Specsavers and IKEA are among a cluster of retailers leveraging augmented reality to enhance the customer experience, but this trend is set to continue well into 2019, an expert says.

Augmented reality (AR) is set to become a huge trend for retailers in 2019, as uptake of AR continues with the AR market set to reach $215 billion by 2021.

Associate Professor Sean Sands, co-director of the CXI research group at Swinburne University told Retailbiz that AR is an area of huge opportunity in the coming years for retailers.

“AR is really going to be where the opportunity is for shoppers and retailers,” he said.

“With AR the opportunity there is to augment your physical experience with offers, promotions and to see how other products might fit into your life. So, for example, to walk down the supermarket aisle and have promotions come out at you or use your camera phone as a tool to augment promotions or offers in a physical store environment.”

Professor Sands’ forecast comes after PayPal’s 2018 mobile commerce Trends Report found that around a third of small to medium Australian retailers with an online store intended to release an augmented realty (AR) “experience” for their customers.

The report, which surveyed 404 online retailers, found that while only 5 per cent had developed an “AR experience” for customers, 32 per cent said they were developing, or intended to develop an AR experience.

AR in practice: Specsavers, IKEA

Over the past few years a number of retailers are already using AR in-store or online to engage consumers.

In 2016 eyewear retailer Specsavers launched a virtual tool on its website that allows customers to try on glasses using their mobile devices – whether it’s a tablet, laptop or mobile phone.

The feature enables online shoppers to see themselves in hundreds of different styles of glasses and sunglasses.

Charles Hornor, director of communications at Specsavers told Retailbiz that the feature is all part of the retailer’s focus on giving consumers the personalised experience that they so desire.

“We really believe in making sure customers get what they want, it’s all about the customer so we have to make sure the customers understand what is on offer to them,” he said.

“It’s really completely customer focused the way we use technology in the retailing environment.”

IKEA is also leading the way in the use of this technology in 2017 launching IKEA Place, an app which uses AR to allow consumers to virtually “place” 3D and scaled furniture in certain parts of their homes.

By using their phones to hold up a lens with 3D furniture in their homes, offices or other spaces, consumers can see how furniture looks in certain rooms, and can even share the image or video with their friends.

A spokesperson from IKEA said that the AR app has transformed the customer experience – enabling purchases to happen conveniently and seamlessly online.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet. Only this time, much faster,” the spokesperson said.

This AR technology enables retailers to completely transform the customer experience, the spokesperson said.

“Now, technology has caught up with our ambition. AR lets us redefine the experience for furniture retail once more, in our restless quest to create a better everyday life for everyone, everywhere.”