Augmented Reality, Meet the Future of eCommerce

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What is augmented reality?

This is a much simpler question to explain than it was five years ago. When watching live-action sports, you might see an arrow follow the trajectory of a ball, be it golf, tennis or soccer. Or stores like IKEA that use AR to show you how your space will benefit from the addition of their ready-to-assemble furniture, which we’ll be looking at in a while.

There are real-life examples all around us which seem to have crept into our lives almost without us noticing!

Augmented reality (AR) is the ability to integrate digital data into a real-time experience. What sets it apart from virtual reality is the varying levels of immersion.

AR adds digital elements to a real-life experience, most commonly through your smartphone. VR seeks to create total immersion by blocking out the physical world. Picture those bulky VR sets. As of yet, VR is not of much use to most Shopify stores. AR certainly is.

Industry forecasters estimate that 2020 will see AR reaching a market worth of $100 billion.

Augmented reality emerging in eCommerce

A major part of marketing products from an online platform is in convincing each individual customer that your product is right for them.

AR helps them to visualise your product in their lives. A powerful shift happens when you superimposed your product into customers' own surroundings. They develop a sense of ownership of that product.

The future of online retail revolves around the use of 3D modelling to display interactive product images. Implementing AR as part of your strategy also shows them that you’re ahead of the game and streaks ahead of your competitors. This progression bolsters your brand and sets you out as an industry leader.

Here is what AR offers your store:

Increased customer engagement

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words. AR won’t be replacing traditional photography, but the 3D aspect of AR propels it into a new dimension, literally, for your customers.

Reduce product return rates

Customers have more information before committing to a purchase which helps to eliminate needless returns.

Better UX experience

At a base level, testing out new technology is thrilling! But, you’re also allowing them to test your product out in their own surroundings and see it from different angles. Online shopping is not the same as brick-and-mortar, so there’s no point in trying to replicate the experience. With AR, you are giving them more reason than ever to make use of the convenience of online shopping while still being confident that the product fits into their lifestyle.

Relatively low cost of entry

We’ll explore this in detail later on in the article. For now, know that with Shopify you can create an AR experience for as little as $100 USD.

Augmented Reality Apps

IKEA Place

IKEA Place has been a talking point in AR for quite some time. The Scandinavian superstore adapts AR by creating an app that houses some 23,000 of their products. Their customers have free use to project these items around their house. The try-before-you-buy philosophy allows them to redefine their industry once more and revolutionise how people shop for furniture.

L’Oreal Paris’ Makeup Genius App

The makeup industry jumped on the AR train, a bold but rewarding move. This app lets you test how makeup sits on your digital face. One of the most significant problems with makeup products, especially the drugstore brand, is getting a hold of testing samples.

It removes the hassle from customers’ shopping experience. They can instantly try out eyeshadows in all the shades of the rainbow in matt or shimmer at the click of a button. There’s also still a novelty in AR as it’s nowhere near ubiquitous.

Augmented Reality with Shopify

AR experiences were previously limited to mobile apps; Shopify has created a new integration which allows customers to view your online store AR models via the mobile browser.

Shopify AR powered by 3D Warehouse

You can now display AR images on your Shopify store using 3D Warehouse, an app developed by Shopify to store your 3D files.

Shopify has also been at the forefront of technological changes, a. And their approach to AR is no different. Earlier this year, Apple announced their release of AR Quick Look which creates 3D models of products to place in AR.

Note: this app is currently limited to iOS 12 devices, so only customers using an iOS 12 device can interact with this AR software.

How can you commission 3D models for your Shopify store?

Luckily, for Shopify store owners you can hire an AR expert directly via your Shopify admin to kickstart an AR presence in your online store.

Here’s how.

Start off by downloading the 3D Warehouse app. Then using the Services Marketplace, you can create 3D models of your product, prices start at $100 USD. All you need to do is take a few snaps of your product from specified angles, give the photos clear titles and send off accurate dimensions.

Once you get the 3D model back, you’ll need to upload it to the 3D Warehouse app. The final step is to edit your theme code to enable AR Quick Look. It’s this setting change that lets customers with an iOS 12 device to interact with your very own AR!

Shopify Merchants Using AR

Here’s a sample of stores who have taken the plunge and invested in AR.


There’s only one word that describes this Californian physical and online bike store, and that’s cool. Their designs are quirky and… wait, back on track. Let’s cycle (sorry) back to AR.

Jordan Schau, the co-founder of PureCycles, was excited by the potential of AR to createing an immersive shopping experience for his customers. He wanted to empower them to make the best decision for their cycling needs.

Jordan also expresses his initial concern, and it’s worth airing out because it’s one that a lot of eCommerce merchants will have:

“Getting someone to download an app [with AR capabilities], and then use that as their main shopping app offers major friction for the user. But having it just baked into the browser—Safari, which is already taking an increasing share of our traffic—I think it's just going explode.”

And here is the beauty of Shopify’s AR set up; it’s a seamless experience for customers.

Check out PureCycle's AR experience by opening this link on your iOS device.


HORNE is a home and lifestyle online retailer withhave a killer AR section to their site. They’ve made the first leap with their lighting section and I’m looking forward to seeing more interactivity rolled out within their store.

AR places your customer’s focus on seeing the potential of your product rather than the problems. We help our clients make these bold changes to their business structure to increase their bottom line. If you’re looking for expert assistance in your Shopify store, don’t be a stranger! If you’d like to delve into more ways you can improve customer engagement using technology, check out our amazing blog.

*images via Shopify