AR Will Generate New, Parallel Universe Of Virtual Things: Meghna Saraogi, mirrAR

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Meghna Saraogi, CEO and Founder, mirrAR, talks about the journey and more

What made you start mirrAR?
Starting my journey from a graphic designer to shifting to an entrepreneur, my journey has been glorious. I had the privilege to be among one of the ten women entrepreneurs to be selected for WEQ and the top 20 women in cosmopolitan. Through mirrAR I have built the world’s first-of-its-kind augmented reality (AR) tech platform that lets shoppers virtually try on jewellery, eyewear, and makeup virtually or place products such as furniture and home appliances in their physical surroundings for virtual interaction before making a purchase. I aim to work with retailers from around the world; I will help them go digital with mirrAR and provide a wonderful user experience for those who wish to shop for and try on fashion accessories online. 

The world was transitioning into a digital domain and social media was changing people's lives and that made me foresee how Augmented Reality (AR) might fundamentally revolutionise the user experience in the eCommerce industry, and then I founded mirrAR in 2017. This omnichannel solution makes use of Augmented Reality to provide consumers with the opportunity to virtually try on merchandise, thus enabling contactless purchasing with a reinvigorated edge, particularly after the pandemic when people's interest drifted majorly towards online shopping.

Post diving deep into the jewellery industry with brands such as Forevermark & Tanishq, we’re looking to extend mirrAR to multiple Industries such as Beauty, Eyewear, Handbags, Furniture & more. It’s been an incredible journey so far where our seamless world-class virtual try-on has helped amplify sales & customer engagement for our portfolio brands. We’re heading towards experiential retail & immersive experiences are at the forefront of global innovation, making mirrAR key to successful business model.

What are the growth numbers in terms of customer retention?
Pre-covid, the market saw a rise of uses with the number of try-ons, whereas post-covid, the adoption of AR has expanded 10 folds. These are some growth statistics related to mirrAR that are noteworthy. SKUs in the inventory have multiplied by 5 times. Enterprise clients have contributed more than 100K SKUs to virtual try-on, according to the comprehensive data. Regarding the customer benchmark statistics, there has been a 37 per cent improvement in conversions, a 21 per cent decrease in returns, a 37 per cent decrease in bounce rate, and a 203 per cent rise in overall engagement time.

How will the global market for Retail AR fare through the anticipated time frame?
The augmented reality in the retail market was valued at USD 411.3 million in 2017 and is expected to reach USD 7,951.2 million by 2023, at a CAGR of 47.1 per cent during the forecast period between 2018 and 2023. To improve the shopping experience for customers, several forward-thinking e-Commerce merchants and store owners are utilising mirrAR's augmented reality. AR in retail physically puts the user's buying experience in their hands. AR in retail optimises how retailers interact with their prospects and enrich the whole shopping experience for customers. The global AR in the retail industry is anticipated to be driven by this factor. AR in retail also gives retailers a way to use augmented reality-based product catalogues and applications to lessen the drawbacks of not having a showroom. The product return rate is also decreased due to this function provided by mirrAR in retail, and consumer loyalty and happiness are increased.

Will fashion-tech dominate the Indian market for augmented reality in retail?
The Indian fashion industry is thinking about utilising augmented reality to connect with consumers in the post-Covid-19 era. With perhaps one or two exceptions, such as mirrAR, the technology that is currently available hasn't yet been utilised to its full potential. The success rate of virtual reality as a medium is still unknown, though, as it is virgin ground. The digital reach will undoubtedly increase, but for fashion-tech, the focus is on the business of fashion, not the reach. AR needs to become a legitimate business in order to obtain acceptance. And right now, its regional influence is seen powerfully in all of India's major cities.

What are the preceding driving forces behind the growth of the fashion-tech AR market?
Fashion is a cyclical and forward-thinking industry, just like technology. From the sewing machine's development to e-commerce, the fashion industry has always been at the forefront of innovation. The fashion industry is one of the biggest in the world and is expected to be valued at over $3T by the end of the decade. At the moment, fashion tech is developing more quickly than ever. A variety of breakthroughs demonstrate how technology is automating, personalising, and accelerating the fashion industry. These innovations include robots that sew and cut fabric, AI algorithms that forecast fashion trends, and clothing that can be worn in virtual reality. Fashion firms are collaborating with technology suppliers like mirrAR, purchasing startups, and even developing their technology as a means of expanding their revenue streams and business models. In the meantime, the industry is reviewing processes throughout the value chain to reinvent itself as it faces a long-overdue confrontation with its environmental and social consequences.

