man holding the smart phone, using the Augmented Reality buy some food in the supermarket

Augmented Reality vs. Image Recognition - The better bet for your retail business

There's a lot of chatter around how Augmented Reality will change the way people shop. While Augmented Reality holds value, every technology created has its specific use case. Retailers and brands must bear in mind the several aspects each of the technology provides and select those that align to their objectives and goals. Let's delve deeper into each of these technologies -

Image recognition

Image recognition technology enables consumers to search for products by just taking a picture of them. These visual experiences are usually more flexible in nature when compared to Augmented Reality experiences for the following reasons -

No requirement for users to download an extension or app 

While there are some versions of AR applications out there for mobile websites, it's still a long way from delivering a seamless experience for its users. AR experiences that perform well often require a user to download an app. Image recognition, here plays a pivotal role as it enables interactive experiences within a retailer's mobile web, and not just the native app.

There is no need for creating 3D models 

Developing 3D models for AR experiences can often be time-consuming and expensive. Due to its complicated nature, it even requires technical skills to deliver the experience. Image recognition can be used with the existing marketing and web collaterals and can be implemented with ease. Moreover, the changes made to the content will automatically be updated in the apps, keeping the experience up-to-date.

Providing a universal and inclusive experience for shoppers 

Devices play an important role when Augmented reality is concerned. The experience may differ between low-end and high-end user devices, with the highest quality devices getting the best results. This is not an issue with Image recognition as it allows brands and retailers to ensure that their content is delivered to their customers in the same, interactive manner, irrespective of the user's device.

Limitations of Image recognition vs AR

While Image recognition provides the aforementioned benefits, there are certain aspects that set Augmented Reality apart from Image recognition:

Content is visualized in a three-dimensional manner

The type of content linked to Image recognition often includes videos, promotions, product information pages, etc. which often aids the customer's purchase journey by allowing them to learn more about the products and it offers at one go. In AR, the content is represented in a three-dimensional format. The content visualized is not three-dimensional, unlike what many Augmented Reality experiences build upon.

Image recognition provides a transactional experience, not immersive

If a user/customer aims to visualize objects in their environment, Augmented reality can be a good option to choose from, as Image recognition limits the user or customer to place digital content into the real world. This comes especially handy while buying expensive furniture - with a 'try before you buy' functionality. The customer can use the functionality and get a feel of how it may appear against a realistic setup - and nudge him or her towards a purchase.


To put it briefly, image recognition helps create a smooth transition between the physical and the digital worlds and help customers through a shopping journey. It allows them to interact with real products with the help of the images and the product information. For instance, it allows the user to learn more about a product's nutritional values, the user ratings, allergens, check for its alternatives, similar products, complementary products, etc.

On the other hand, Augmented Reality goes from digital to physical. It lets customers interact with virtual products in their own environment when, in fact, are not present.

While they may support different use cases, both technologies can provide customers with different kinds of engaging experiences.

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