Augmented reality in ecommerce: The cool things happening now

If you haven’t already heard, Augmented Reality (AR) is taking the world by storm.

Last year, investors poured $1.7 billion into AR technology. Everyone’s jumping on the AR bandwagon, including:

  • Google, which invested $800 million into Magic Leap.
  • Apple, which bought over Metaio.
  • Facebook, which has splashed out close to $3 billion into Oculus.

Then there are those who prefer building their technology in-house. Amongst those who have announced that they are working on AR projects are Alibaba, Microsoft, HTC, Sony, and Samsung.

But here’s the thing...We’re just getting warmed up with AR.

That’s right - last year’s $1.7 million attributed to the AR industry is peanuts compared to forecasts.

Guess what the AR industry will be worth within 3 years?

Not $1 billion. Not $10 billion.

But a mind-blowing $120 billion.

Has your jaw dropped yet? Pick it back up, and brace yourself.

AR is going to change life as we know it, especially in the world of ecommerce. (Virtual dressing rooms, for example, are pretty much the best invention ever. Plus: they can help you achieve a 182% increase in your add-to-carts.)

I’ll delve more into this specific case study later on in the article, but now you know:

If you’re an ecommerce store owner, here’s your chance to seize your golden ticket.

You can be the first amongst your competitors to capitalize on AR - and reap the profits that this will send your way.

What’s the difference between VR and AR?

Simple - AR (augmented reality) features some sort of sensory input from an individual, whilst VR (virtual reality) doesn’t.

Let me explain:When people think about VR, they always tend to think of video games.

But VR comes with a ton more applications, such as...

One common factor that you’ll be able to find in all these applications?

You get transported into a synthetic world, with little to no sensory input from your end.

AR, on the other hand, shows computer-generated sensory which is superimposed onto the real world.

If you can’t wrap your head around this concept, just think about Pokemon Go. 

Augmented reality in eCommerce Pokemon Go

Image from

With Pokemon Go, you’re looking at virtual 3D graphics which have been placed on top of real world visuals. That’s AR in a nutshell!

Augmented Reality applications in ecommerce

ecommerce retailers around the globe are increasingly using AR technology to step up their game. Here are a few examples!

AR in the fashion industry

When deciding whether they want to shop online or in-store, consumers typically grapple with convenience versus certainty.

The biggest benefit of shopping online? It’s convenient. (Ie: you don’t even have to leave your bed).

The biggest benefit of shopping in-store? You get to try on items before buying, and you can make sure your purchases fit properly.

New AR technology allows you to virtually try on clothes without leaving your home. (Mind blown yet?) 

Augmented reality in eCommerce

Image from

British ecommerce store Banana Flame, for example, worked with AR company Zugara to turn their shoppers’ webcams into interactive “mirrors”.

How awesome is that?! Shoppers are free to try on as many outfits as they’d like (without worrying about hogging a physical dressing room). They even have an option to share pictures of themselves in Banana Flame’s clothes via their social media channels!

Apart from being more convenient for the online store’s customers, the AR technology also contributed directly to the Banana Flame’s bottom line. We’re looking at a 182% increase in add-to-carts with the new AR technology.

But wait, there’s more! (Yup, totally using infomercial talk on you.)

Luxury jewelry brand Boucheron is experimenting with AR.

In this campaign, shoppers were directed to Boucheron’s website where they had to print out a paper template (of a ring or a bracelet), cut it out, and wear it

After switching on their webcams and holding their arm up, Boucheron’s software would then superimpose their selected piece of jewelry onto the image. 

Augmented reality in eCommerce Boucheron

Image from

I’ll be frank here: the implementation in this specific case study isn’t quite ideal (it’s obviously a hassle for shoppers to deal with print-outs and scissors).

Having said that, the campaign was launched 7 years ago in 2010, when AR was still pretty much in its infancy stage. So we should probably cut Boucheron some slack.

AR in the beauty industry

Similar to merchants in the fashion industry, many beauty brands have started incorporating AR technology into their sales funnel.

