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Augmented Reality Is Changing How We Shop

augmented reality

Augmented Reality Is Changing How We Shop

Consumer shopping habits and preferences are rapidly evolving—and it can be hard for e-commerce marketers to plan when they can’t anticipate the next major change. In a market defined by uncertainty, business intelligence has become essential to monitoring trends and making better business decisions. And right now, one of the key drivers to watch is the rise of augmented reality (AR)—and how it will influence consumer purchases.

Gone are the days of having to wait for an online order to arrive to see exactly how it will fit in your home or look on your face. AR, or augmented reality, is allowing e-commerce platforms to give their customers a more immersive shopping experience by showing how new furniture will look in a room, or how their new makeup can look once it’s applied. AR is gaining traction quickly: it was used by over 100 million shoppers in 2021, and it’s predicted to grow even more in years to come. By 2025, more than 75% of smartphone users will be frequent AR users. Right now, we’re in the early days, and the impact of a technology like this can be a game changer for e-commerce marketers looking to deliver immersive, engaging customer experiences.

How do you incorporate AR? What’s meaningful to your customers? What are your competitors doing? These are key questions to consider in shaping strategy, and it’s essential to leverage business intelligence for your planning and decision-making. Line Item can provide this insight into what is and what isn’t working for your business’s e-commerce; it can also help you monitor and evaluate emerging trends in your market so you can make more informed, strategic decisions. This includes information at the product attribute level as well as insight into your SEO and campaign performance and much more—all via a single, powerful platform purpose-built for CPG and e-commerce.

New technology shapes the shopper experience

How does AR work? AR takes the image captured on a device’s camera and imposes an image or effect over it. It’s a powerful tool to overcome one of the biggest friction points (and risks) of online shopping: the dreaded “not as described.” About 30% of all products bought online are returned (compared to an approximate 9% return rate for brick-and-mortar purchases), with 22% of those returns attributed to the product looking different than described. A customer’s ability to have greater confidence in a product before purchasing can help curb those return rates.

Brands like Ikea are utilizing AR to show shoppers what a product will look like in their homes. A shopper considering buying a new piece of furniture could use their phone’s camera to view the area where they plan to place the furniture, and the AR technology would place a 3D model of the furniture into the landscape, providing views from multiple angles.

AR, of course, is not limited to furniture. According to Shopify, Bumbleride, a stroller company, and Gunner Kennels have both been using AR to allow potential customers to see how much space the product will occupy in their home or on the sidewalk, and if their dog will fit in a specific crate. This allows shoppers to get a deeper feeling for how a product will look or function once they have it, giving them more purchase confidence. And it translates to better business performance: Bumbleride and Gunner Kennels reported 33% and 40% increases in order conversion rates, respectively.

AR can also work for CPG brands. Cosmetic heavyweight Sephora is implementing a “Virtual Artist” feature to layer the appearance of makeup over the face of a potential buyer (similar to a filter on social media apps). The buyer can sample different makeups quickly without ever having to go into a brick-and-mortar store. AR will give consumers new avenues to explore products—upping the ante for e-commerce brands. According to Shopify product lead Ryan Smith, AR functions in e-commerce “will be ubiquitous by 2023.”

Staying on top of trends

How could AR strengthen your e-commerce strategy or enhance customer experience? What competitors in your category are already implementing it? Staying on top of trends in a dynamic market with rapid shifts in consumer preferences is challenging; powerful business intelligence enabled by Line Item makes it easier.

AR isn’t the only trend to watch. Are there any new competitors out there, undercutting your pricing or appearing first in search results? What product attributes are driving value? Line Item provides better business intelligence to answer questions like these. Through its proprietary AI engine, which calculates attributes for style, form, packaging, flavor and much more, Line Item can help you analyze what’s really motivating preferences and purchases.

Line Item also helps to ensure accuracy and consistency in product descriptions and images, which can affect search engine rankings and page one results. Line Item can identify if your items are overpriced or if your promotions are working.

In a constantly evolving marketplace, understanding what is working for you—and your competitors—can help you make strategic changes and execute smarter strategies for more successful e-commerce. It all starts with better business intelligence. This makes Line Item your lifeline to more profitable ecommerce.


Ironbridge Software was founded in 1989 by Mike Dickenson. Mike’s unparalleled expertise and passion for technology led him to create the first-ever analytical solution for the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry.


