The fashion retail sector is likely to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of augmented reality (AR) with the market being worth $100bn by 2030 according to new research from GlobalData.

In 2022 the augmented reality (AR) market was worth $22bn meaning it will grow at a CAGR of 21% in the next eight years as retailers use the technology to help them gain a competitive edge, stay on track with evolving consumer preferences and adapt to emerging trends.

Home, fashion, and cosmetics retailers are the top adopters of AR, creating immersive, personalised, and efficient shopping experiences for consumers. For these retailers, AR adoption has helped to drive engagement and increase consumer education, brand awareness, and sales.

Nike and Marks and Spencer are mentioned as some of the leaders in terms of AR adoption as the use the tech to advertise, market and enhance personalised shopping experiences.

Retailers are also leveraging the supply chain benefits of adopting AR technology.
Years of disruption following the pandemic and geopolitical tensions have increased the vulnerabilities of global logistics.

Many supply chains have become progressively more extensive and interconnected and, therefore, susceptible to disruption and delays. Outsourcing and offshoring manufacturing to reduce production costs and yield greater profits has complicated supply chains and global relationships.

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Yet on the other hand, consumers have also become used to greater convenience, speed and personalisation with retailers expected to deliver an experience that integrates brick-and-mortar shopping with web, app, and social channels. This, however, increases supply chain complexities. Using infrastructure unsuited for growing omnichannel supply chains leads to a dependency on manual, error-prone processes, and longer timelines.

The report suggests there is no silver bullet AR application to help retailers solve their main challenges but investment now will pay off in the long run.

The prime use cases for AR in retail and fashion are app-based mobile AR (which uses a mobile app to deliver an AR experience) and browser-based WebAR virtual testers and virtual try-on technology, which can be accessed both in-store and online.

“Retailers that can offer a more personalised and smoother omnichannel experience will emerge as winners in a competitive market. Using AR applications and platforms in retail will ultimately help bridge the gap between the online and in-store experience,” the report suggests.

There is also some argument to suggest incorporating AR technology has sustainability benefits.

Companies can use AR technology to educate and engage with consumers. AR digital overlays allow consumers to point their smartphone camera at an in-store item and get information on how the product was made, where it was transported from, and the materials used to make it. This sort of information allows consumers to make a more informed purchase.

And as retailers try to combat rising return costs in the era of “buy-try-return” AR technologies like virtual try on – showcased by companies like Snap – along with easier access to product information are hoped to save waste in the long run, especially for apparel companies.

The report suggested: “Fewer consumers will return items, which will help cut pollution as fewer products will be transported from the warehouse to the consumer and vice versa. AR can also help to reduce waste in the early design stages of products and product packaging. Brands can use AR to visualise products digitally, removing the need to produce prototypes during the early stages and reducing material waste.”

Last summer Seamm unveiled AR try-on by Snapchat to reduce online returns.