Retail Augmented Reality: Pros, Cons, and Top Examples

3D and Augmented Reality (AR) are buzzwords that are increasingly used these days in the world of retail. And for a good reason. 3D has been proven to increase conversion rates by up to 2x and reduce returns by 40%. According to a recent study by Deloitte and Snap, interacting with products through AR experiences leads to a 94% higher conversion rate, as individuals can better assess products and feel connected with the brand.

All of that is excellent news, but many retailers and businesses are still left wondering how exactly they go about implementing them into their business. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to implement 3D and augmented reality in retail sales. In this blog post, we will explain a few ways to get started.

What Is AR in Retail?

Augmented reality can be used to enhance in-store and online retail shopping experiences. AR technology creates an immersive user experience using image layering and 3D effects that add to a user’s real-time physical surroundings. Augmented reality retail applications are typically accessible with any camera-enabled personal device, such as a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Using AR technology, shoppers can interact with products in realistic ways, such as virtually trying on an article of clothing or placing a product in a real-world environment to determine whether the product suits their needs.

AR is distinct from Virtual Reality (VR), another technology often mentioned in the same context. VR also uses realistic effects such as 3D images, but it requires a special headset to create a digital environment that simulates physical reality. In contrast, AR uses digital effects to enhance images of real-world objects, requiring no special equipment. Both technologies can be used for eCommerce retailers and can even be used together. But AR is easier to deploy because it doesn’t require the user to have a VR headset. To participate in augmented reality experiences, all shoppers need is a smartphone, laptop, or desktop, making it a more accessible technology.









What Are the Benefits of Augmented Reality Retail Applications?

Using augmented reality marketing in eCommerce affords retailers many benefits. Incorporating AR features into shopping & product experiences lets retailers:

  • Project a modern brand image and differentiate from competitors
  • Provide online shoppers with an immersive customer experience
  • Take product previews to a new level by enabling 360 views, 3D views, virtual try-ons, and product customization and configuration
  • Help customers visualize large objects, such as furniture, in a real-life space with 3D, full-scale product placement
  • Increase customer interaction and engagement when shopping online through personalization
  • Empower customers with more informed purchasing decisions, which leads to a boost in sales and minimized returns

These augmented reality benefits help illustrate how augmented reality will enhance the traditional retail experience. Brick-and-mortar retailers can now use AR technology to reach customers at home without physically visiting a store.

Three Challenges In Online Retail And How 3D and AR Can Help

While augmented reality benefits hold great promise for retailers, online retail inherently comes with some challenges. Here’s a look at three common challenges online retailers face and how AR and 3D can help overcome them.

1. Poor Understanding of Product

With society moving towards a more virtual ecosystem, more and more consumers are looking towards online shopping as an alternative to in-person shopping. The old process of trying on clothes in the store can no longer match the fast pace of today’s world.

Enter augmented reality and 3D models. 3D gives consumers a better understanding of a product, and it’s proven to double online conversion rates and reduce returns by 40%. Taking that one step further and using augmented reality to show products in customers’ environments has produced even hire sales rates.

According to CNBC, up to 40% of all online items are returned, compared to 10% for in-store purchases. Because of the massive returns, billions of dollars worth of inventory is returned every year, posing a staggering financial and logistical problem. Retailers are forced to throw away up to 25% of their returns yearly.

3D and AR allow consumers to make a more informed choice in their online purchases, reducing the number of products returned yearly.

2. Lack of Personalized Support

The main advantage of having a brick-and-mortar storefront is the ability for retail teams to work with customers, give fashion advice, or help locate specific items. While online stores can offer suggestions on items, there is no personalized help. In addition, a retail store may not have enough employees to provide customers with the support they want.

However, with augmented reality and chatbots, retailers can provide an impromptu stylist for every customer. As customers try on clothes virtually, a virtual chatbot can suggest new clothes and add them to the queue for customers to try. This augmented reality application in the retail space provides customers with a more streamlined interactive experience and may lead to more sales.

3. An Infinite Showroom Floor Can Be Cluttered

The size of the store physically limits a traditional brick-and-mortar store. Limited space makes it impossible for smaller stores to stock everything they want to sell. In contrast, online stores risk being too cluttered, and finding the exact item a shopper needs can be challenging. However, with real estate prices rising in major metropolitan areas, having a large storefront is less than ideal, especially for smaller retailers. While higher-end brands may work around this by curating and offering seasonal selections, average brands may not have that luxury. This restriction is furthered by the different fits and sizes that naturally come with apparel, footwear, and accessories, resulting in stores having to remove items from their offerings.

