Commerce Uses Visuals To Improve Customer Experiences

retail augmented reality

Don’t look now, but retailers and commerce are getting more visual with reality.

Recently, Verizon announced that it’s partnering with Snap Inc., the company that owns popular social media video platform Snapchat, to provide 5G content for users, including enhanced augmented reality (AR) experiences.

The initiatives will take advantage of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband tech to not only provide innovative AR products, but content and new ways for people to communicate.

Verizon’s 5G Labs and Snapchat said they are working to push the boundaries of what it means to experience live events as well. The 5G technology, which will be faster and have a higher bandwidth, is going to allow for new digital experiences, the release said, especially by leveraging Snap’s Portal Lenses, which can “transport fans backstage at a concert or provide spectators unique in-stadium experiences from their seat during the game.”

Snapchat will come preloaded on certain 5G phones, and there will be exclusive offers for users through programs like Verizon Up.

“5G will change the way people live, work and play and we’re partnering with leading companies like Snap Inc. to create unique experiences and new offerings,” said Frank Boulben, senior vice president of marketing and products, Verizon Consumer Group. “Our strategy is to partner with the best brands to ensure our customers have exclusive access to cutting edge technology and services. Our 5G Ultra Wideband technology should change the way mobile users forever experience places and events, evolving the way they see the world.”

Snap Inc. Chief Strategy Officer Jared Grusd said he’s especially excited about the AR potential. “Major advances in high-bandwidth experiences are fueling the future of augmented reality,” said Grusd. “We are thrilled to partner with Verizon to move the industry forward through the development of creative and innovative 5G experiences on Snapchat.”

Fashionable Looks

That’s not all. Fashion is another area where visuals are getting much better.

Trying on clothes in the store can really be an experience of fashion out of context — a problem that MIT graduate Salvador Nissi Vilcovsky decided to formally take on in 2013 when he and MemoMi Co-Founder Ofer Saban launched a product that had heretofore never been seen in the market: a smart mirror.

Vilcovsky, who is currently CEO of the smart mirror firm MemoMi, said although the product was formally started in 2013, it was dreamed up long, long before then. Vilcovsky had a strong idea of what he wanted to do with a digital mirror in terms of enhancing visualization and functionality for shoppers, but building the technological mechanism to deliver the experience he visualized wasn’t quite possible initially.

“When I started with this idea, it was too early to create it because of limitations with the image processing power, the screens, and the cameras. So I just began with a portfolio of maybe 26 to 30 patents,” Vilcovsky told HiveLife. “After a few years, everything just came together. The GPUs (graphics processing units) became much stronger and the screens were more available. It was just time to do it.”

What “just doing it” entails is a digital mirror where the glass is replaced by an LCD screen, computer and HD camera that essentially snaps HD photos and videos of a customer try-on experience that can be shared (if the user so desires). The smart mirror also allows the user to make changes to the image they see — vary the lighting, change the color of the outfit to another available shade or even add on hypothetical accessories to complete the look without having to actually put on every discrete element.

The technology is designed to enhance the customer experience, obviously, but also to drive sales and bigger basket conversions on the theory that the easier it is to experiment with different looks, the more likely the customer is to be driven to multiple purchases. It is a theory that a lot of very notable names in retail have very publicly embraced including Neiman Marcus, Tom Ford, Yves Saint Laurent, Sephora and LVMH, among others.

Indeed, the customer experience the name of the game for retailers these days, and visuals are a big part of that.