CPG e-Commerce without Business Intelligence

We’re more than a year now into a new era for CPG e-commerce.For years, CPG e-commerce has lagged behind retail e-commerce. Consumers who ordered clothes, shoes, and gadgets online without a second thought still relied on the Target, Costco or grocery run for CPG staples like personal care and consumables. Why? Old habits die hard.

Now, everything has changed—and fast. E-commerce took a leap into the future during COVID-19. At first, it was about contact avoidance and social distancing, but now it’s becoming about convenience. We’re simply ordering more and, during the last year, circumstances have changed old habits.

In this new e-commerce era, these shifting patterns are making demand harder to predict, and they are creating new challenges while also opening new opportunities. Businesses need better insights to make better decisions, or they are going to lose out.

This is where Line Item is a game-changer. This performance analytics platform gives consumer packaged goods (CPG) and e-commerce marketing managers business intelligence on e-analytics and product attributes to drive revenue and profitability.

With Line Item, CPG brands can revolutionize their ability to respond to the market and gain valuable insights into changing demand patterns to unlock growth.

Without this kind of business intelligence, they risk being left out in the “new normal” of CPG e-commerce. Here’s a closer look at the risks of CPG e-commerce without business intelligence.

Risk: Missing out on key trends
Yes, the way consumers shop has changed, but understanding this at the meta level and the category level are two different things. It’s essential to understand what trends are shaping the category for your brands and products—and this is almost impossible without business intelligence.

Line Item tracks hundreds of items in each product category, helping e-commerce managers monitor new products, brands, and competitors. Line Item also reveals which items are newly trending to enable new insights into the competition.

Risk: Missing out on buying behavior
Understanding how, when, and where consumers are buying is critical in a market driven by demand fluctuations. Brands that can gain visibility into how product attributes, pricing, and promotions perform can understand how to adjust their strategy to maximize marketing activity and grow their online sales.

Built especially for CPG and e-commerce, Line Item makes this level of insight possible, providing deep e-analytics that reveal more about promotion strategy, third-party activity, and attribute-level data.

Risk: Missing out on sales
When demand can change daily, it can be difficult to balance inventory. Overstocking eats into the bottom line, but understocking does, too. No one wants to wait when they’re ready to buy. When your product is out of stock, consumers will buy something else.

Line Item can provide insights that tell you if out-of-stocks are hurting revenue. This business intelligence can help CPG brands grow online sales.

Risk: Missing out on personalized marketing
Personalized marketing requires understanding consumer behavior and preferences. With better business intelligence across a product portfolio, brands can create unique offers, cross-promotional campaigns, and upsells.

Line Item can enable superior insights, including integrating data with AMZ Brand Analytics, Retail Link, Partnersonline and more to provide better insight faster.

Risk: Missing out on better decision-making
Going forward, the most successful online brands will be those that have visibility into how product attributes, pricing, and promotions perform, so they can optimize their e-commerce strategies. They must understand what is driving value, especially in a market that can shift rapidly.

Line Item enables a deep dive into each product, capturing all attributes to determine what is driving value for better decision-making. This insight can also help e-commerce marketers monitor competitor activity and see new market entrants.

Ultimately, better business intelligence is a business imperative for CPG brands. Without BI, brands risk missing out on trends, competitors, opportunities and more—and this affects the bottom line. Line Item empowers you with a single platform for better insight into what’s driving sales or what’s working against you. It’s your lifeline to more profitable CPG e-commerce.




The Internet has been hailed as a driver of growth, opening new sales opportunities to a multitude of industries that may have once been limited by geography. That, coupled with international supply chains and a global delivery network, has paved the way for a new economy, one that isn’t limited by borders, distance, or any other barrier that could hinder the growth of commerce. But this is not a one-way street paved with gold, because along with unprecedented opportunity has come unprecedented competition. Just as we can easily enter new markets, a new upstart anywhere in the world today can pose a significant competitive threat tomorrow.  

This shift in the competitive environment has been particularly challenging for retailers.  While e-commerce opened the door for extraordinary levels of growth for virtually any business that takes advantage of this incredible sales avenue, it also created new competitors and the need to develop new capabilities to serve new channels to market. Retailers that have been slow to respond have been left competing amongst themselves for a smaller and smaller share of consumer spending. But this is the order of evolution. As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

In the unique climate brought on by 2020 – one of social distancing, minimal store visits, and an increase in online shopping –with e-commerce, which was once berated by retailers for their downfall, has become a lifeline for businesses and an essential service for most of the world. The winners in the pandemic have been those that quickly shifted and adapted to the new realities; be it retailers that could satisfy the demand for click and collect or home deliveries. Or even the brands that could shift quickly to more direct-to-consumer (D2C) sales or the beverage suppliers that could shift their beer supply from kegs for bars to cans for home consumption. Agility and resilience are not new concepts and were in vogue prior to the pandemic, but for many, these supply chain capabilities are now a top strategic priority. 