Augmented reality and 3D modeling allow retailers to create showrooms that aren’t restricted by physical limitations. In essence, the virtual showroom can be as little or as large as you want, with the only restriction being the number of items offered.

How To Get Started With 3D and Augmented Reality In Retail

The first thing that brands need to do before they can take advantage of augmented reality and 3D eCommerce is to build a 3D version of their products. These files let customers experience 3D product visualization when the item is viewed online. There are two ways to go about generating 3D product models:

1. Create 3D Models with a 3D Creation Program

The first is using a 3D creation program like CLO and Browzwear for apparel or 3DS Max for furniture. You can hire a company like VNTANA to help with this or use an internal team. The cost to create a 3D model depends on the product’s complexity but is generally around $150 to $350 per product. You may want to create a 3D model using this method because it could be challenging to scan due to shiny materials or larger products or because you need a fast turnaround. This method can also be more cost-effective at scale.

2. Hire a 3D Scanning Company to Create Your 3D Models

The second way to create a 3D model is to scan your product. There are 3D scanning companies to which you can send your products or use a partner like VNTANA, who can leverage their global network of 3D scanning partners to create the 3D models for you. The primary benefit of scanning is that you are using hundreds of photos of the actual product to create the 3D model, which is likely to be very realistic. Below is an example of a shoe we scanned for our client Staud. The cost to do this is somewhere between $300 to $500, depending on the complexity of the product.

Once you’ve got your 3D product models, you can upload them into a 3D commerce platform such as VNTANA to create an online product catalog your customers can view.

VNTANA Use Case Examples of AR In Retail Industries

How can you use AR in eCommerce retail? Here are five examples of industries where AR has proven especially effective at promoting customer engagement and sales:


AR is revolutionizing furniture sales by allowing online shoppers to see how items would look in their homes. Customers can take a background photo of their living room and see how a couch or chair would look in a specific spot. Shoppers also can view models in different colors and styles, potentially saving furniture retailers on the cost of keeping inventory on hand since the order doesn’t have to be placed until the customer has picked what they want.


An augmented reality clothing app can boost apparel sales by letting customers experience realistic product previews online. 3D apparel models allow customers to see apparel items from different angles in any size or color. AR then lets customers try on items they’re considering to see how they look wearing them.


The same qualities which make AR suitable for apparel make it ideal for selling footwear. A shopper can take a live selfie of their feet to try on a pair of shoes and view them from different angles. Even in a physical store, this can be a big time-saver for customers who want to try multiple pairs of shoes quickly.


Jewelry also lends itself well to AR shopping. Customers can see items such as rings and necklaces from different angles in different styles and try out how they’d look wearing them. Shoppers even can design customized items in an AR environment using an eCommerce product configurator.

Outdoor Equipment

AR is ideal for selling outdoor gear, such as backpacks and tents. Items like backpacks can be previewed and tried similarly to clothing or footwear. Users can view equipment such as tents against a live background such as a backyard or campsite to give shoppers a realistic sense of what it would be like to own the item.




Three Most Popular Ways to Deploy 3D and AR in eCommerce

Once you have a 3D model, the next question is, where do you use it? The three most popular ways to use it are: 3D on eCommerce, augmented reality in eCommerce, and 3D in advertising. One thing that’s important to note is that you always want to make sure you are using 3D models optimized for these channels, just like you optimize videos and images for eCommerce sites. The original 3D models created can often be large and result in slow load times or incompatibility with AR if they are not correctly optimized. An automated solution like VNTANA can handle this for you ensuring you have ultra-fast load speeds and compatibility across all channels.

1. 3D Visual Merchandising

Using 3D on eCommerce is a great way to enhance your visual commerce strategy to increase conversions and give your customers a better understanding of your product. Visual commerce includes AR and other visual technologies that boost customer engagement, such as high-quality photos, 360-degree walkthroughs, and interactive 3D models. AR is typically paired with 3D models to let customers view products from different angles as they preview them in AR.

To implement this, you will need a 3D Content Management System, such as VNTANA, that provides an embeddable web viewer. Simply upload your 3D model to the platform, and then you can copy and paste the iFrame that’s automatically generated. It’s the same code you would copy if you were to embed a YouTube video, for example.

