly competitive industry of retail can integrate and ultimately benefit from augmented reality. The introduction of AR is proving to be as significant of a change as e-commerce was decades ago. Businesses who embrace it early will be a step ahead of their competitors.

Product Visualization

The most widely used application of augmented reality as of today is product visualization. AR is well suited to talking a virtual product and placing it in the context of the real world. In the past, this was only possible through advanced photo or video editing work. With the computing power available in smartphones, it is now possible for everyone to perform these tasks with only a few taps. Brick and mortar stores are excellent for providing consumers with a place to shop and see products. E-commerce gave consumers a way to look at products from the convenience of their own homes with needing to ship products or samples back and forth. But online pictures can only go so far, which led to the development of 360 degree views.

Will this couch physically fit next to your existing chairs? With augmented reality you can check without having to go find your tape measure. Open the app on your phone and virtually place that couch on the floor to see if there is room. Alternatively, people can use AR to measure objects, rooms, and floor spaces. Apps can tell users “Yes, this will fit here” or “No, this won’t fit here” at the push of a button. This builds consumer confidence in ways not feasible before AR technology.

Will this couch match your existing chairs? I don’t think I need to explain how important the appearance of products is to a sale. Consumers have several existing options for this. They can visit a store, look at pictures online, or better yet, look at a 3D view online. Each of these has limitations solved by augmented reality. AR puts the couch right in the room next to all the existing furniture. Consumers don’t have to use their imagination or compare home photos while at the store. AR apps can match the lighting on virtual objects to that of the room they are in, so they don’t have to rely on the lighting in online photos or 360 degree views.

Woman holding an iPad looking at a camera view of the room on the screen. Virtual objects exist in the iPad view not present in the actual room.
Example: Ikea Place

Ikea’s augmented reality home designer, Ikea Place, was among the first AR home design apps. You can browse their catalog and place many of the items in your living space using AR.

Experiences like this rely on having 3D models of your products. Product images simply won’t cut it in augmented reality. The good news is, if you have 360 degree views of your product on your website you likely already have those 3D models. But even if you don’t, there are several ways to make them. The easiest of which is to build the product using modeling software like Blender or Maya to give you a file suitable for placement in an app. Making these 3D models gives you a definitive competitive advantage, as measured by Shopify, “Having a 3D version of your product on your website has proven to double conversion rates.”

Try On

While placing products on the floor or walls is a primary use case, there is actually an older, more well known use case, face filters. These have traditionally not been referred to as AR. Snapchat bundled these under AR when they started adding floor tracking filters to their app. Since then “filters” have been increasingly labelled as AR. The applications have also grown beyond giving you dog ears.

Google applied machine learning to augmented reality to achieve effects not possible with selfie cameras alone. They integrated the technology into the YouTube app to give creators more tools for creativity. One of their demos of the tech showcased one of the ideal use cases for retail: trying on glasses. Warby Parker has an iPhone app using the sophisticated front-facing camera system to give consumers the ability to try on glasses.

Screenshots of the Pinterest app featuring eyeshadow product view, a woman in a selfie view with the eye-shadow virtually applied, and similar product lists.
Example: Pinterest

Last year, Pinterest launched a new feature in their app to let users try on make up from their pins. With this, users could search for lipstick, open a pin, and try on the lipstick within a few seconds, all without visiting a store or tracking down samples. This year, they expanded the feature to include eye-shadow. If this trend continues, users will one day be able to try on entire looks by mixing and matching products virtually before applying any moisturizer. And once finished, the users could buy all the products they virtually used in a single tap.


Augmented reality is still a new technology to many consumers, and it is becoming increasingly accessible. Even with AR adoption rates below those of mobile devices, AR ads are proving to be highly effective. When Miller Lite ran an AR ad they saw a 75 percent re-engagement rate and session lengths averaging 3 minutes. Overall, they saw a brand lift of 25 percent among people who interacted with the ad. This is absolutely remarkable compared to traditional web advertising including banners and pre-roll videos.

Frame Push builds augmented and virtual reality apps, web apps, and experiences to help your business succeed. Contact us to integrate our expertise into your plan.