One of the big winners from the pandemic has been a company whose origins as an e-tailer which, while novel at the time, was not particularly earth-shattering as they offered an endless library of books that could be shipped almost anywhere. This retailer gradually increased the number of items that were offered and began to use data and algorithms to adjust product prices on-the-fly. The company eventually made it possible to sell products faster and more efficiently than anyone else. And on top of that, it slowly constructed a distribution network that was more agile, resilient, and far-reaching than anyone could have ever imagined. 

Compete in the face of insurmountable odds

All of this begs an important question: How can any company expect to keep up with this retailer? If its attributes don’t sound immediately familiar, then its name certainly will: Amazon. Built on the growth of the Internet and an always-connected, on-demand world, Amazon became a stalwart unlike any other.

Amazon’s growth isn’t as complex as it sounds. The company has managed to successfully dominate a multitude of sectors – and continues to seek out new areas of growth, including groceries and pharmaceuticals – by using what could be described as a very simple process. In short, Amazon is very agile. But there is another element to the Amazon secret sauce, which was also mentioned by Darwin. Much of Amazon’s agility is driven by intelligence. Amazon has amassed a very significant amount of data. While the vast majority of data is not leveraged by most businesses that collect it –as much as 68 percent per as much as 68% per researchers at IDC – Amazon utilizes as much data as possible. This online retail leader uses its data to gain insights into the likes of price elasticities and demand shifts. If an item increases in overall popularity across all retailers, Amazon may very well be the first to know about it, providing a notable edge in reaching those who want it most.

The obvious success of Amazon’s intelligence has awoken many retailers and brands in the Consumer-Packaged Goods (CPG) industry. Companies such as Nike have shifted sales online during the pandemic, during which time Nike managed to increase the D2C channel to now account for 33 percent of total sales. This provides Nike with access to a lot of additional information about its own customers and demand patterns from which it can garner powerful insights. This ability to analyze Point of Sale (POS) data quickly and gain insights is the first part of the Amazon advantage. The second part is the ability to respond to this intelligence in close to real-time through empowered processes and an agile network.  

Persevere even when challenges persist

Incumbents may not be terribly enthused by Amazon’s capabilities, but they are catching on. They recognize the fact that if they aren’t careful, the digital retail giant might do to them what it has already done to booksellers. But is the only solution for brands to embrace D2C and must retailers just accept their fate and take what they can get from a company that has revolutionized the way the world shops?  

The surprising answer is that businesses are not at Amazon’s mercy. Yes, Amazon is a powerful force and it should not be taken lightly by any enterprise looking to sell products anywhere. But we have to look to Amazon for inspiration and take what Amazon does and improve it. The answer is not new either. It lies in virtual supply chains.

Don’t try to beat them – partner with them

Businesses that operate in the same supply chain often see each other as competitors and, consequently, relationships can be adversarial. This is a natural reaction – there are only so many dollars to share around, and only so many items that people are interested in acquiring. However, they need to realign that thinking and recognize that it is actually supply chains that compete, not companies. Martin Christopher, professor at Cranfield School of Management, famously said, “Individual businesses no longer compete as standalone entities, but rather as supply chains. We are now entering the era of ‘network competition’ where the prizes will go to those organizations who can better structure, coordinate and manage the relationships with their partners in a network committed to better, faster, and closer relationships with their final customers.”  

Supply chains will always be physical – that will not change as long as there are physical goods that need to be manufactured, shipped, and acquired. What can change is the collaboration between businesses and the outcome of the process. 

This enables Amazon to have a long tail of products while most businesses focus on rationalizing SKUs. The e-tail giant makes it possible for consumers to find whatever they want through its distribution system in which it can locally store the most frequently purchased items and rely on its massive network to deliver the rest within two days at viable costs.

So how can other businesses compete? Consider the network that many of them already have in place. Brands like Hugo Boss and Nike are doing more D2C sales, which is one component of the virtual supply chain, providing the company with end-to-end control of its relationship with and delivery to the consumer. By selling directly to those who wish to purchase their products, brands will ultimately gain Amazon-like benefits, including in-depth insights from the data it gathers as a result of those sales. 

But these brands – and the retailers and suppliers that service them – could all further benefit by joining forces in a virtual supply chain. 

