Augmented Reality and Retail – The Future

Augmented reality is being heralded as having massive potential in the retail world – if you work in the retail industry, you probably haven’t escaped seeing something about it; whether it’s trying clothes on, having your make-up done without it touching your actual face or seeing what that new sofa you’ve been lusting over will look like in your living room.

It’s everywhere.

But what actually is it? Well, according to, Augmented Reality (or AR as it’s also known), is: “… the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time”. It differs from virtual reality, which creates an artificial environment where we, the user, suspend our beliefs and our reality and enter this pretend world for various intentions. AR uses the existing environment and puts new information over the top of it.

Clever stuff!



Well, it’s not brand new and some retailers have been trialing different ways of using it for some time now. Ikea demonstrated AR beautifully with their 2014 catalogue, which came with an extra 50 pages, accessible when downloading the Ikea app and this allowed the customer to use their phone’s camera to see how furniture would look in their own living space.

In Germany, Coca-Cola has equipped its salesforce with the technology to show potential customers how their chiller cabinets could look in their retail space, anywhere and at anytime, allowing the customer to make more informed decisions on product placement.

In a more extreme example, China’s largest online grocery store, Yihaodian, built over 1000 virtual shops in several public places and used AR to allow customers with the Yihaodian app to browse and shop the virtual store – once purchased, the goods were then delivered direct to the customers door! Incidentally, according to, they hold the Guinness World Record for selling 2 million boxes of milk in less than an hour – it’s got to be worth it for that alone!!



Will we all be going to empty warehouses which seemingly look barren until we hold our smartphone up to our faces? Or will we be able to do all of this, at some point, from the comfort of our own homes, sat with a cuppa, at our kitchen tables wearing AR enabled glasses? Will we ever need to go out? Will we ever have an excuse to escape the chaos of home (the piles of washing, the crazy children and the endless DIY to-do list) and just shop ‘til we drop?

In the case of grocery, what about fresh produce? We know online shoppers have a tendency to buy these items in store so how do we get over that with AR?

I guess only time will tell but forgive me for sounding a little old when I say I hope we still have some shops left to browse. If only to stop the constant technology-driven migraines!

Have a read of Raconteur’s Special Report on Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality here 


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Hanna Bentley
01962 842211
Article date - 11/04/2017
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