Augmented reality (AR) is a relatively new concept, but it’s one which seems set to be a permanent feature in our lives rather than just a fad.

According to the Evening Standard, if we think AR is big now, we haven’t seen anything yet. Although investment is taking place now, we won’t see many of the actual developments until 2021, when AR is set to explode.

AR differs slightly to virtual reality (VR) in that it enhances your existing surroundings as opposed to taking you to a different place altogether.

So how can retailers use this technology to improve a customer’s shopping experience, and what benefits will it bring?

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

Some sectors within retail have been quicker to get on board with AR technology than others, with fashion and cosmetics brands being early adopters. They have used AR to allow customers to try on items virtually without, in some cases, even having to enter the store.

This makes the shopping experience both quicker and more fun. You can check out whether you might suit a particular style or colour before you have to rake through the shelves to find the right size then run the gauntlet of the changing rooms.

In a similar vein, some cosmetics brands have created virtual mirrors which scan a customer’s face and then ‘apply’ different make-up looks without a sprinkle of powder being used.

While to some these might seem like frivolous gimmicks, they are extremely valuable tools for time-poor, cash-rich shoppers trying to buy a new lipstick or pair of shoes in their lunch hour.

For retailers this encourages sales they might previously have missed out on. Of course, it does mean that stores will need to invest some cash into their in store media, and companies such as have a wealth of experience in this area.

A Shopping Sat Nav

Other retailers have been using AR almost as a sat nav for their stores, creating apps which allow customers to load up their shopping list and then providing them with the quickest route round the store to pick up said items. Again, the main benefit for customers is saving time.

So while AR may still be in its infancy, we’re already seeing it being put to practical use in the retail sector.