To date, e-commerce has benefited from adopting innovative technology to transform the purchasing experience. Physical retail, though slower to innovative, is beginning to experience change with the advent of immersive, audiovisual experiences and easier forms of payment (such as Apple Pay or Google Pay).
But innovation in physical retail — for buyers, retailers and tech companies — is about to accelerate. Augmented reality glasses, once adopted by the mainstream, will bring forth a renaissance in physical retail that merges the digital and physical shopping experiences.
AR has the potential to transform how and why we make payments and buy certain items, simplifying processes and virtually eliminating the need to take out our wallets. This streamlined payment experience will benefit AR glasses wearers by making payments easier and more immersive; benefit retailers by offering more personalized ways to compel consumers to buy their goods; and benefit large scale tech companies like Apple who will enable these future AR transactions through their retail partners.
Hands-free, contactless payment
With AR glasses, wearers will be able to make hands-free, contactless payments without having to take out their wallets or phones. We're already beginning to see this take hold with mobile phone payments, but it will quickly become the norm with AR glasses. With Apple Pay or Google Pay-enabled AR glasses, wearers can make purchases by looking at a product with their AR glasses on and using their stored payment information. This makes payment faster and more convenient — offering benefits to both the user and the vendor.
This functionality will most immediately be made possible with LIDAR codes — a technology that enables AR glasses to create realistic, accurate, and fast 3D representations of close-range objects and environments. Large technology companies such as Apple, Google, and Amazon already have the retail partners (via Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Amazon Pay) to add their own QR codes that may be easily read by AR glasses. This will then create an interactive shopping experience in retail space, and enable hands-free, contactless payment.
For example, in the not-so-distant future, we could walk into a grocery store with 'Apple Glasses' on, look at a bag of lettuce, and say: "hey Siri, I will take that." A code next to lettuce — seen within AR — will be flagged by LIDAR on the front of the AR glasses. Then, the entire transaction will take place without having to take your wallet or phone out of your pocket, offering a completely frictionless experience. Plus, Apple will receive a cut of the transaction.
This means that users will be able to shop seamlessly without needing to bring their wallets or credit cards. They can even choose to leave their phones behind, as AR glasses will contain all the necessary payment information. By removing these physical barriers, shoppers can enjoy a more fluid, streamlined shopping experience.
Personalized recommendations come to physical retail
We're now accustomed to experiencing targeted advertising in digital environments. With mainstream AR glasses adoption, physical retail will also become a more personalized shopping experience.
Similarly to what we currently experience with vendors like Amazon online, AR glasses will make it possible for us to experience personalized recommendations in real time based on what we purchased at any vendor. For example, if a user has purchased a particular brand of shoes in the past, the AR glasses may recognize that brand when the user looks at a pair of shoes in-store, and provide additional product information or promotions for the user to take advantage of. This will lead to a more engaging and interactive shopping experience for users – and more sales opportunities for retailers.
AR glasses will also provide a new platform to up sell consumers and make recommendations to add more items to a purchase. For example, if entering a Dunkin' with AR glasses, the system could place tantalizing add-ons around your coffee order such as donuts or muffins, enticing you to order something else. Siri could even make verbal suggestions through 'Apple Glasses' asking if you're hungry, supporting the visual component.
Plus, this personalized customization will also go beyond that which we currently know. For example, AR glasses may integrate with our personal calendars to make recommendations on purchases based on upcoming trips or events — making purchase recommendations with our needs. For example, your Google AR glasses may see on your Google calendar that you have an upcoming business trip, and recommend when you look at a tie in a retail store that it may be ideal for the occasion.
Retailers can also leverage the merging of physical and digital worlds to display virtual storefronts in physical retail locations, offering virtually endless opportunities. This would allow retailers to showcase a much larger selection of products than they would be able to display physically, eliminating the physical size restraint of a storefront. Plus, with AR glasses, wearers could indulge in a more immersive and interactive experience, such as the ability to try on virtual clothing.
The convergence of augmented reality glasses and physical retail has the potential to make the process more immersive, personalized, and efficient for both shoppers and businesses. We will soon be able to pay for goods simply by looking at them. Physical retailers will be able to personalized recommendations in a manner in which e-commerce has only been able to do thus far. And within the next few years, AR glasses will truly transform how we buy, pay and shop.