One example? Sephora’s Virtual Artist function, which allows you to see how different makeup looks on you using AR technology. 

Augmented reality in eCommerce Sephora product try-on


All shoppers have to do is to take a picture of themselves and upload it to Sephora’s website or mobile app.

Once that’s done, they’ll be able to browse through the different makeup products and check out how these products look on them.

Apart from that, the Sephora Virtual Artist portal also comes with tutorials which show you how to contour, apply highlighter, create winged eyeliner, and more.

Because these tutorials are “overlaid” on your face, there’s little to no room for error. Contrast this against watching a generic Youtube makeup tutorial, and it’s obvious how much value AR technology brings to consumers.

Another beauty company doing the same thing as Sephora is Lakmé, an Indian makeup brand.

Augmented reality in eCommerce Lakme mobile app


Lakmé’s mobile app, Lakmé Makeup Pro, functions pretty similarly with Sephora’s Virtual Artist. Shoppers can upload pictures of themselves, try on Lakmé products, and purchase the products within the app.

AR in the home furnishings industry

Whilst AR technology is currently utilized predominantly in fashion and beauty, it’s catching on in the home furnishings industry as well.

Take Amikasa, for example. This 3D Floor Planner app uses augmented reality to allow you to see how specific items of furniture look like in your home.

Augmented reality in eCommerce Amikasa 3D floor planner app


The process is fairly simple: you start off by specifying the shape and setting the dimensions of your room.

Once that’s done, the next step is to browse through the furniture catalog, which is available in-app.

Found an item which you like? Drag and drop the piece into your room; from there, you can go on to adjust, rotate and rearrange items to your liking.

And here’s how it comes full circle: when you’ve decided that you’d like to buy the furniture you’ve been looking at, you can do so on the app!

Of course, there’s another bigger company taking advantage of this virtual furnishing...

Swedish conglomerate IKEA.

Augmented reality in eCommerce Ikea catalog app


The IKEA Catalog app works pretty similarly to Amikasa’s 3D Floor Planner. Simply drag and drop items from the catalog to your virtual home - this will allow you to get a better sense of whether that bright yellow chair works well with your other furniture, or whether it’s a no-go.

Running in (somewhat!) the same vein, there’s also TapPainter.

Augmented reality in eCommerce TapPainter app


Instead of letting you superimpose furniture in your home, this app allows you to virtually paint your walls instead.

The way it works is pretty flexible:

You can either enter a color code from a paint swatch, choose a color from a specific paint brand or customize your own color (if you choose this option, TapPainter will recommend you the closest paint color available on the market).

So much better than holding your paint chips against the wall and trying to visualize it that way, don’t you think?

AR advertising campaigns

The AR applications we’ve discussed above are pretty standard - they generally revolve around getting customers to try on items virtually, or place items in their home virtually.

But AR advertising is where things get interesting.

From allowing consumers to interact with “fallen angels” to having meteorites land at their feet, the options are literally endless with AR advertising. Here are some of the most creative AR advertising campaigns to date!

Net-A-Porter’s interactive storefronts

Way back in 2011, Net-A-Porter decided to take “window shopping” to a new (and literal!) level.

The luxury fashion retailer created AR storefronts to promote their new Karl by Karl Lagerfeld collection in four countries; here’s how they work:

These storefronts look pretty ordinary at first glance, but once you place your Net-A-Porter Karl app in front of the storefronts, you’re given access to videos of the catwalk, product and pricing information, as well as 360 degree product models.

Of course, you can also do your shopping in-app!

Pepsi’s Unbelievable Bus Shelter

What would you do if a meteorite came careening towards you whilst you were sitting at a bus-stop?

That’s what Pepsi set out to find out with its Unbelievable Bus Shelter campaign.

Using AR technology, Pepsi made it look as though commuters waiting at a bus shelter in London were looking through the shelter’s glass well. In reality, they were looking at a live video feed with (pretty realistic!) 3D animations.

Whilst this campaign didn’t promote a specific Pepsi drink or product, Pepsi generated its fair share of buzz through the campaign.

