How online retailers are using AR to increase their profits

Brands like IKEA and Nike first laid the groundwork for AR in e-commerce, but now the technology has found more applications in other niches.

Technology may advance at the speed of light, but most of the time it takes a surprisingly long time to catch on. This is exactly the case with augmented reality (AR). First introduced in the 1960s, the concept is only now mature and still raises doubts about the time, cost and mechanism of implementation.

Meanwhile, customers expect the convenience of view-in-room and try-before-you-buy technologies. Corresponding Report by Deloitte Digital and Snap Inc, AR is commonly seen as a “toy” but 76% of people expect and want to use it as a handy “tool” in their everyday life. Interest is particularly high among younger target groups and is related to the boom in mobile use.

AR holds a bright future for its early adopters as it increases conversion rates and makes online shopping more transparent. Integrating AR can be your first step in bridging the gap between the physical and the digital in your online store. Let me explain in more detail how AR works in e-commerce and which niches represent the most successful AR use cases to inspire your brand.

See also: Luxury brands rely on AR: companies should take this into account

No bulky headsets needed: This is how AR works in e-commerce

AR integration in an ecommerce store allows users to experience products in context via their phone, computer, app camera or an AR headset. It brings the most benefits to mobile shoppers, but desktop users will also benefit from AR in e-commerce.

Unlike virtual reality (VR), which requires a special headset to immerse users in a new reality, AR works with the existing environment. It overlays digital elements and filters on real elements and your customer doesn’t need any additional sensors to experience your product. So, on a technological level, AR development works quite simply: all you need are solid 3D models of your SKUs and integration with the browser or mobile operating system AR kit.

Step #1: Prepare AR-compatible digital content.

This includes high quality 3D models based on a set of reference images and created by an experienced designer. Remember that simply recording your product is not enough. Additionally, if you have a large product catalog, I highly recommend starting with a few SKUs, a single product category, or a few bestsellers. This way you spread the budget evenly and track the results of your AR campaign as it scales.

Step #2: Integrate the AR kit of your choice.

For Android there is an AICore Google Software Development Kit that you can use to add AR functionality to your mobile shopping app. AIKit and RealityKit work the same way for iOS devices. Integration with WebAR brings AR content to your web-based products, especially displayed in Google Chrome and Safari browsers.

All of the above kits are built around three essential components: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. They all enable an AR system

  • Understand flat surfaces like floors and walls
  • Enlarge and reduce 3D objects
  • Move these objects as the user inserts them into a real-world environment
  • Apply realistic brightness and shadows.

Taken with a simple camera, your product images can be placed in the real interior design, on the user’s body and even on a moving object. As a retailer, you don’t need to do anything for the illusion to work, other than thorough preparation for AR integration.

AR use cases that reach far into the future

Brands like IKEA and Nike first laid the groundwork for AR in e-commerce, but now the technology has found more applications in other niches.


Apparel and fashion brands found AR perfectly suited in times of pandemics. With consumers unable to visit physical stores, augmented reality offered immersive shopping experiences and try-before-buy features to boost shopper confidence and increase sales.

Such is the case with AR clothing fitting, where a 3D model of a product is mapped onto a customer’s body through a quick scan of the smartphone camera. The technology can be applied at a mobile native app, Google Shopping or social media level. For example, Gucci, a high-end Italian fashion brand, has implemented AR in their iOS app and on Snapchat for a virtual try-on their Ace sneaker collection. The result? Higher customer conversions, increased engagement and an expanded customer base used to retarget other retailers’ campaigns.

Even if the world returns to normal after the pandemics, the AR trend in fashion retail is not abating. High street fashion retailers will continue to invest in technology for the sake of user experience as the UX itself is sold in this ecommerce niche.


The need to use AR for furniture and interior design companies is driven by convenience and confidence in shopping. Because let’s be honest: you don’t want to order a couch only to find out that it doesn’t fit in your living room.

For an industry that loses $428 billion one year of product returns, AR offers a great opportunity to reduce returns and cut additional costs for shipping bulky items. In fact, there are many successful cases where Macy’s has reduced product response rates to

And the AR trend in the furniture business will thrive regardless of outside forces. Users can interact with product models—not just pop and rotate them—and see how it works in their space. Customers therefore get a better sense of size, color and dimension after a more transparent shopping process.

beauty and makeup

Virtual makeup fitting is quickly following fashion and furniture in AR shopping maturity. Not only does it take the user experience to a whole new level, but consumers also address the issue of questionable hygiene by using the same sample lipstick or shade as other shoppers in the store.

At the technology level, AR in cosmetics acts like a mask. The system is trained on thousands of 3D models and real face photos and later applies a beautification filter using the lip color, tint or contouring cream available in the retailer’s product listing. Prominent brands such as NYX, Glossier, Maybelline, L’Oréal, etc. have already successfully experimented with the technology.

Some beauty brands take it a step further to add an entertainment element to the retail experience. This applies to both social media filters and in-app games, which are rather easy and cheap to implement but yield higher conversions. Such was the case with hair color company Madison Reed, which saw a 38 percent conversion rate on their AR Virtual Try-On hair color tool, or Aquafresh encouraging kids to brush their teeth with a mini-game.


Similar to furniture stores, the driving force behind AR in the automotive industry is the convenience of shopping. Car dealerships don’t necessarily have the space to display a wide range of products, and buyers may not want to travel to many stores just to see the vehicle.

AR successfully fills these gaps. The experiences differ from those in-store, like Audi City, which allows a customer to select and customize their car model from mobile devices to a Jeep, using an app to view the vehicle’s interiors and place it in a consumer’s garage to place. The AR strategy in the automotive industry facilitates product discovery and accelerates the buyer’s journey and builds trust in a brand.

consumer electronics

Not only do tech giants remain at the forefront of AR development, but they’re also using it to sell their products. This is especially true for consumer electronics companies, who care as much about product design as they do about device functionality.

So Apple made it easy to see Mac Studio on your desktop before it ships. Customers can view a new iMac in AR by visiting Apple product page from Safari on your iPhone or iPad. A device’s camera not only scans a flat surface and places an AR object, but you can rotate it and move your gadget around for a better look. This feature is relatively new but promises to be a role model for other consumer electronics brands.

Conclusion: adopt AR

Augmented Reality is the first important step to the metaverse. Even though many e-commerce brands have successfully implemented it into their strategy, less digitally mature brands can still jump on the trend that promises to soon become an industry standard. Get started with reality-enhancing experiences and bring a wealth of benefits to your ecommerce business now and in the future.

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