The industry has long discussed the impact of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) on the retail industry. But, for years, it has remained somewhat a cool or fun thing to do, rather than something consumers rely on as part of their experience with a brand. However, new figures from Gartner suggest that it is set to become both a reality and mainstream. Figures show that both AR and VR have moved further along the Gartner Hype Cycle over the past year with 100 million consumers set to shop using AR online and in-store by 2020.

Gartner’s analyst Hannah Karki added that “the impact of AR or VR in retail can be transformative and brands can use AR as an extension of the brand experience to engage customers in immersive environments and drive revenue.” In addition, 5G mobile network technology represents an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of AR and VR in stores.

A few brands are already tapping into the power of AR. Take American Apparel who have equipped customers with mobile app-driven experiences. Consumers essentially open the app and scan a picture of signage. The app will then pull up product details including pricing and reviews. In addition, Ikea continues to have a big focus on AI and VR. The CEO has previously said "(what) we haven't been able to do before is to find easier ways to connect with people so digital opens up massive opportunities for us." And one of their key initiatives has been the launch of the augmented reality app that allows consumers to virtually design their homes.

Ultimately brands are now in a prime position to move AR beyond fun activations to a technology that adds value to customers’ lives. It will be interesting to see what happens, both on the high street and online, over the next 12 months.