While copying and pasting is great if you only have a few products, if you are going to add 3D at scale, it’s essential to make sure you’re using a solution that can automatically associate the 3D viewer with the product data page (PDP) via an API. This function will allow you to quickly and easily deploy 3D at scale.

Another benefit of 3D in eCommerce is that you can use hotspots like on the model below to highlight features of your product. Using hotspots, you can attach text, video, or images to allow customers to learn more about your product.

2. Augmented Reality Product Experiences


One of the most valuable applications of augmented reality is enabling customers to enjoy realistic product previews through AR try-on experiences. Making it easy for customers to try on products in AR can dramatically boost your sales.

User-friendliness is essential to get past potential hesitancy to try new technology. Using AR in eCommerce often can feel daunting to people just getting started, but it’s pretty straightforward. In its simplest form, eCommerce AR is just an extension of 3D on eCommerce. You will often see an icon in the corner of 3D web viewers that allows customers to launch an AR experience on their mobile devices simply by scanning a QR code. What’s great about this implementation is that no app is required to use it. While Ikea, Target, and others offer AR within their apps, the truth is that the vast majority of consumers don’t want to download another application to try Augmented Reality. Using a solution like VNTANA will allow you to automatically generate 3D viewers and web-based AR experiences, ensuring maximum user engagement and conversion.

Below is an example of an AR experience that one of our customers, Ice Barrel, has deployed to help their customers better understand the size of their product. Scan the QR code to see it in your space.

Ice barrel QR Code

3. 3D and AR Advertising Campaigns

3D advertising is one of the most impactful ways to leverage 3D in retail and eCommerce. A high-quality 3D model represents the highest level of content. You can generate photorealistic 2D images, video, augmented reality, and virtual reality experiences from it.

In the ad below, our customer Staud used a 3D shoe that we scanned for them to create a Facebook ad that outperformed all the other ads in this campaign. The ad was automatically created using our software and is something companies could easily do at scale. What’s so great about this content is that it’s super engaging but can be produced cost-effectively and at scale – a massive saving over the traditional photo and video shoots.



What Is the Future of Augmented Reality in the Retail Industry?

These are just some of the ways that brands and retailers can start leveraging 3D and augmented reality in eCommerce. Social media platforms like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram have all made huge bets on brands selling through the use of 3D and augmented reality. You can expect this list to grow over time. Still, these are a great first entry point for brands and retailers looking to increase conversions, reduce returns, and provide a differentiated experience for their customers.

Brands that are already cashing in on 3D and AR ads and try-ons include:

  • Ikea
  • Vespa
  • Topshop
  • Asos
  • Lacoste
  • Sephora

Leading brands such as these recognize the value of 3D and AR advertising. Other companies which emulate these trailblazers can get ahead of the curve and gain a jump on competitors who are slow to adopt 3D and AR.

How VNTANA Is Transforming the Future of Retail

In mere months, the COVID-19 pandemic propelled us five years into the future regarding digital adoption, according to global consulting firm McKinsey.

You can see this playing out across industries. Restaurants are improving online ordering and delivery capabilities. Telehealth is increasingly available for patients who need it. Online learning has become a mandatory option for students of all ages. On and on and on.

“Digital trends were already picking up steam,” said Ashley Crowder, CEO, and co-founder of VNTANA. “But COVID-19 has brought everything to the fore now. What used to be a nice-to-have is now a must-have.”

A Transformative Digital Impact

83.1 million US consumers are using augmented reality (AR) every month, according to eMarketer.

“We’re talking about 25% of the population,” Crowder said. “This is a golden opportunity for companies to capitalize on a growing user base.”

AR’s prevalence is unavoidable, and its effects on customer decision-making and satisfaction are undeniable. Brands that get on board with AR will enjoy a competitive advantage going into the future.

AR-Powered: Bringing Augmented Reality to Your Retail App

The VNTANA 3D Commerce Platform is designed to make it easy to bring online shopping to life with 3D software that’s simple for your team and customers to use. Just upload your existing 3D product models or contact our team for help creating them. Our software optimizes your files so customers can access them online quickly without installing an app. All you do is drop some iFrame code on your website so customers can view your AR models on your site or use a QR code on their smartphone. Schedule a demo to see how easy it is to start using AR to sell your products.