Augmented reality effective in online retail!

A woman places virtual furniture in her flat

A woman places virtual furniture in her flat

Augmented reality Augmented reality effective in online retail!

Published on 31.05.2022 by Cynthia Rousseau, Digital Commerce Trainee with Post CH Ltd

Augmented reality (AR) is more than just a gimmick and captivates people quickly. A study has found that it’s ideal for digital retail.

Children and young people who lose themselves in their smartphones and are almost entirely oblivious to traffic lights and other passers-by have disappeared from our cityscapes not least due to the pandemic. The global success of Pokémon Go, a game where small Pokémon appear virtually in your immediate surroundings, has clearly demonstrated the potential of augmented reality. It has now become much more than just a gimmick. All the retail companies still waiting to see if the technology will catch on should definitely get on board now. AR is here to stay and is a perfect match for retail.

Affordable impact on the shopping experience

A study at Aalen University (in German) showed that enriching online retail content with AR elements has a positive impact on customers. It affects the emotions, the perceived quantity of information and the purchasing behaviour itself.

People are increasingly using the technology, as revealed by another study commissioned by SNAP. This indicates that use of AR is growing particularly in the millennial and GenZ age groups, and is also being used increasingly by older people. So AR is something of a success story.

Applications in online retail

The study by Aalen University highlights the benefits of using augmented reality in online retail:

  • Greater customer trust
  • More appealing customer experiences
  • Increased shopping time
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Lower return rates

Furniture retailer Ikea is among the pioneers in AR – it started integrating relevant functions into its app back in 2017. AR allows customers to place the products they want from the catalogue directly into a virtual version of the space they will fill in their home. They can easily see whether the new Billy bookcase or the new sofa matches with the rest of the furniture and the room. Many retailers in the furniture sector have now adopted this function.

Retail companies are particularly enthusiastic about AR when returns of a particular product would either be very complex and expensive (furniture, vehicle accessories etc.) or are out of the question for hygiene reasons (cosmetics).

In short, AR gives customers in the online shop more information than product descriptions and images do. Customers can look at 3D views of a product within their own four walls or try out the effect of a lipstick or make-up on their own face.

It works just as well in fashion retail, where every item that isn’t sent back boosts profitability. After all, fashion is the segment with very high return rates.

AR is also versatile beyond the online shop

It offers potential in other elements of retail too. Thanks to the frameworks provided by Apple and Google, the development of AR applications is now significantly less complex than it was for the pioneers so the technology is winning over new business fields.

Manuals and support documents for products can be enhanced with AR tools. For example, explanations can be added to different parts of a household appliance or machine. Customers can find their way around more easily with in-store navigation in larger branches providing another good option. There’s no easier way of directing customers to where they want to go.

And finally, AR technology also has an entertainment dimension. AR glasses or lenses are still attracting the attention of users of platforms like SNAP, offering up a perfect marketing option.


Cynthia Rousseau
Digital Commerce Trainee
Post CH Ltd

Cynthia Rousseau is a trainee in the Digital Commerce team with Swiss Post. In this role, she supports retailer customers in improving their level of digital maturity by providing strategic advice relating to digitization and designing solutions.

Portrait Cynthia Rousseau

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