Integrate with suppliers to improve agility

Businesses can begin by understanding that while the need to control their supply chains is valid, they don’t necessarily need to own them. Instead, brands should consider the effects of Amazon’s dominance – the e-tail leader is forcing collaboration to create these virtual supply chains. Brands must partner with retailers in order to compete and they must be willing to sell directly to consumers. And retailers must embrace omnichannel and collaborate with brands if they are to improve the viability of the “‘virtual supply chains”’ that they find themselves within. 

Brands found that they could foster new relationships, create stronger bonds, and more intimately reach their customers by going directly to them. This has led to distinct advantages in the form of POS data that would normally be relinquished to a retailer. By attaining this information through direct sales, businesses can learn more about who’s buying their products and make smarter, more targeted decisions going forward.

The question is then what to do with the information and insights. The winner is not the most intelligent supply chain but the most intelligent and suitably agile supply chain from end to end that wins. Yet most businesses continue to struggle with traditional planning strategies just within their own four walls, particularly S&OP. Survey after survey reports that approximately 50 percent% of companies consider that their S&OP process are not fit for purpose.  This is both because of cumbersome processes and also the lack of network transparency and visibility.

In an increasingly volatile world, the winner will operate and compete from within virtual supply chains that are truly connected from end to end with real-time information, rapid decisions, and orchestrated network response. This requires the virtual supply chain to be global – powered by information and empowered by collaboration.  

Virtual supply chains are required for smooth global trade

In addition to shifting competition due to globalization, demand and supply-side shocks are inevitable and have increased in frequency. This is not necessarily because the world is more volatile, which may or may not be the case, but certainly, because supply chains are now truly global and so a shock anywhere in the world can immediately disrupt these fragile networks. That is not likely to change even when the world feels normal again, so the pandemic should be thought of as a “stress test” for planning systems. Case in point: what hasn’t worked well in this situation is not working well with smaller day-to-day challenges.

Enabling virtual supply chains also requires a new way of supply chain planning – a strategy that is focused on real-time, event-based scenario planning that will enable businesses to quickly and effectively respond to changing scenarios. It’s a strategy that makes it possible to evaluate feasible options and determine the best decision for optimal results.

But good scenario planning is hard to achieve when the underlying processes are not designed for managing events. However, with planning processes that focus on managing events – such as promotions, product launches or capacity changes and how they might impact operations – businesses will be better equipped to withstand or entirely avoid future challenges and disruptions. Only then will it be possible to create a truly virtual, real-time supply chain that can ebb and flow with real-world demands and disruptions and persevere through the most difficult scenarios.

Anticipated events are just the beginning

The aftershocks of COVID-19 were once considered to be an anomaly – an unanticipated event that few could have predicted. Now that businesses have been living with the pandemic for roughly a year, they may feel that they are more prepared for another event of this magnitude. It wasn’t easy to get to this point and the challenges brought on by the pandemic are still challenging many. But after months of stay-at-home orders and supply and demand fluctuations, enterprises have learned to cope. Now the focus is switching to how businesses can learn to be more prepared for the next unforeseen challenge. 

New and unexpected events will occur, that is a given, and supply chains must react accordingly. Whether dealing with political coups, trade wars, or even the threat of another pandemic or comparable world event, supply chain agility and resiliency are the keys to ensuring businesses can keep up. Whatever these events are, scenario planning, scenario planning, driven by data and the insights they provide, empowers people to make rapid decisions while making it possible to share info with suppliers and orchestrate the network for outstanding success.

It is absolutely vital that supply chains become and remain agile and resilient beyond these trying times, knowing full well that the world can turn upside down at any moment. Businesses and supply chain networks that are prepared for sudden changes – whatever they may be, and in whatever shape they may come – will be the ones that are capable of not only surviving but thriving in the face of adversity.

Amazon demonstrated the power of data – now others can use it to their advantage

If the rise of Amazon has taught us anything, it’s that businesses must evolve in order to compete. Likewise, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that agility and resiliency are essential to building the very best supply chains. Both challenges are critically linked: if a business fails to survive one – the current climate or a dot-com retailer that took the world by storm – it will be difficult to survive the other.

Amazon is, in a sense, more predictable than the pandemic in that we already know the company’s next move: continued growth by dominating an ever-growing portfolio of industries. On the other hand, we don’t know every challenge the pandemic could bring, nor could anyone predict the next disruptive, Amazon-sized empire. As new technologies and new forms of commerce are introduced, who knows what’s possible?

