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For years, retail industries have been slowly embracing new technologies in order to engage their audience in new and diverse ways in an effort to keep ahead of the curve. Whilst progression was steady, when Covid-19 brought the world to a standstill, retailers and business giants were forced to reimagine, redefine and restructure the way they approach consumers. In a single year, the pandemic was a catalyst to accelerate the shift to virtual interactivity and shopping by a predicated 5 years. This supercharged digital transformation was a lifeline to many sectors that would have otherwise crumbled under the global lockdowns and restrictions.

From physical in-store shopping to face-to-face meetings & events, to viewing a potential house or vehicle purchase, investments in Expanded Reality technologies have been essential to bridge the gap in human connection. The importance of these changes was recognised and implemented to ensure customer experience was not majorly impacted despite the inability to deliver traditional services.

One of the worst affected by the pandemic was the events industry, meaning organisers had to reshape events to the customer’s advantage and ensure they are continuing to fuel long term profitability and growth in the future.

Those who have chosen to take the leap and adopt technologies such as Augmented Reality, have not only been able to proceed, but excel. By incorporating an extra layer of interactivity and innovation, they created a sensory experience for attendees.

The planning of such events is of course an ever-changing work in progress as organisers have had to think beyond common practice and collaborate with digital experts to bring their vision to life. Augmented and Virtual Reality gives companies the opportunity to surpass the constrictions of what would be physically possible, and provide a truly unique experience. These advanced tools mean attending the year’s most anticipated event remotely from the safety of your own home is no longer a far-fetched ideal. Fully immerse yourself in a virtual world, bespokely crafted down to the final detail, designed to accurately represent the truest nature of a brand, product or occasion.

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Whether it’s using a VR headset at a Charity Gala to transport benefactors to the heart of the cause, or making exclusivity accessible at a product launch party with an AR app available to consumers, there’s a multitude of ways events can be enhanced beyond the physical norm.

In a pre-covid world, augmented reality was already having a profound impact on consumer behaviour within the retail industry, with Shopify documenting that conversion rates were up by 94% among shoppers that engaged with AR features versus those who didn’t.

As the shops shifted heavily onto online platforms amid the pandemic, it was more important than ever to deliver tangible and immersive digital stores to enable customers the freedom to “try before they buy”. This level of accessibility comes in the form of virtual dressing rooms, animated filter-style make-up testers and furniture visualizations just to name a few. Each of these features is carefully designed to combine the comfort of the physical purchase journey with the innovative opportunities accessible via digital solutions.

An estimated 1.8 Billion people worldwide purchase goods online each year, with projections showing that global e-retail sales are set to reach $4.8 trillion by the end of 2021. Whilst the convenience of having unlimited items for sale at your fingertips is something many people could now not live without, it poses a new problem for retailers. Impulse buys have become an unfortunate guarantee when shopping online, meaning that at least 30% of all products ordered are returned, as compared to just 8% of products bought in brick-and-mortar stores. These statistics, a result of consumer uncertainty, means that businesses are losing valuable time, resources and money processing returned orders but are also at risk of losing customer loyalty. When products don’t arrive as expected, the average consumer often moves onto the next site with the hope it will be more transparent.

This is where AR plays a critical role. By using their phone or tablet, shoppers can see a 3D model of a product, correctly scaled and placed in any environment they choose. Having an opportunity to see products in position and correctly styled allows for more informed purchases, therefore reducing the likelihood of returns. Brands that invest in these extra features see higher customer-return rates both online and in-store, as well as benefiting from enhanced trust between themselves and the consumer.

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