Within 7 days of launch, the campaign video chalked up over 2 million views and 24,000 shares. That aside, the campaign also went on to win several awards, including a Gold OBIE Award from the prestigious Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).

Lynx’s Angel Ambush

If you’ve never heard of Lynx, that’s because they’re known as Axe in the US.

In this campaign which played out on a large format digital billboard at the London Rail Station, virtual angels fell from the sky and started interacting with passers-by.

Lynx Angel Ambush from Grand Visual on Vimeo.

Following the campaign, Lynx’s video of the campaign received over 1.3 million YouTube views and 250,000 Facebook likes.

More importantly, it also generated tons of media coverage from reputable outlets such as Wired US and the BBC; the campaign also went on to win two Bronze Cannes Lions in the Outdoor and Media categories.

Augmented Reality ecommerce solutions

Now that you’ve seen all these cool AR applications, it’s time to find out how you can use AR for your ecommerce store.

Your best bet is to work with an existing AR company which has a portfolio of work you can refer to and gain inspiration from.

Check out these guys below:


Want to dip your toe into the world of AR advertising?

Augmented reality in eCommerce Layar AR advertising


Simply upload images of your greeting card, flyer, package or marketing collateral and use Layar to bring it to life.

When your shoppers use Layar’s free app to scan your marketing material, they’ll get access to interactive digital elements such as video messages, music clips, interactive slideshows, and more.

The best part?

There’s a pay as you go option for Layar, and it costs only $3.50 to publish a page for 30 days.

This is a great option for marketers who want to experiment without committing a large payment!


Remember the Amikasa and IKEA examples I mentioned above?

eCommerce store owners who want to do something similar to those campaigns will love Augment, which enables online shoppers to experience products at home before buying. 

Augmented reality in eCommerce Augment


Upon integrating Augment with your ecommerce store or app, shoppers can click on a “View At Home” button to see how a certain product fits within their home.

Augment has worked with top tier brands such as Coca Cola, Nestlé, Lenovo, and more. Other than catering to ecommerce store owners, they also have AR solutions for retailers, manufacturers, and more!

(Of course, this is a pretty pricey option.)

Total Immersion

Total Immersion, like its name suggests, does it all.

Augmented reality in eCommerce Total Immersion app


Regardless of whether you’re looking for virtual try-on solutions, 3D visualization for furniture and objects, or interactive on-screen experiences, Total Immersion can make it happen.

You’re in good hands with Total Immersion - they’ve worked with Cartoon Network, eBay, Haribo, Toyota, and many other international brands. Check out their use cases here!

A final word on augmented reality in ecommerce

By now I’m sure you can see that AR is a complete game-changer. Some of these campaigns are freaking mind-blowing!

Okay, so you might not have tens of thousands of dollars to spend on AR campaigns like Net-A-Porter and Pepsi do.

But surely you have $3.50 - and that $3.50 can go towards creating your first AR ad.

If you’re thinking, why bother? One single ad won’t make the same impact as a huge AR campaign, stop right there.

Small-scale AR ads might not get you nominated for the Cannes Lions, but they can still improve your conversion rates and result in a nice fat increase in your revenue.

In a case study which pitted AR ads against regular display ads, it was found that shoppers exposed to AR ads 29% more likely to make a purchase.

That’s not all…

These shoppers were also willing to pay approximately 33% more for the product that they saw.

Listen: New technology can be a pain in the ass. And it can be scary. But it’s the companies who are innovative, and embrace the future, that survive in the long run.

Plus, come on, this stuff is really freaking cool!!

It’s time to embrace AR and what it can do for your ecommerce store.

What do you think? Will augmented reality change the world as we know it - or is it just another fad? Leave a comment below!


Want to know what's new?

Get the knowledge and inspiration you need to build a profitable business — straight to your inbox.

Bill Widmer

Written by Bill Widmer

Bill is an eCommerce content marketing and SEO consultant. He's run several stores and worked with many well-known brands including A Better Lemonade Stand, SaleHoo, and Lifehack.

Related Articles