Augmented Reality can help consumers dealing with high-stakes purchases

Can AR win over customers struggling with high-stakes purchases?

Whether it’s a car, home or wedding dress, high-stakes purchases can have a tremendous impact on our lives. With such big commitments, consumers want to ensure they don’t have regrets.

The high-stakes purchase process is stressful. And the fact that most retail markets provide a ton of options doesn’t help.

Between different brands and various style nuances, it’s tough for shoppers to narrow down their choices. This leaves marketers with a small window of opportunity. Retail brands need to make an impact on their target audience before buyers move onto other available brands.

One emerging technology helps marketers get their foot in the door during this crucial window. With augmented reality (AR), brands can access buyers when it matters most.

AR makes high-stakes purchases easier

As I describe in more depth in my research published in Business Horizons, AR provides the ability to integrate digital content with the physical world.

This is particularly useful for retail brands. AR allows consumers to experience a product before buying it, giving them a more accurate representation of how a product might fit into their lives. Especially with high-stakes purchases, AR can greatly reduce the probability of post-purchase regret.

One company utilized augmented reality to help consumers during one particularly stressful buying decision — finding the right wedding dress.

Making high-stakes purchases like a wedding dress is stressful.

WedReality introduced an app called Wedding Dress Studio that features a preloaded selection of dresses for brides to scroll through. Women upload pictures of themselves, select various garment details, and then virtually try on appealing dresses. 

The app technology allows users to see how various types, colors, and styles of dresses would look on their specific bodies.

WebReality also capitalizes on an important component of AR by engaging bystanders — people who are not directly involved in the AR campaign, but who experience it through others. The app allows brides to “share a look” on social media, which promotes the AR campaign and encourages other women to use it.

A wedding dress is a high-stakes purchase.

WedReality understands that brides are often overwhelmed by the number of choices in this type of high-­stakes decision. Augmented reality helps ease some of the stress by allowing soon-to-be-brides to quickly filter through many of these options.

Augmented reality offers a foot in the door

AR is a promising tool for retail marketing, though it doesn’t necessarily carry consumers through the entire buying process. With high-stakes items, consumers will almost certainly demand the chance to see that item in person before committing.

What AR provides is a foot in the door. Retailers can enter the buying process during a crucial window of opportunity, when the options overwhelm consumers. Even the smallest differentiation in brands can make a big difference once consumers begin to eliminate options.

How retail brands can utilize AR

Though augmented reality is not always used to make the final purchase, brands can still do everything in their power to bring consumers as close as possible to that moment.

While WebReality only features types and styles of dresses, marketers should try and include actual, pre-manufactured products for digital trial. Discovering a desired style is great, but then users have to go through the work of searching for it. Marketers should try and shorten the buying process, not make it more difficult. They can eliminate that extra step by letting users virtually try on a product that already exists. Brands could even provide additional details about factors such as price, materials and the nearest available store carrying the item.

This saves time and brings consumers closer to making a decision and purchase.

Augmented reality makes high-stakes purchases easier to make.

Eye wear retailer Warby Parker exemplifies this ideal.

It encourages customers to upload a picture of themselves, virtually “try on” different glasses, and then select their favorite five, which Warby Parker ships to their home. After trying those five pairs on, customers narrow their choices down to a single pair and send the others back to the retailer.

With AR, Warby Parker capitalizes on the early stage of the buying process, when customers are narrowing down their choices. Its home try-on program ensures customers won’t go looking for glasses at another retailer.

Though glasses might not seem like a high-stakes purchase, they’re a product that people use every day. Marketers should guarantee that their customers spend time moving toward the moment of purchase.

Don’t make buyers take a leap of faith

No one wants to buy a car without a test drive. Online retail shopping should be the same.

High-stakes purchases can present a lot of stress, particularly when they’re conducted on the Internet. Consumers often want to know how something looks on them before committing to purchase. They shouldn’t have to take a leap of faith and blindly purchase an item without trying it on. That’s a recipe for post-purchase regret.

Luckily, augmented reality gives marketers a foot in the door during high-stakes purchase processes. By helping consumers virtually try on an item, brands limit the potential for regret and ease the anxiety of committing to a big-ticket item.

Implementing AR in marketing campaigns is a breath of fresh air for consumers who no longer respond to traditional methods.

To become part of this exciting movement, share this post with other marketing professionals. Learn more about trends in AR by subscribing to

The author thanks Julie Vo and Jackie Gabovich for their contributions to an earlier version of this article.
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