In recent years, augmented reality (AR) has emerged as a new and powerful technology reshaping various industries. Global payments and shopping service Klarna’s May 2023 survey finds that the vast majority of consumers expect AR to elevate the in-store shopping experience of the future. Over a third of the survey’s respondents even believe AR will eventually become standard across retail stores.
One sector that has already experienced significant disruption due to AR is the eyewear industry, where it’s revolutionising how independent retailers operate and enhancing the overall shopping experience for customers. Let’s delve into AR’s exciting developments and applications in the eyewear industry.
The development of AR in retail
Augmented reality has made great strides in retail, enabling businesses to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. By overlaying computer-generated images in the real world, AR provides a rich and interactive experience for customers looking for a more convenient shopping experience. This technology has proven particularly valuable for independent retailers, from Scan & Save stores to eyewear brands, who strive to differentiate themselves from larger competitors.
Augmented reality (AR) technology started to make its way into the eyewear industry around the early 2010s. One notable example of early AR adoption in the eyewear industry was the introduction of Google Glass in 2013. Google Glass was a pioneering AR device that resembled a pair of glasses and featured a heads-up display, a camera, and voice recognition capabilities. While Google Glass did not achieve widespread commercial success, it catalysed AR innovation in the eyewear industry.
Applications of AR in the eyewear industry
Following the initial foray by Google Glass, several independent eyewear retailers and online platforms started introducing virtual try-on experiences that utilised AR technology in 2016. Traditionally, purchasing eyewear involved physically trying on different frames at brick-and-mortar stores. However, AR revolutionised this process by leveraging computer vision and facial recognition technologies to simulate realistic eyewear shopping experiences.
An exemplary company embracing this approach is Glasses Direct, a leading online eyewear retailer in the UK. Their AR-powered Virtual Mirror allows customers to upload pictures of themselves, and the frames are superimposed on top. This digital service complements Glasses Direct’s existing trial service, where shoppers can try on glasses at home by choosing four of their favourite frames from the Virtual Mirror to have shipped to their doorstep. Glasses Direct founder Jamie Murray-Wells explains that the feature helps shoppers commit to a purchase without physically trying on the glasses.
Other reputable eyewear stores may not offer a free home trial but still enhance the shopping experience with other AR-powered apps. One of the key players in this space is Warby Parker, whose “virtual try-on” feature allows shoppers to preview glasses using AR in real-time. With the iPhone selfie camera, shoppers can try on different eyeglass frames and experiment with different styles and colours. This level of personalisation enhances the shopping experience and reduces the need for physical inventory, benefiting independent retailers with limited storage space.
AR is also facilitating the rise of smart glasses in the eyewear industry. With the integration of sensors and AR technology, these glasses offer features such as real-time health monitoring and GPS navigation. They can even project digital displays onto the world around the user. Snapchat’s Spectacles is past its fourth version and is only offered to a “select group of global creators” in the AR field as the manufacturers continue to finetune the Lens Studio desktop software in 2023. Independent retailers can continue to tap into this trend by partnering with companies developing and distributing smart eyewear, offering their customers cutting-edge products.
There is much to look forward to within AR’s disruption of the eyewear industry in 2023 and the succeeding years. To stay updated on how AR revolutionises the way customers interact with eyewear, check back on our industry news pieces here at Asian Trader.