Prototype AR shopping devices could benefit both consumers and retailers – new study

Augmented reality (AR) could change the way we buy clothes in the future.

Ever since the COVID pandemic, shoppers have become increasingly more comfortable with buying their clothes online rather than visiting shops.

Equally Generation Z (born since 1997) consumers have grown up in a digital world and are far more comfortable buying products at the touch of a button rather than in a physical space.

But encouraging shoppers back into stores and away from e-commerce is essential for fashion retailers who want to maintain their ‘brand value’.

A new study by researchers from Loughborough University has found that AR can offer a lifeline to such businesses.

The team tested two prototype AR shopping aides (AR Branded App and Magic Mirror) which were designed to encourage consumers to engage in physical shopping activities.

Dr Chris Parker, of Loughborough’s Design School, said: “The AR development industry faces a problem… that designers’ current approach to AR is ineffective.

“If we can design better AR apps, retailers may adopt the technology for in- store use and increase customer footfall.”

Dr Cathryn Hart, of Loughborough’s School of Business and Economics, said: “The aim of our study is to investigate consumer value of AR within high street retailers, evaluate current value (Magic Mirror and scanning items), and explore how AR can offer consumers better in-store experiences.”

The results of the study have been published in a new paper, How augmented reality can enhance fashion retail: A UX design perspective, in the journal Emerald Insight.

It sets out ten design solutions for creating in-store AR shopping applications.

Design Aim

AR Solutions


Offering convenience

  1. Consumers can log in to their accounts, and it will save the preference for each consumer. According to the personal data, the App will personalise product suggestions for consumers.

Enhance consumer loyalty

Keep existing consumer group

Improving accessibility

  1. Keep the procedure simple, and avoid unnecessary steps and features

Reduce acceptance barriers

Appeal new consumers

Up-to-date information

  1. Show the number of stock left, avoid consumers cannot have it because someone bought it before they reached the store.

Increase consumer satisfaction

  1. Frequently update the navigation under store merchandising’s direction

Increase consumer satisfaction

Improve modelling accuracy

  1. Show size differences when virtual trying-on to help consumer decision-making

Increase purchasing intention

Increase stakeholder value

Improve the content richness

  1. Offer ‘Buy for others’ option enables consumers to select the most suitable item for others by uploading the photo

Increase enjoyment level

Increase overall profit

Keep seamless shopping experience

  1. AR functions should be consistent with the supporting facilities in the store.

(e.g., there will be hangers next to the AR Mirror for customers to place the item temporarily when they pick an item to scan for product information).

Increase consumer base

Encourage consumer motivation

  1. Integrate with other high-tech equipment
  2. Self-checkout to save time for queuing
  3. AI assistant to answer consumers’ queries

Increase consumer satisfaction


The study was made up of three phases:

  • A series of design workshops to identify consumer behaviours
  • Developing two AR prototypes (AR Branded App and Magic Mirror)

-          AR Branded App video prototyping

-          AR Magic Mirror video prototyping

  • Experience prototype sessions in a mock-shop

The results showed that consumers have a positive attitude towards using AR when shopping.

It was also important to design AR apps that provide substantial functional benefits with enjoyment-oriented elements. This way, consumers can interact with products and receive more information.

Lastly, AR can help luxury brands tell a story from a hedonic perspective, enabling consumers to engage with the story while maintaining human interaction to ensure an elevated level of service quality.

Former Loughborough PhD student, Dr Liangchao Xue, who now works at Dyson, said: “Retailers now face the challenge of developing a high-tech element to work with the customer journey.

“Our prototypes will meet shoppers’ utilitarian needs, but also increase hedonic value when shoppers interact with the prototype.

“This advantage is especially true for magic mirror that involves more interactive elements.

“However, retailers must consider store crowding caused by queuing for the mirror, and how to coordinate the efficient use of magic mirror and the fitting room.

“Therefore, to create a compelling shopping environment, this study suggests adopting a qualitative interface rather than a quantitative interface, allowing consumers to use marginal attention to perceive information quickly, rather than reading carefully with central attention.

“For example, put images of matching suggestions in marginal spaces rather than the text of product information.

“This would help users to complete tasks through simple contextual awareness, inference of user intent and user input minimisation.”


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/229

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2022 QS World University Rankings – the sixth year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.