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Will AR Become Retail’s New Normal?

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Will AR Become Retail’s New Normal?

In recent years, smart devices have served as futuristic windows into new (and shoppable) consumer landscapes. The glimpses that tech offers allow us to put imagination aside and bring potential purchases into our lives for a trial run — virtually. 

The opportunities are near-endless; rather than order glasses online and hope for a good fit, customers at Warby Parker can assess their favorite lenses with a quick selfie. Instead of lacing and unlacing countless pairs of shoes in-store, Nike shoppers can scan their feet and find a perfect fit by “trying on” their favorite products virtually. 

Even in-store dressing rooms have their digital twins. At the Gap, customers can pick from five common body types to see how their favorite new styles will look on them without the time-consuming hassle of cycling through several outfits. 

Augmented reality — technology that facilitates digital additions to real-world images — is slowly becoming an accepted part of the retail experience. AR allows us to visualize the goods we see in-store and online within our day-to-day environment. In a way, the tech’s capabilities speak to the heart of retail. Like store displays and flashy product photos, AR-powered apps help consumers visualize potential purchases within their home environments and daily routines — and even convince them to buy. 

Currently, AR tech is still somewhat of a novelty. However, it seems likely that AR will evolve into an everyday aspect of retail shopping within a few short years. Researchers for Gartner found that 46 percent of surveyed retailers intended to deploy AR or VR customer experience solutions by 2020, and estimated that a whopping 100 million consumers would shop in AR online and in-store by the same year. Along the same lines, Goldman Sachs estimates that the global market for VR and AR in retail will top $1.6 billion by 2025

However, the number of AR-powered shoppers is impressive even today. Earlier this year, eMarketer released a report that quantified the number of consumers who would use AR more than once a month at 68.7 million people, or 20.8 percent of the US population. The report points to increased familiarity with and interest in the technology as a significant driver behind the AR retail boom. One major source of that interest, the researchers write, was Pokémon Go.  

While it would be oversimplifying to say that Pokémon Go sparked retail’s AR revolution, it wouldn’t be entirely incorrect, either. The virally-successful game served as many consumers’ first introduction to the technology’s engaging capabilities. When the game first exploded onto the market in 2016, it was all but commonplace to see people paused on sidewalks, furiously tapping their screen in an attempt to capture a digital creature.

It was the first wildly successful AR game. Unlike other smartphone apps, Pokémon Go superimposed its challenges over a real-world map of its user’s location, creating an immersive and novel experience for players. Apptopia estimates that at its peak, the game had 100 million users worldwide. It introduced countless people to the idea of integrating augmented reality into their daily lives — and sparked a few conversations among investors, too. 

Soon after the game’s debut, CNBC reporters quoted Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen as saying that Pokémon Go had the power to transform retail. As Chen explains, “The new free-to-play [augmented reality] gaming app has broad implications for retail as it addresses declining mall traffic, plus emerging trends toward social experience and health [and] wellness. [The game] illustrates how augmented reality could potentially play a more significant role in retail over time.”

Pokémon Go’s heyday has long passed us by, but the transformational potential of AR for retail remains. Partly because of the game’s popularity, AR applications have become increasingly common and accessible. Moreover, as analysts for the above eMarketer study point out, support for AR development is on the rise

“The introduction of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore software development kits (SDKs) in 2017 signaled the tech industry’s confidence in—and ongoing support of—AR experiences,” the researchers write. “This is spurring developers to accelerate activity and create more applications.”

So, what benefits could these new, retail-focused AR applications bring? In theory, AR products could gamify the shopping experience, pique interest in products, promote in-store foot traffic, and improve customer engagement. The last is particularly important; in an age where online shopping is not-so-subtly encroaching on traditional stores, retailers face increased pressure to better engage customers by redefining shopping trips into shopping experiences. 

AR presents a means to do so. Statistics provided by Retail Perceptions indicate that 61 percent of surveyed shoppers prefer to shop at stores that offer retail experiences, 71 percent would return more often if AR was available, and 40 percent would pay more for a product if they could try it out in AR first. 

AR gives retailers the opportunity to boost consumer engagement, make shopping more of an experience than a chore, and create a more personalized digital experience for customers. In some cases, AR-powered ads can even establish stronger touchpoints on social media platforms. Where consumers might have zipped past a traditional ad without a thought, the interactive nature of AR encourages platform users to pause their scrolling and engage with the advertisement — thereby making it more likely that they will check out or even buy a product. 

The shift to AR is already well underway. In the summer, L’Oreal Armani Beauty announced its intention to be the first beauty brand to integrate AR capabilities into its WeChat application. It has a new take on the virtual dressing room; in China, consumers will be able to virtually try out cosmetics and share their screenshots on social media. For L’Oreal, AR tech will create an opportunity for better customer experience, sales, and consumer-generated marketing all via one app. 

If this announcement demonstrates anything, it would be that despite its relative nascence, AR solutions in retail are continually evolving. Today, those tools merge digital and retail capabilities, providing a means for companies to expand their stores through a camera lens. 