How will future market opportunities, restrictions, and drivers affect the dynamics of AR for the retail industry?
The retail environment and the new paradigm is changing. The depth and breadth of the merchandise are no longer as important for success at the shelf as providing memorable customer experiences. To maintain their position at the table, retailers must adjust to modern trends. Currently, the retail market is being guided by four key factors. Technologies, customers, workers, and markets. In all OECD nations, the retail sector is of utmost importance. It serves as a point of entry for consumers from upstream industries, contributes over 5 per cent of the GDP, and employs roughly 1 in 12 people. To protect the retail sector from the crisis' consequences and strengthen its resilience, countries need to implement the following five policy steps right now for the benefit of businesses, employees, and consumers:

  • Encourage retail businesses to adopt social exclusionary practices
  • Make sure there is still enough competition in the industry following the crisis
  • By varying their sales channels, particularly by assisting small brick-and-mortar stores in going online, retail companies can become more resilient

What innovations can be expected from mirrAR to drive a ground-breaking revolution?
mirrAr is an AR platform that enables retailers to offer a service that allows customers to digitally try on their merchandise, from anywhere across the globe. 

The technology has been embraced by stores in several industries, allowing you to experience AR with jewellery, fashion, eyeglasses, watches, cosmetics and much more. Several well-known brands have adopted AR technology by integrating the solution into their websites, branded apps, social media profiles, and offline retail stores. 

The firm has digitised more than 2L+ items and has facilitated more than 119L+ try-on across their clientele. mirrAR serves brands of all sizes, from enterprises to single locations, in tier I and tier II cities. The goal is to provide all new brands with a realistic virtual try-on experience. Retail entrepreneurs assert to have seen an increase in sales by 30 per cent, refinement in consumer engagement by 160 per cent, and a reduction in returns by 37%. Isn't that fantastic for the consumer and the retailer?

What are the key strategies used by players to survive in the Indian and global AR industry for retail? How will these strategies affect the development and competition of AR in the retail market?
In 2017, the retail market for augmented reality was worth $411.3 million. It is expected to increase at a CAGR of 47.1% and reach $7,951.2 million by the end of 2023. The sector is working hard to survive and prosper given the business dynamics and changes in customer behaviour. The retail industry places a high priority on the customer experience. The players hope to provide consumers with convenience and customization based on their demands by leveraging the power of technology. Among the many technologies on disposal, augmented reality is showing promise as a game-changing tool for the retail sector. The retail industry is undergoing a significant digital shift as a result of immersive technology, particularly augmented reality. This cutting-edge technology is modernising the market and preparing it for the future of digital commerce. Users are now relying on the capabilities of AR to handle the varied and changing needs of consumers as well as the dynamics of the industry. AR gives users convenience at their fingertips, promotes personalisation, and gives AR-enabled businesses a competitive edge.

The main variables influencing Augmented Reality adoption in the retail business will be increased online shopping, rising smartphone penetration, and use of linked devices. The urgent necessity of the hour is to make the best use of AR while taking your services and target consumer base into consideration. Thanks to AR empowerment, the retail market's future is bright.

What are the opportunities and risks that the vendors in the Indian AR in the retail industry must deal with?
In the upcoming years, Augmented Reality will generate a new, parallel universe of virtual things with solace and efficiency, thanks to cutting-edge hardware and software. The AR/VR market in India, which was estimated to be worth $1.83 billion in FY20, is now anticipated to rise at a CAGR of 38 per cent through FY27 and reach $88.4 billion by 2026. A variety of things, from deployment to use cases, from hardware to software and apps. The current deployment is just falling short of what users anticipate, who need immediate and highly customised solutions. The fast digital transformation is what is fuelling the growth of the AR markets in India. The main factors propelling the growth of the AR markets across India are the accessibility of various devices, growing industry adoption of head-mounted displays, technological advancements, increasing digitisation, and high investments in the AR market.

What kind of product, end-user, or application would be looking for incremental growth prospects?
Product-led growth (PLG) is an end-user-focused growth strategy that depends on the product for attracting, converting, and growing a customer base. The end user is growing in importance as the software market is constantly changing. This market shift undoubtedly has an impact on how businesses conduct themselves, but it is seldom revolutionary. The quantity of digital information at our disposal and the real world in which we use it is fundamentally at odds with one another. The rich data we currently have to guide our decisions and actions are still confined to two-dimensional displays, even though the reality is three-dimensional. The gap between the physical and digital worlds prevents us from fully utilising the wealth of data and insights. This gap is expected to be filled by Augmented Reality, a set of technologies that superimpose digital information and images in the real world. This will unleash previously unrealized and especially human powers. It will alter how we make decisions, and engage with the physical environment in the upcoming years. Additionally, it will alter how businesses interact with customers, educate staff, develop products, control their value chains, and, eventually, compete.

What upstream raw materials and manufacturing tools are used in retail augmented reality?
With minimal involvement, augmented reality (AR) aims to overlay digital features over real-world perspectives. Marker-based and markerless augmented reality are the two subtypes. Your ability to display your images and information will depend on which of these AR kinds you select. Irrespective of the type, all users of augmented reality get an immersive experience. The most popular ways to experience augmented reality (AR) currently include glasses or a camera lens, but as interest in the technology grows, new hardware and lens options are being made available. AR is typically made up of five important parts; Artificial intelligence, AR software, Processing, Lenses, and Sensors.

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