Retail boost from AR and voice assistants?

AUGMENTED reality and voice assistants are likely to positively shape the future of retail, according to PayPal’s latest mCommerce Index: Trends Report.

It is a trend being called ‘retailtainment’ according to PayPal Australia director of customer engagement, Elaine Herlihy, who believes Australian retailers should no longer view their mobile offering as simply a transactional storefront, but also as an enjoyable and entertaining experience for their customers

The report’s findings show how combining elements of the real world with digital information, augmented reality (AR) and voice assistants have already evolved mobile shopping from a convenient experience to a form of entertainment. 

“The data shows that simply having an online offering is no longer enough for retailers,” Ms Herlihy said. “Australians are demanding mobile-first experiences and are gravitating towards mobile shopping experiences that are fun and engaging.

“Reading and writing reviews, product research and sharing images of virtual try-ons is an enjoyable pastime for many Australians, particularly with younger shoppers.”

The Trends Report discovered that two-thirds (67%) of Australians ‘digital window shop’ for fun on their mobiles, with 77 percent of those making impulse purchases when they do. All up, 88 percent of Australians say they worry about whether items might fit or be suitable when shopping online or on mobile.

Australians are also largely – about 44 percent – more likely to buy online if they could virtually ‘try before they buy’ using AR on their mobile phones, the report found.

Yet, only 5 percent of Australian businesses currently offer an AR experience and one in three (32%) are currently developing or intend to develop an augmented reality experience.

So far, it is estimated one in five mobile shoppers have used a voice assistant for retail enquiries.

The popularity of ‘shopping for fun’ is particularly prevalent among younger generations, with 69 percent of Generation Z respondents (22 years and under) engaging in mobile shopping as a leisure activity – making it as popular as watching television (69%) and more than twice as popular as watching or playing sport (31% and 27% respectively) for this cohort.

While Australians may be embracing mobile shopping, a number of barriers persist as counterpoints to its convenience and ease-of-use. Almost nine in 10 Australians (88%) say they are concerned about not being able to identify the correct size of an item, and 82 percent said that even if the size was correct, they were unsure of whether the item will look good on them or in their home.


Ethan Nyholm, CEO of Australian-owned premium technology and fashion accessories brand STM Goods, said the AR experience on the company’s native app had increased both customer engagement and sales. He said it allowed the brand “to communicate key value points while providing a functional, yet enjoyable experience”.

“Enabling customers to virtually try on our products through our AR experience has allowed us to communicate key value points while engaging customers at all levels of our distribution chain,” Mr Nyholm said.

“Since integrating AR, we have seen an uplift in both customer engagement and in sales, and we attribute this to giving customers the opportunity to explore our products and truly appreciate the thought that goes into their design.”

Australians cite fashion (62%), furniture and homewares (47%) and accessories (36%) as the product categories they are most interested in shopping through an AR experience.

The PayPal-sponsored research was conducted by ACA Research. It consisted of a five minute online survey of 1,012 Australian smartphone users aged 18 and older, exploring adoption, usage and sentiment towards mobile and social commerce. In addition, ACA Research conducted a five minute online survey of 404 business decision makers within Australian small and medium business-to-consumer (B2C)  retailers and merchants who sold or took orders online, exploring their attitudes and behaviours around mobile and social commerce.


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