It will be interesting to see what new retail opportunities will bloom from AR’s growth next. 

 

Bennat Berger is a tech writer, investor, and real estate professional based in New York City. He currently stands as the co-founder for the NYC-based real estate firm Novel Property Venture, as well as the sole founding partner for Novel Private Equity, a PE firm that specializes in guiding promising startups towards success. He has written extensively about the often-disruptive impact that innovative tech -- and, in particular, AI -- has on culture and business. You can find samples of his work in Fortune, VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, and The Next Web.

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6 tips to not go crazy in your home office

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Because of the current coronavirus situation a lot of people, including me, left their offices on a Friday and BOOM!! Started working from home on a Monday!! However for people with ADHD like me can often feel overwhelmed on the fact of being completely isolated.

 

Here are 6 tips to avoid going crazy in your home office:

 

#1  Suit Up

Sounds simple but it helps a lot with your motivation. This is all a mental game letting your mind know you still have a routine to follow. I know wearing your jammies is tempting. DONT DO IT! Dress as you would for work.

 

#2 Stick to Your Working Hours

This is a very important rule to NOT overdoing work. People tend to work more when working from home. Avoid that BURNOUT. Lock in your 8 hours of sleep.

 

#3 Work in a Dedicated Space

It is tempting to work in your bed. DONT DO IT! Try to work in a separate room with no TV and yes, NO NETFLIX!! If you leave your room you are out of your “office”. This helps seperate your work from your free time.

 

#4  Limit Distractions

 

Like I said before, This ain’t no Netflix and chill!! Put that phone on vibrate turn off that gaming console and TV OFF!!

 

#5 Be Transparent

Your colleagues don’t know what your up to . Make sure to keep them up to date about what your working on.

 

#6 Stay Active

Try to exercise during the day! The daily walks to the coffee machine and the conference room are GONE! Try to compensate this with exercise.

 

Stay Safe!

These are tough times for many of us. I know going to happy hour and hanging out at starbucks are both very tempting and very missed but lets do our thing to kick this virus in the ass!! Stay home and stay safe.

 

If you liked this article make sure you follow me on linked in and instagram  for more!! What other topics would you like me to cover? Shoot me a message.

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Tech + Startups

The Many Hats of User Experience

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User experience sure has become the most essential weapon in everyones digital team or product. In my last article I covered why ux is important for your business, but many people have the misconception that User Experience is done only by ONE person, when in reality we user experience designers wear MANY hats, which I personally love.

We cover bases such as design, psychology and research which makes my day to day work completely different from the one before. In some cases having a one man band might be true with the exception of unicorn designers (overly talented wizards that can do it all from design to coding) which are very rare.

But personally I wouldn’t recommend giving one person all the work as with all the overload in responsibilities, the quality of your product could be affected, but we all know there’s many penny-pincher companies out there who like to save on costs bringing in someone that could be the man (or woman)THAT DOES IT ALL!!. However in reality user experience is in fact a TEAM effort meaning there’s usually more then one person involved on making sure your company or app has a rockstar user experience. But being a UX Designer makes you a jack-of-all-trades almost by default. As a field we’re broken up into several specialisms. As our industry advances these only get more complex.

 

 

So who are the people that are involved in a user experience team and what do they do?

There’s a lot of debate around how these specialisms are classified. Personally, I like to break UX down into five main areas :

  • User research.
  • Information architecture.
  • Interaction design.
  • UI design
  • Content strategy.

Some organizations will actually treat these as distinct jobs and hire for them individually. This is particularly true with larger businesses, where multiple UX designers are needed on a single project. But like I mentioned before this varies from business to business. In many cases us ux designers  switch between  these roles over the course of a single project.

What are the specialisms of UX?

User Research

A user researcher gathers the insight to drive decision making in our project. Rather than creating the ‘what’, they instead focus on the ‘why’. There are loads of research methods than can be drawn upon, both quantitative and qualitative. These all go into informing the solution, and defining user requirements for a new project.

When taking on the user researcher role, the main responsibilities include :

  • Workshops and interviews.
  • User testing sessions.
  • Analytics data and ethnographic research.
  • Creating user personas & requirements.

Information Architecture

An information architect looks at the product from a birds-eye view, understanding how content links together. They’ll piece together how users move through the flows in a site or app, without getting bogged down in the minute details of UI.

When taking on the information architect role, the main responsibilities include:

  • Planning user flows.
  • Creating sitemaps and data models.
  • Defining navigation, taxonomies and other content classifications.

Content strategy

A content strategist creates the guidelines for how information is communicated through the website or app. They make sure the output we give to the user is easy to understand, consistent and generally fit-for-purpose.

When taking on the content strategist role, the main responsibilities include:

  • Planning of key content themes & topics.
  • Content structure & templates.
  • Content style & presentation guidelines.

