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Can augmented reality in e-commerce help retailers reduce returns?

Recently, shoppers made national headlines for contributing to a record-breaking Cyber Week 2022, proving that online shopping continues to thrive. Americans love the convenience and ease of e-commerce. But here’s the catch: as online purchases rise, so do returns.

The benefits of augmented reality (AR) in retail

U.S. consumers weigh in on using AR tech when online shopping

From seeing how a sofa may look in your home office to visualizing bamboo hardwoods or spotting the nuances among varying shades of this year’s most popular paint color, augmented reality gives e-commerce shoppers the power of information to make more sticky decisions about purchases, big or small.

As with all technology, some consumers will welcome it, while others shy away because it’s new or simply outside of their comfort zone. According to a recent survey commissioned by Ricoh and conducted online by The Harris Poll among over 2,000 American adults, we discovered the following.

  • 73% of Americans say AR would help them with online purchasing decisions. As indicated in our study, nearly 3 in 4 Americans (73%) say they would find special online tools or apps such as AR features like virtual try-on technology or room design visualizers helpful when making online purchasing decisions. Meanwhile, 1 in 4 Americans (25%) say they would find this tech very helpful.

  • The digital generation welcomes AR tech. Our study also found that adults ages 18-44 (82%) are more likely than those ages 45+ (66%) to use AR tech when making online purchasing decisions. It’s no surprise that digital natives are more comfortable using AR tools while online shopping.

Parents with children under the age of 18 are more likely to find augmented reality tech features helpful when making online purchasing decisions — 84% vs. 69%. Parents of minors are often digital natives, which may make them more apt to try new and exciting tech options while online shopping.

Can AR help solve the skyrocketing return rate?

Augmented reality is a win for retailers.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Appriss Retail, retail returns soared to more than $761 billion in 2021.¹ Offering tools like AR can help online customers get the proper size or fit, reducing or even eliminating the need for returns or exchanges. Visual tech gives consumers the confidence that they're making the appropriate buying decision. Therefore, merchants can expect fewer returns.

73% of Americans say AR would help them with online purchasing decisions

Using AR holograms in retail

Gain additional retail insights

Create immersive experiences with Ricoh

Innovative technologies like AR can amplify print and create more impactful and effective retail marketing campaigns. Ricoh Marketing Services offers retailers access to a full suite of marketing services designed to quickly and efficiently execute campaigns, projects and technology solutions that deliver continuous innovation, effective marketing programs and critical business results.

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This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Ricoh from November 1-3, 2022, among 2,041 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact john.greco@ricoh-usa.com.

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  1. 1https://nrf.com/research/customer-returns-retail-industry-2021