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Augmented reality can improve efficiency for retailers

Augmented reality (AR) is set to drive efficiency improvements in the retail workforce, according to a new report from ABI Research.

Some retailers have investigated using AR to help to make shopping more interactive, but Nick Finill, senior analyst at ABI, said: “For consumers in bricks-and-mortar stores, AR can disrupt the customer journey and provides little additional value overall.”

According to Finill, AR could deliver operational efficiencies and raise the quality of the service delivered within retail.

ABI Research said smart glasses from manufacturers such as Vuzix are actively targeting retail to assist with front- and back-of-store operations. It estimated that by 2022, more than 120,000 stores globally will be using AR smart glasses, with deployments evenly split across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.

This will be driven by the need for efficiency savings to compete with rival retailers and the online sector generally, it said.

ABI also predicted that, by 2020, 3% of e-commerce revenue will be linked to AR experiences, representing $122bn in revenue worldwide. “The relative ease of integrating AR into existing mobile-commerce platforms and the impact this can have on the user experience will largely drive customer demand,” said Finill.

In ABI’s Augmented reality in research report, Finill said that given the fundamental challenges facing bricks-and-mortar retail, experimentation with digital technologies offers the potential to drive sales while reducing operating costs.

He said the increasing buying power of digitally native consumers and growing customer expectations mean the quality of the digital customer experience can be a powerful differentiator in the highly competitive retail sector. Retailers and brands are looking to AR as one way to build brand loyalty, deliver value to the customer, and safeguard long-term profitability across channels.

But the benefits of using AR will not be able to overcome the barriers that exist in physical retail, which is inherently less reliant on the use of mobile devices, said Finill.

According to ABI Research, the challenge in retail is to change the perception of AR from a novelty gimmick into a technology that can truly engage customers online and improve the bottom line in-store.

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