Interaction design

An interaction designer plans how users will interact with the system. They’ll translate the high-level flows defined in the information architecture & content strategy into more detailed screen layouts, usually in the form of wireframes.

When taking on the interaction designer role, the main responsibilities include:

  • Wireframing & early prototyping.
  • Interaction guidelines and UI patterns.
  • Functional documentation.

UI design

A UI designer brings the interface to life by applying a brand’s ‘look and feel’ to the system. They’re responsible for creating the visual language for a site or app, and generally ensuring that it looks awesome.

When taking on the UI designer role, the main responsibilities include :

  • Realistic page mock-ups.
  • High fidelity prototypes.
  • Style guides.

Now that you know all the many hats of ux design, what are you waiting for to bring in UX Designers to your current dev team? If you liked this article make sure you follow me on linked in and instagram  for more!! What other topics would you like me to cover? Shoot me a message.

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Tech + Startups

AI: The Solution to Employee Stress

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Work and stress — the two have become synonymous.

You’d be hard-pressed to meet an American worker in today’s business landscape who wasn’t. I get stressed out, so do you, and so do the greats of every industry. Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, describes stress as an emotional rollercoaster where you flip-flop from a day when “you are euphorically convinced you are going to own the world, to a day in which doom seems only weeks away and you feel completely ruined, and back again.” Elon Musk equates stress to “chewing glass and staring into the abyss.”

The point is, stress is imminent. It doesn’t care where you work or how much money you make, you’re working in the country with the most stressed workers in the world. The global average is around 35 percent, but Americans register at around 55 percent. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Today’s dog-eat-dog business landscape breeds companies that believe you can weed out top talent by putting such high pressure on employees that only the most competent will stay. Basically, survival of the fittest.

But stress has sobering consequences. One million people miss work every day, citing stress as the reason. And this doesn’t only affect employees, either. Absenteeism costs companies up to $300 million a year. Being under constant pressure to live up to high performance standards doesn’t separate the overachievers from the underachievers, it slowly corrodes the abilities of your most skilled staff members.

When your employees are too stressed, they pay for it, but so do you. As companies figure out how to run leaner and more efficiently, it’s also important that they continue to implement internal methods to curb increasing stress levels. Appster, for example, will fund their employees’ after-work outings every so often and companies like Google offer in-house mindfulness courses so employees can meditate during the workday. Other tactics like flexible working hours and employee-assistance programs are valuable, but we now have unfettered access to the perks of technology, so why not tap that market too?

Artificial intelligence isn’t the office bad guy; it’s not there to threaten your job security or compromise your privacy. It’s assumed that AI will dehumanize the workplace, but I would argue that it does the opposite. When we use artificial intelligence intentionally, we make the workplace human again.

Automating the mundane and menial

As company’s have begun gradually introducing technology into their operations, we’ve become familiar with how automation can save both time and money. Repetitive and seemingly inconsequential tasks will always be a part of the job, but now employees don’t have to be the ones to support these daily duties — and who isn’t excited about being able to use their brainpower elsewhere?

Many businesses choose to start with chatbots because their benefits are overt and pervasive across every industry. These automated messaging platforms intercept tasks such as filling out documentation and replacing simple customer service requests so employees can focus on what AI can’t automate, like creative strategy and important decision-making. Another great use of automation is Feebi, a chatbot that can field 90 percent of common restaurant questions, like what your hours are or what’s currently on the menu. Your employees don’t need to be bogged down with these incessant, unimportant tasks.

Create their in-office ‘happy place’

Company culture is more than just the relationships between team members, it’s also about the environment you create. Think about it: who wants to come into a cluttered, dirty, bare-walled office every single day? We spend more time at work than we do our own homes, so it’s important to incorporate the same elements in a workspace that you would want to surround yourself with at home — more natural light, vegetation, etc.

There are automated sensors you can build into your workplace that can analyze a certain employee’s mood and assess whether or not adjusting environmental conditions could directly enhance their productivity and happiness levels. There are smart temperature controls that can automatically change the temperature of an employee’s office to their preferred comfort level and there are automated systems that can even water your office plants for you (yes, plants play a vital role in elevating employees’ moods).

Stress-detecting software

Wearables such as Fitbits have been around for quite some time now and are renowned for their ability to accurately track your health and fitness data. So, why not have something similar for the office? AI-enabled tools can monitor an employee’s emotions and behavior and watch for signs of stress, anxiety, and even depression.

Cogito is a platform that can listen to sales and service calls and offer feedback on the interaction. Not only does Cogito guide you with real-time advice on how to improve your calls, but it can also identify stressed customer service agents that could be on the verge of burnout. Affectiva, a ride-sharing service, can do the same for their drivers, assessing facial expressions for emotional cues like anger or anxiety.

Employees are often too afraid to come forward when they are under too much stress because the business landscape has taught them that they are easily replaceable. Leaders are often so preoccupied with their own schedules that they rarely see signs of stress before it’s too late. Don’t let human error support stressful working conditions. Instead, let AI give us our happiness back.

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