Augmented Retail

In his book, Why We Buy, Paco Underhill describes many ways retailers can create a superior shopping experience for their customers by focusing on the way customers behave.  His advice, while simple, changed the way I saw the shopping experience. Yes, I’d like more room in the isles because I don’t like people brushing up against my butt.  And how many times have I wished some store manager had the sense to put baskets and carts in the back and middle of the store so I could grab that 12 pack of toilet paper when I was just popping in for a quick litre of milk?

 One of the most “Duh!” moments from the book is that I like to touch, hold, feel what I’m going to buy. I want to experience as much as I can in order to help me make the decision to buy or pass. So don’t shrink-wrap a table cloth without expecting your customers to rip open the bag to feel the table cloth. Expect them to pull that $5 necklace out of the box to see how it hangs on their neck.  This is how customers behave and if retailers can predict this process of information gathering, they can support it.

Now, Mashable hints at the breakthroughs coming along from augmented reality (AR) to help retailers allow their customers to physically experience their products without leaving home. But I am thinking of other applications as well, including in-store possibilities. Think of “trying on” a new shade of lipstick at the make-up counter without ruining your perfectly applied Russian Red. Or image being in Costco and walking past a pile of 7 For All Mankind jeans and using an in-store AR application to allow you to “try them on” without exposing yourself.  And with your phone in hand, you can virtually ask your boyfriend or husband if the jeans make your butt look big.

And just in a recent AdAge article, IBM announced their new AR app to help customers navigate stores towards the exact product they are searching for. Seems I’m not the only one thinking about this.

I don’t see the physical retail store being replaced by online shopping, even with AR capabilities, but the possibilities for catering to the behaviors consumers exhibit when making the purchasing decision could be the ticket to higher revenues and a better experience.

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