Amazon, No. 1 in the 2017 Internet Retailer Top 500, announced the new feature Nov. 1 in conjunction with its holiday shopping promotions. The feature uses Apple Inc.’s ARkit technology, which allows shoppers to see how thousands of products look in the context of their home before purchasing them. Product categories include living room, bedroom, kitchen, home office, electronics, toys and games, and home décor.
“AR view helps customers make better shopping decisions by allowing them to visualize the aesthetic and fit of products in their own living space,” Amazon wrote in announcing the new feature. Amazon declined to comment further.
To use the tool, shoppers need the Amazon app and Apple’s iOS 11 operating system on an iPhone 6S or later. The AR technology allows shoppers to view to-scale objects on the screens of their smartphones.
Here’s how it works: In the Amazon app, a shopper taps on the camera icon next to the search bar. From there, a menu appears that displays different features the shopper can use with her smartphone camera, such as bar code scanning or product search with an image. In the menu, the shopper taps “AR View” and the smartphone’s camera will launch and walk the shopper through a series of steps to see the product in 3-D. She directs the smartphone at the area in her home where she wants to see the product, and then taps the screen and the item appears. She can move and rotate the product with her finger.
Home goods retailers have been among the first retailers to test augmented reality, as the feature lets shoppers see how large, high-ticket items would look and fit inside their home. Other retailers such as Lowe’s Cos. Inc. (No. 25 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500), Wayfair Inc. (No. 16), Overstock.com Inc. (No. 30), and home furnishings marketplace Houzz, have implemented augmented reality into their iOS apps well.
“This gives [Amazon] the opportunity to help consumers visualize products, especially these larger purchases,” says Julie Ask, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc.. She doesn’t expect the feature to have much of an impact on sale and conversion in the short term, but believes the concept is good in the long term. As the technology advances, consumers will likely see more augmented reality pilots and creative, she says.
“There’s no reason not to work out the kinks while consumer expectations are low,” she says. “The bigger challenge is consumer awareness of the technology or feature, and the ease of use.”
Sucharita Mulpuru, also a retail analyst at Forrester, isn’t sure that augmented reality will have a large impact on e-commerce sales, as she is skeptical that the augmented reality product’s color and size accurately render on the smartphone.
“AR in retail tends to be a ‘nice to have,’ not a ‘must-have’ for shoppers,” she says.