Is Augmented Reality the next big thing in Customer Experience?


Heathrow Airport recently made headlines when it introduced its new augmented reality app – Around the World with Mr Adventure. Targeted at families, the app allows travelers to pose with fictional characters located at various points around the airport buildings, creating entertainment instead of the usual boring airport wait.

The app proved to be a huge hit and was downloaded more than 3600 times across Android and iOS devices in the first month of release. During the same period, waiting travelers spent more than 800 hours engaging with the app.  Feedback through social media channels showed an improved customer experience and engagement. Not only did the app provide fun and entertainment for travelling families, it also created useful customer data for Heathrow to use in future projects.

Like Heathrow Airport’s app, many businesses are looking to technology to improve the customer experience. A great advantage of Augmented Reality is that it can showcase how customers’ lives could be better with a certain product, experience etc., because AR can overlap the two worlds – the real and imaginary. But does this mean the future of the customer will all be device-related or is there a way to keep it human in a virtual world?

Enter Augmented Reality

The first thing that needs to be understood is that while the terms Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are often used interchangeably, it’s important to understand that they aren’t the same. Virtual Reality puts the user in an entirely new world and is more expensive and limited in its applications as it requires VR devices. Augmented Reality, on the other hand, can be more easily implemented via an app using any smart mobile device. It takes existing places, people and objects and then adds to them customisable options. Hence reality – just augmented.

Virtual Reality has been a big trend in gaming for a while, but it’s Augmented Reality that has more potential for business applications. Retailers in particular are finding innovative ways to use AR; and, like Heathrow’s app, it’s proving to be a big hit with customers. Here are a few examples of AR in action:

Retail AR shopping assistants

Imagine you walk into a retailer looking for a particular product. By typing in the name or even just taking a photo of what you’re looking for, an AR app can direct you to the correct aisle to find it. The app can act as a shop assistant, sharing additional product information and even providing a platform to compare the features of several similar products or brands.

Taking online shopping up a notch

One of the disadvantages of online shopping is that customers miss out on the physical shopping experience. They may see a pair of shoes or a dress that they like, but they can’t actually try it on and see how it looks. Augmented reality can change this. By uploading a picture of themselves, an AR app can show them exactly what they’ll look like in the outfit and if it would be a good style and fit for them. Motor manufacturers are increasingly using AR to allow customers to experience their cars and take a virtual tour and test drive. Which has led to customers buying cars without having physically experienced them.

Customising design choice

Anyone who has decorated a new room will tell you that one of the biggest challenges is deciding on colours and styles – because there are simply so many options to choose from, and it’s often difficult to imagine how something will look in the room until it’s actually there. AR apps can help customers imagine what the completed design might look like. By taking a photo they can then try different colour schemes and design styles and paint a clear picture of what their options might look like.

Amplifying the dining experience

In a similar way, AR can bring dining experiences to life. It’s often hard to picture what a meal will look or taste like from just reading the description. Imagine you can click on a menu item and it brings up pictures of what the meal looks like from different angles, or a short video of it being made and plated. The added advantage is that customers can gauge things like portion sizes and experiment with customisable alternatives.

In all of these existing examples, augmented reality is used as a tool to improve the customer experience. But can it help improve customer service? Imagine a customer dispute over a defective product feature. With AR, the customer can video the item and show the customer advisor in real time what they are talking about. With the same facts in front of them, it helps resolve the query in a more efficient way.

For businesses looking to improve their customer experience, AR offers a number of innovative options. It certainly ticks the boxes in terms of providing customisable and personalised experiences. A new reality will see a change in how many businesses operate in the future.

To talk some more about digital transformation in your organisation contact us today and we’ll be happy to share with you some examples of how we’ve helped our clients transform their customer engagement service.

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