No one does – and that’s precisely why agility, resiliency and event-based real-time scenario planning are needed. By developing a strategy with all of those components front and center, businesses will have what they need to create supply chains that can endure the worst and persevere with superior, more reliable results.


Antony Lovell is vice president, Applications, at Vuealta, a Global Anaplan Partner that helps organizations around the world solve complex planning challenges, through the delivery of a suite of applications powered by the Anaplan Connected Planning Platform. Founded in London, Vuealta has its U.S. headquarters in New York City as well as offices throughout Europe and Asia. 



Today, leading global logistics company C.H. Robinson and world-renowned data analytics company SAS announced a partnership to rewrite the way global supply chains work as they become increasingly more complex. Until now, supply chain demand planning and shipping execution often worked in autonomous siloes without connection, digital integration, or real-time visibility. This partnership will solve that problem by creating a first-of-its-kind offering: an end-to-end supply chain solution that integrates inventory and demand signal data with real-time transportation data. Steering a supply chain from a centralized operation like this will allow companies more fluid adjustments in scheduling, carriers, and responses to changing consumer demand while inventory is still moving on the ground.

Retail and CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies in North America will benefit first from this integration, although it is designed to eventually fill the gap between business and logistical planning across all industries.

“The C.H. Robinson and SAS collaboration uses data and analytics to solve a gargantuan supply chain problem: agility,” said Brian Kilcourse, retail and CPG analyst at RSR Group. “As 2020’s shortages illustrated, COVID pushed retailers and consumer goods companies over the supply chain cliff. The C.H. Robinson-SAS partnership combines data from retailers and consumer goods companies with logistics and transportation data to build faster, more resilient, cost-effective shipping methods that honor traditional models while clearing a path for needed innovation.”

According to SAS’ Richard Widdowson, Vice President of Global Retail & CPG Solutions, the future winners in transforming retail supply chains will be those who change their mindset from long-term planning to agile planning by effectively leveraging data to make adjustments in real time. “Powered by SAS and mobilized by C.H. Robinson, this partnership helps companies see their supply chains in a new light,” Widdowson said. “It will help make opportunities and challenges visible as they happen so our customers can accomplish more – even during a disruption of pandemic proportions.”

Within an integrated data loop, SAS triggers a demand plan which feeds into C.H. Robinson’s dynamic transportation procurement tool. In turn, that connects into the world’s largest supply chain management platform, Navisphere, to provide real time visibility of inventory, which then links back and informs SAS’ Intelligent Planning suite. This means a retailer or maker of packaged goods, for example, can connect its corporate demand plans to products and freight on the move. They then can better react to real-time changes in demand, such as surge in consumer interest, and real-time changes in transportation factors, such as inclement weather.

“By establishing this unprecedented information loop, we are transforming the procurement process and giving companies the information advantage and flexibility needed to better compete in today’s rapidly evolving transportation marketplace,” said C.H. Robinson’s chief commercial officer Chris O’Brien. “Rather than relying solely on an annual transportation contract event which frequently becomes out of sync with real-world variables, we can build a more dynamic procurement plan that can flex based on real-time changes in product demand and the transportation market. More than ever, supply chain agility, based on real-time data, can be a competitive advantage for companies.”

“Our work with C.H. Robinson and others at the MIT FreightLab has shown that the freight transportation industry needs innovation in procurement and demand-planning to reduce cost, minimize risk, and increase the level of service for shippers,” said Chris Caplice, Executive Director of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics (CTL) and FreightLab. “This partnership helps move the industry forward in the right direction of a more responsive and agile transportation procurement solution.”

For more information on the SAS and C.H. Robinson partnership, or to request a demo of the integrated tools, visit


About C.H. Robinson

C.H. Robinson solves logistics problems for companies across the globe and across industries, from the simple to the most complex. With nearly $20 billion in freight under management and 18 million shipments annually, we are one of the world’s largest logistics platforms. Our global suite of services accelerates trade to seamlessly deliver the products and goods that drive the world’s economy. With the combination of our multi-modal transportation management system and expertise, we use our information advantage to deliver smarter solutions for our more than 119,000 customers and 78,000 contract carriers. Our technology is built by and for supply chain experts to bring faster, more meaningful improvements to our customers’ businesses. As a responsible global citizen, we are also proud to contribute millions of dollars to support causes that matter to our company, our Foundation and our employees. For more information, visit (Nasdaq: CHRW).

About SAS

SAS is the leader in analytics. Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. SAS gives you THE POWER TO KNOW®.