Marketers love to use the try before you buy method to help alleviate buyer’s remorse. But the rise of e-commerce and other digital sales channels have made it difficulty to use this trusted old sales trick.
When buying watches or makeup online, consumers can’t physically see what the product looks like on their skin. Oftentimes, the product received isn’t precisely what the customer envisioned on the screen. When this happens, it can lead to that frustrating feeling known as buyer’s remorse.
This problem is not limited to online shopping either. There is also a brick-and-mortar problem where retail businesses only carry limited styles and variations of a product in-store. If the exact style isn’t offered in the store, consumers again can’t try out before buying.
Sometimes, trying before buying is nearly impossible. Some purchases, such as tattoos or cosmetic surgery, are painful or even impossible to reverse. In these instances, the try before you buy method seems entirely out of reach.
But it is not. In this post, Alex Kirchick, Hannah Egan, and Cynthia Hara explain how augmented reality (AR) can provide better peace of mind to prospective customers.
You might be wondering whether AR is the right choice to enable try before you buy for your brand. We think it is, especially when your product is expensive or important to consumers’ identities. Using AR is also a good idea if your business depends on selling products online; and whose business doesn’t in today’s day and age. Augmented reality excels in those cases for three reasons:
- AR apps can provide a lot of functional and even entertainment value to consumers
- Integrating digital information into real world contexts allows consumers to try out products as they would use them in their daily lives
- AR enables consumers to get reassurance from their friends
These three points illustrate the power of AR to guide consumers through their decision journey. We will explain each of them in much detail below. Before we dive in, let’s first start with an example where try before you buy has been outright impossible before: Getting a tattoo.
Facilitate Try Before You Buy with Augmented Reality
Augmented reality can help guide customers towards a decision by merging digital content with the physical world. This merging of the digital and physical allows you to use the try before you buy method in e-commerce settings. And it even can bring this sales tactic to entire new product categories, such as getting a tattoo.
This is especially beneficial to customers who are making tough choices. AR guides customers through high stakes purchase decisions by giving them the tools to visualize their investment.
Ultimately, this reduces decision insecurity for the consumer, making a sale more likely.
Think Before You Ink
The Inkhunter app helps consumers decide what type of tattoo they might want to place on their body. The customer has complete control over the image produced and area where it is placed. Check out the video below to see the app in action:
This app helps solve the fundamental problem within the tattoo community of visualizing exactly what the tattoo will look like on the consumer’s skin.
It also reaches an audience that may have never thought about purchasing a tattoo before. This technological advancement allows consumers outside the target market to engage in the try before you buy phenomenon, thus widening the reach of their potential consumer base.
Additionally, the AR aspects that this app utilizes has great implications for product management problems that you may face in your own industry. In short, augmented reality removes the insecurity prospective customers feel in high stakes purchase decisions, increasing the potential for a buy.
Steps to Getting Inked
Here’s how the app works!
- Upload a tattoo design of your own or pick one from the app’s gallery.
- Draw a square smiley face on the desired area.
- Point your camera over the square.
- Square smiley face disappears and your tattoo appears.
- Save photo and share with friends.
And voila! Here is your tattoo, minus the potential regret.
InkHunter uses the Active Print/Packaging paradigm to help consumers choose their tattoos. You’re right, the term does seem out of place. However, it’s a great example how to adapt AR to different marketing goals and situations. In this case, it is not an advertisement or product that is augmented, but the consumer himself. InkHunter is a neat example for various ways you can think outside the box to create customer value.
The design of this app, stated in these steps, is a perfect example of how you can help your own customers reduce their purchase insecurity.
Hop Aboard the Try Before You Buy Train
InkHunter is just one of many apps to hop aboard the try before they buy train. But it is not the only one. Shop 4 Rings allows customers to use their smartphones to see how a ring will look like on their finger. ModiFace, too, is centered around beauty. Many brands and retailers (e.g., Sephora) us ModiFace technology to let customers virtually “try on” makeup.
