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Is augmented
reality the
future of CX?

Author: Shane Schick

As innovations in technology open new doors for business value, the pressure is on the customer experience (CX) side of the equation to keep up. Leaders who find it difficult to picture the future of CX may only need to pick up their smartphone and look at the world through an augmented reality (AR) app.

Point the phone's live camera feed at almost anything. Then, depending on how the AR app is designed, you should be able to add text, images or other digital elements that can dramatically alter what you see. Unlike virtual reality (VR), which offers an entirely simulated world to explore, AR allows you to put a visual overlay using digital content that creates highly interactive experiences.

Consumers often become familiar with AR when they play around with filters in social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. For businesses, however, there are a variety of opportunities where the technology will allow them to differentiate themselves and bring new value to their customers.

A glimpse of AR in retail

AR holds a wealth of opportunities for improved CX in retail, for example, consider how consumers walk into a furniture store. They might appreciate the way a chair or table has been displayed, but their real focus is probably on how the furniture might look if they were to buy it and take it home. A retailer could use AR to let consumers see those chairs or tables in a digitally created living room, a home office, a kitchen or some other common space. By easing the process of imagining the furniture in those settings, the retailer helps build confidence in the consumer's purchase decision.

AR could also enhance products through smart packaging. Instead of leafing through a lengthy owner's manual or randomly searching online for instructions after buying a product, retailers could use AR to let consumers scan a code that instantly brings up a tutorial video. Smart packaging could also be connected to promotional offers or other contextually relevant information.

The way AR blends digital content with real-world objects can also make it easier to "try on" clothes at home instead of waiting in line for a fitting room. This can drive more traffic to retailer sites and ultimately increase sales.

For consumers, AR can make shopping fun again. A toy store could use AR to let kids bring what's on the shelves to life through animation and virtual games. Scanning a piece of jewelry through an AR app could allow an artisan to tell the story behind its design. Shoppers could also capture and share their AR experiences with one another, driving organic reach for a retailer's brand. AR can also provide wayfinding within a retailer’s branded application to help optimize a customer's journey through the store. Wayfinding could be based on a shopping list in the application, creating the opportunity for bespoke pop-up promos and content, as well as helping brands identify when shoppers may need help in the store based on, for example, how long someone stays in one aisle, which could indicate the person needs assistance.

AR challenges and opportunities

Of course, businesses also need to consider the potential challenges that come with an emerging technology like AR. Applications and experiences need to take into consideration the kind of personal information the technology might collect, for example, and how they will adhere to privacy laws and regulations.  Another consideration is how to protect AR data with a strong cyber security plan to prevent identity theft or other types of breaches.

As more organizations experiment with AR, it's wise to consider it from a holistic CX perspective, thinking about the role the technology could play in complementing other CX channels. In areas like support, for instance, AR could prove invaluable as a way of walking customers through a troubleshooting fix and showing "before" and "after" scenarios.

Even with all the use cases that are available today, the potential to innovate with AR in CX design has only begun. Expect to see more use of AR to enable contactless shopping experiences, more dynamic social commerce and the ability for brands to co-create marketing content with their customers.

Remember that the word "augment" means to make something greater by adding to it. In that sense, AR could play a major role in the future of CX strategy.

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