Zugara Interview: The Future of Shopping
Regular readers will know that we constantly rave about the guys at Zugara and how they are changing the way we shop online. Since meeting them a couple of years back they have continued to amaze us with their augmented reality, motion capture driven shopping experience and augmented reality games. To end the year we thought it would be a good time to catch-up with Jack Benoff, the VP of Products and Marketing for Zugara to find out more about what they have been doing and to give you an inside look at how Zugara are going to change the online shopping experience.
Augmented Planet: Jack, firstly thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions. Before we get to Webcam Social Shopper, tell us a little about Zugara
Jack Benoff: Sure thing. We’re a Los Angeles based augmented reality software development company focused on creating solutions that will change the way people shop online.
AP: We have written about Zagara a number of times and particularly about Webcam Social Shopper, but before we go too far, can you tell us a little more about what is is for those that haven’t yet experienced it.
JB: The Webcam Social Shopper is a piece of software that integrates directly into an apparel retailer’s site. It uses an online shopper’s webcam, a motion capture interface, augmented reality, and social media integration to replicate that offline moment at the rack where a shopper holds a dress or blouse up to herself, turns to a friend (or the mirror) and asks “what do you think, is this me?”. If you’re interested, you can demo it at www.webcamsocialshopper.com
AP: How did Zugara get involved with AR and retail?
JB: We saw a problem with online shopping. Namely, it’s a process not an experience. I mean, if you think about how you validate a purchase online, it hasn’t changed much since Amazon went live in 1995. You look at thumbnails and you click on them to see a larger image. We found it ridiculous that it’s still the same process. People are visual, social. And for many, shopping is visual and social. So we decided to solve that problem, and make shopping an experience. In 2009 we built a prototype, filed for some patents, and we’ve been iterating & productizing ever since.
AP: AR in my opinion is still somewhere between gimmicky and useful. What value does AR bring to the shopping experience?
JB: A ton. We’ve released some of the data on our corporate blog www.weareorganizedchaos.com, but two key metrics I’d point to are conversion rates and brand engagement. Once they add our software, retailers are seeing 50% more people adding items to their cart. And over 40% of their site visitors actually use our software. We know that experiences create brand loyalty offline and it’s not any different online. So the ROI that retailers are seeing is not only immediate, but long lasting.
AP: Is AR only for online shopping do you ever see it as being something that we’ll see in stores?
JB: There is absolutely a place for it in stores, and we definitely have a vision for what that will ultimately look like. I think the key is to make sure that the in store experience provides real value for the shopper. It needs to be its own experience, not just a port of what we’ve already built. If a dress is three feet away on a hanger, and a shopper can pick it up, and feel it… why would they stand in front of a digital representation of it? Sure, maybe for some initial novelty, but will there be long term value for them? I don’t think so. No. The in store solution must be much smarter, and must provide much more value.
AP: Webcam Social Shopper uses gesture recognition a lot, do you see it as being a core part of the overall experience?
JB: First, just to clarify, and I’m sorry if this comes off as nerdy but our technology is motion capture. Not gesture recognition. But to answer what you’re really asking: yes, it’s a core part of the shopper’s experience. And at the end of the day, it’s really about creating a great experience for shoppers. If a woman is standing five feet away from her computer checking out dresses, she don’t want to be running back and forth to her mouse and keyboard.
AP: Is there a typical profile of a consumer who engages with an AR shopping experience? I.e. old, young, boy girl?
JB: We’re definitely seeing a trend where the retailers that are adopting our technology tend to target younger shoppers. Gen Y and Z. And this makes sense. These shoppers grew up digitally and expect interactive experiences. They’re usually the early adopters.
AP: An aspect of the Webcam Social Shopper application is uploading photos of potential purchases to a social medial site for your friends to see. Does this impact the buyers purchasing decision?
JB: Absolutely. And it’s not just social media sites. Shoppers can send a picture via email too if they wish. We’re seeing 50% more shoppers adding items to their cart once a retailer integrates the Webcam Social Shopper. But friends and family impact on a purchase decision is no secret. There’s a Nielsen report on ecommerce that’s pretty relevant to this question. When looking at variables that can affect purchase intent, they stat that “shoppers still trust the recommendations of friends & family most.”
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