AR in Retail – a brief introduction

Augmented Reality in Retail – a brief introduction

Augmented Reality – a certain phenomena, which seems to increasingly gain in popularity in the sphere of retail. Several questions arose about this issue: What is the connection between these two elements: AR [“Augmented Reality”] on the one hand and retail, itself, on the other hand? Which positive effects can be observed/ figured out from this symbiosis? What can be named as an example for a working/ succeeding AR in retail?

Before coming to the solution/ respond to these questions, it might be useful to give a brief introduction into the phenomena of AR. AR can be described as “a direct or indirect view of a physical real world environment whose elements are augmented or supplemented by computer generated sensory input e.g. sound, video, graphics or GPS data”[1].
But, how is this phenomena exactly connected to the sphere of retail? The answer is quite simple: When it, on the one hand, comes to a certain desensitization on the part of the customers – which can be also described as the fact that those are simply bored by the conventional marketing strategies – and on the other hand, an overcrowding of the present/ current market is noticeable – which means that the customer is subject to a certain ‘agony of choice’ [dt.:” Qual der Wahl”] – AR can be used to change this situation/ condition/ status. AR can be seen as a modern and unconventional intervention in the sphere of retail to gain the consumer’s attention in a(n) (mostly still) unknown/ unusual way. With the help of AR/ new technology “pictures/advertisements, brands or shop windows/ showcases can be brought to life”[2]. The interaction between consumer and market can take place on the new level. To illustrate clarify the attractiveness/ attraction of AR in the sphere of retail one can use the following two examples[3]:

1.) Shiseido Makeup Mirror: This invention is a digital makeup simulator created by the Japanese beauty brand ‘Shiseido’[4].


How it works:   
Take a seat in front of the mirror. A small camera will take picture(s) of one’s face. The computer will map out the correct position of one’s eyes, cheeks, mouth etc.
From the panels/ palettes from the bottom one can choose diverse colours for foundation makeup, shadows, rouge, lipstick, eyeliner etc. With the help of a small digital pen one/ the stylist can choose each feature on the side of the screen.
Additionally: The mirror is able to suggest a certain/ the ‘perfect look’ for one’s face after an in-depth analysis of the face.

2.) IKEA Augmented Reality Catalogue[5]: A couple of years ago IKEA created an augmented reality catalogue, which opens up the possibility to visualize certain objects chosen in advance. Moreover, the application is able to measure the size of the products as well as the environment/ surrounding and put them in ratio – thus the customer is able to see how the new object will fit in his/ her room/ flat[6].


How it works:   
One needs a smartphone + an physical IKEA catalogue.
Choose one object from the physical catalogue. Open the app.
Point the smartphone at the catalogue for a quick size calibration.
Models of IKEA’s furniture will be put over real-time videos of one’s flat. Result: customer can see how certain object fit into their interior.

To come to the positive effects of AR in the sphere of retail one can take into consideration the following points: One can notice that the customer’s experience (personal satisfaction while using a certain app with AR) is increasing. AR enables a better/ closer relation/ connection between customer and product – that means in particular that the customer is able to get more important/ useful information about a certain product that belongs to his field of interest; moreover, a customer can experience and test the product before coming to a conclusion whether it’s necessary to buy a product or not. He [the customer] can recognize the whole potential of a product. Thus AR makes it possible to personalize the process of purchasing a product.
The ‘real-time feedback’ seems to be the most important/ interesting advantage of AR in retail[7]. While it was necessary in former times to collect user information from diverse (information) channels and then try to process it, now the use/ occurrence of AR in retail makes a direct/real-time processing of these user information possible. Thanks to ‘omnichannel marketing’[8] a better personalization is feasible. ‘Real-time feedback’ can be now taken from the used items – then questions like ‘which item was used and how was it used?, which kinds of problems/ misunderstandings occurred? How long was this item used by the customer/ user?’ can be answered. The influence of AR in retail is still quite innovative, but one can say that the retail will become more user/customer-centred.


[1] Definition of Augmented Reality [en.]: (07.01.2016).

[2] cf. (07.01.2016).

[3]  cf.: (07.01.2016).

[4] cf.: (07.01.2016).

[5] cf.: (07.01.2016).

[6] cf.: (07.01.2016).

[7] cf.: (07.01.2016).

[8] cf.: (07.01.2016).

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