Try before you buy via AR is also taking hold outside of the beauty industry. Apps by IKEA and Lowe’s, for example, help consumers to imagine furniture in their homes before deciding to purchase.
You may notice a trend here: Many of these try before you buy apps are for things you wear on your body or put in your home. This is no accident.
These products are especially important for consumers to express themselves their identities. Oftentimes, these products hold extra symbolic significance (e.g., an engagement ring, or being “on trend” with your makeup). And finally, all of these industries face growing pressure to adopt omnichannel retail strategies and create more engaging customer experience online.
It is this sweet spot where AR can really boost your brand.
When creating your own AR app, here is what you should keep in mind:
Functionality is Key
What makes your app stand apart from just any try before you buy AR app? Great AR apps provide both entertainment and, more importantly, functional use. This sounds basic, but shouldn’t be forgotten. Makeup that looks clownish, a buggy app that crashes, and a very limited range of styles to “try out” are all things that will make consumers trash your app on the app store.
Make sure your own AR app can very clearly display the product for its users.
Consumers should feel as if they are trying it on with the benefit of being “in the store”, but without the inconvenience of actually going to the store.
Providing an AR app to enable consumers trying on products online might soon be something your customers expect from your brand. In a TechCrunch article, Todd Chusid writes: “Just like the ModiFace example, we’re going to see an explosion in AR being used to boost sales and market share through more immersive customer experiences.”
More and more companies will turn to AR to connect with their customers and guide them through their decision journeys. Don’t miss that train. Offering your customers a try before you buy option online will significantly increase the value you offer to customers.
Merge Two Worlds to Create Value
The key to reducing buyer’s remorse is to let consumers try out the product before in ways that closely resemble how they would actually use the product in their daily lives. Augmented Reality can facilitate this because it has one feature no other marketing technology has: Context integration.
Context integration refers to how an “AR layer integrates with specific social and physical settings,” according to an article written by Joachim Scholz and Andrew Smith.
In Inkhunter’s case, the “context” is whatever body part consumers think of getting inked. By drawing the target for augmentation wherever they want, they can better imagine how a certain tattoo will look on them. Using AR on their own arm is better than looking at pictures of other arms that have the same tattoo, because it feels more personal for customers. Every arm looks different, especially when this isn’t their first tattoo.
Seeing how a new product will look like in a constellation of other products is one great benefit of AR’s unique context integration feature. This is not only true for tattoos, but also for furniture, art, clothing, gardens, and a lot of other products.
In short: Make sure that your own app leverages AR’s unique potential to integrate digital renderings of your product in the physical context of consumers’ lives. This will make your customers much more secure in their choices, thereby driving sales.
Provide Social Reassurance
When making tough purchase decisions, consumers will often turn to friends and family for advice. It is thus important to include a feature in your try before you buy AR app that allows users to share their experience with friends.
This element is called user-bystander engagement. Marketers can use “artifacts” to increase user-bystander engagement by providing users with the opportunity to share records (e.g. pictures) of their augmented reality experience via social media.
Inkhunter empowers social shopping very well. After consumers place their tattoos in their desired location, they create artifacts and share them with friends and family right from inside the app.
Allow consumers to share artifacts right from inside your AR app
This is an easy and inexpensive feature that should be part of every AR app.
Easing Consumers’ Decision Making Process
AR has many unique implications, and its potential to help consumers make tough decisions is growing. AR is no gimmick any longer, as more and more brands make AR a central component of their marketing plans in 2017 and beyond. Jumping on the AR train now will help you master this transition, improve your brand’s perception, and increase your sales.
But you have to understand how AR relates to your business in order to reap its rewards. Augmented reality in marketing has typically been geared towards capturing the attention of customers.
Go beyond attention and start provide real value to your customers. Provide them with the visuals they need to progress on their buyer’s journey. Allow them to test out major purchases, even when they did not have the opportunity to do this before.
Use AR to create value, like allowing customers to test out products beforehand
Not only does this guide your consumers through their purchasing process, but they appreciate it as well. Using AR can bridge the gap between decision and hesitation, ultimately leading to a sale.
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