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Design & Technology April 01, 2019

The portal between two realities

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Digital is connected to all aspects of our day to day lives and businesses are thriving due to this digital revolution we’re currently experiencing. However, if digital is so integrated into our lives, why is it still so difficult to connect our digital initiatives to analogue results? The everlasting quest for true omni-channel attribution is still on-going and is a topic most retail brands are struggling with. But nothing is impossible and that’s what multiple sessions at SxSW show: there are many possibilities in technology and AR that can change the future for commerce, both on- and offline.

Technology to bridge the online and offline reality

During her talk ‘Using AR to Bridge the online-offline retail gap’, Tricia Katz from Magic Leap talked about virtual reality, augmented reality and spatial computing as a technological fundament to offer new and relevant experiences to customers. However, few brands are jumping onboard that boat. Which is odd, because research has shown that over 60% of all shoppers would pick a retailer that offers AR functionality in their shops. Also, 68% of all consumers are spending more time with products and services when there is an integration with AR. And that’s not all, fully augmented pop-up stores have seen an average order value increase of 300%. Many consumers reported that without the experience they wouldn’t have bought a product so the experience contributed to the want to purchase.

Bridging digital and bricks

Another example that was laid out during SxSW was by Accenture Digital. A hypothetical customer journey was set out as an experience. Imagine you are browsing for a new pair of sunglasses and you’re using an AR application to do so. This app projects the sunglasses you select onto your face. Though the visuals are not yet optimal, it works quite well at giving you an idea of the shape and look on your face. Within this app, you can also buy the product and have it delivered to your home or to a nearby store.

Should you choose to have your glasses delivered to a store, a salesperson carrying a tablet will receive all of your personal information and data. This data includes browsed products, any previous purchases, other recommended products and also personal information (i.e. hobbies and interests) gathered from social media. This will allow much a much more tailored in-store experience as the salesperson has a much deeper understanding of you as an individual. He or she might ask you questions that they already know the answer to such as “are there any special relatives with a birthday coming up because we have a special promotion happening right now” to generate more sales and entice the customer. This is a linear example of how using technology can be good for both consumers but also brands.

So what?

All this data is being inputted into systems which allows knowledge about individuals to be used in either advertising or personalisation of digital touch points such as websites, newsletters or even the product offerings.

AR applications are no longer a “cool” idea or a funny gadget you can play with. It’s only a matter of time until the entire retail sector fully discovers the potential of creating experiences that bridge the physical and the virtual. Companies are already starting to connect both worlds via cashless transactions, QR codes and sending receipts via email or even WhatsApp. These concepts are called “on-premise experiences” and they are going to be crucial in connecting your digital strategy to your offline sales.

The fact that the Payment Service Directive (PSD2) has landed is the writing on the wall how consumers will pay in the future and let’s not forget that at the end of 2018 Google Payment (part of Alphabet) received a banking license from Lithuania.

Picture a future when you can pay with your Android phone using your Google or Apple credit card. From a data perspective, this would complete the entire customer journey on a single platform from searching for something to visiting the website and in-store transaction. This would allow Google to directly connect and show the effects of online ads to offline purchase behaviour and create an absolute goldmine of data for marketer and brands alike. The question to be asking yourself here is not if this will happen, but when this will happen?

The Take-Away

As a brand, you need to act now. You should start exploring the numerous potential opportunities to create experiences that can function as a gate between the digital world and the physical one. Don’t be scared of the required technology and initial investments. The upside and added value to your customers will outweigh the downside. Any brand that does not incorporate this will soon be obsolete.

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