Hi! I'm currently doing my Masters Thesis in different types of product presentation, focusing on how AR could change things. I thought I would summarise some of the relevant literature review I have here in case anybody would find it interesting. I'm also desperately in need of participants for the research so if you have iOS 12 or later and 5 minutes to run through a quick questionnaire on your phone I would really appreciate you taking part here. Everything is totally anonymous and there's no email or anything.
Though online retailing has increased in the last decade, many consumers report dissatisfaction with their purchase, with returns of online purchases being three times higher than those of instore purchases in the U.S. (Accenture, 2019). Pavlou, Liang and Xue (2007) proposed four factors leading to uncertainty in online buyer-seller relationships;
- Perceived information asymmetry – The physical separation of customer and seller leads to the seller knowing more about the product than the customer.
- Fears of seller opportunism – The product may not be as advertised by the seller.
- Information privacy concerns – Concern from the customer over the seller misusing
their personal data.
- Information security concerns – Concern from the customer over the seller misusing
their credit card information.
The perceived information asymmetry and fear of seller opportunism are things that can be directly affected by the presentation of the online product. The lack of physical sensory information created by the physical distance between the customer and seller makes it difficult for the customer to feel confident in what they are buying (Liu, Jiang, & Chan, 2019).
When a customer is in a store, they can interact with and judge the product in their own physical environment (Krishna, 2012). Manipulating the product (through touching or rotating) creates data points in the customer’s mental image of the product (Park, Stoel, & Lennon, 2008). This allows them to predict how the product will behave in their ownership, should they purchase it. The less sensory information about the product the customer has, the more they have to rely on mental imagery (Liu et al., 2019).
Customers synthesise information from different senses about the product in this information search stage of the purchase decision. This information is used to predict other qualities of the product to form an overall evaluation. The less sensory information about the product the customer has, the more they have to rely on mental imagery (Liu et al., 2019).
The difference in how much information a user can gather about a product online compared to the same product offline is clear based on the research presented above. The lack of physical proximity severely impacts the sensory information contributing to the Information Search stage of the Buyer Decision Process, leading to a greater product uncertainty for online products.
AR & 3D Opportunity
Online products are typically presented as a series of photos showing the product from relevant angles. As the user is not able to physically manipulate the product, the images act as reference points for a mental image.
As mobile devices have become more powerful, more powerful graphical displays have become possible. Not every online retailer has the resources to produce a native application for a smartphone. This means that their users are shopping in the browser, which is more limited technologically than a native application would be. Efforts have been made in the last five years to bring aspects of the native experience to the browser, allowing browsers to access native systems such as speakers or camera.
Studies like Park, Stoel and Lennon (2008) have shown that 3D product presentation leads to a clearer mental image of the product, which in turn, leads to a higher certainty and confidence with it. The idea is that AR, by way of "placing" the product in the user's real context will provide an even clearer mental image and start to bridge the gap between instore and online shopping.
TL;DR: People build an understanding of products from sensory information. Picking up a product in a store gives loads of sensory information (visual, touch, smell etc.) whereas buying a product online with just 2D images to go on gives very little. The idea is that AR can be somewhere in the middle, which would mean a massive jump in product certainty online.