In an age where online shopping and social media have become synonymous with retail (if not our lives!), should retailers be doing more to embrace technology?

Long gone are the days where retailers can be satisfied with an ecommerce website and active social media platforms; consumers, the industry, we always want more. We want to imagine the perfect product and have it delivered yesterday.

But what else can (and should) retailers do to keep up with technological advancements and the ever-decreasing attention-span of the general public?

Augmented reality

While it was expected that virtual reality would be the ‘next big thing’ in retail, the Retail Gazette describes augmented reality as the ‘little brother’ who has stolen the show with brands due to its ease of use with smartphones rather than the need to invest in expensive (and perhaps, unsightly) VR headsets.

Still thinking ‘aug-what?’ – one of the most mainstream uses to date was the Pokémon Go app which was the fad of 2016. By definition, augmented reality is technology which overlays a computer-generated imagery on the user’s view of the real world, creating a merged view.

In terms of retail, brands such as IKEA are no strangers to AR; in 2013 they launched an app which used the technology to overlay IKEA products in customers’ homes to help them visualise the furniture in the space around them.

In present day, augmented reality should be the go-to for retailers wanting their customers to make decisions on purchases in apparel, jewellery and homeware. Whether this is to help on decision making for investment pieces or to help target the younger millennials and help bridge the gap between digital and in-store shopping, it’s a development which shouldn’t be ignored.

Integrated communications

The introduction and consistent use of AR in retail should, of course, be well integrated with a brand’s communications strategy. Think back to the Pokémon phenomenon – even those without the app were constantly bombarded with social media updates from their friends who were taking part, or brands themselves who had become official locations.

The success of AR use in retail lies in customers being excited and engaged. They want to share a snapshot of themselves with their dream Chloe bag or get their friend’s opinion on a sofa for their new house, and where better to do so than on social media?

As communications professionals, and let’s face it, retail-obsessives, we’re excited to see how this develops for the PR and social media industry and what the changing landscape holds.

Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons.