E-commerce and mobile technology has made purchasing and payments easier than ever in recent years. Consumers can buy whatever they need, wherever they are with the simple tap of a smartphone.

But image being able to pay for a piece of clothing with the simple nod of a head, or blink of an eye. Or visualizing how a piece of furniture might look in your living room in 3D, and buying it right away after your future living room looks just right.

This is where Augmented Reality (AR) is beginning to step in. Mobile AR tech, glasses, and headsets are all merging with payments to revolutionize things for both buyers and sellers. In many ways, AR and mobile payments are a match made in heaven

Streamlined Path to Purchase

If you actually think about it, mobile devices weren't designed for payments and e-commerce first and foremost. Pictures of items shoppers might want often result in slow loading times, and it can be time consuming to enter credit card or payment information on a smaller screen. But with AR, shoppers are offered an even more streamlined path to purchase than ever.

MasterCard, for example, has already introduced AR glasses enabled mobile payments through it's MasterPass program. Instead of having to log into their smartphone to complete a purchase, the AR headset simply scans the user's iris to verify identity before submitting payment. Identity verification has traditionally been one of the major mobile commerce friction points, with consumers sometimes having to receive a code or text from their credit card or bank. MasterCard's AR implementation is just one example of how the technology will streamline mobile payments for both buyers and sellers in the future.

Retail Experience Integration

Without AR technology, a shopper's mobile device can be a distraction from the overall retail experience. While customers can look up information about a specific item when they're in the store, that means consumers are looking down at their phones and not interacting with the merchandise, staff, or overall retail experience. But with AR, sellers can now integrate the entire retail experience - including payments - into one platform and device.

One great example of this is Lego's in-store augmented reality kiosks. Customers can take any Lego set in the store to the AR kiosk, and view on a screen in 3D what the completed set looks like when finished, in an interactive 3D format. Lego has also taken things a step further by introducing its own AR smartphone app that shoppers can use in store to interact with its products and characters on a deeper level. Customers can then seamlessly pay in-person at the retail location, or make a purchase via mobile on directly to Lego without ever having to wait in line.

Improved E-commerce Metrics

Mobile and e-commerce payments are not without drawbacks to businesses and retailers. Shoppers might see something they think they'll love while shopping on mobile, only to return it after it arrives because the product isn't exactly how they envisioned it. But merging AR with mobile payments can help improve on return rate and many other e-commerce metrics due to the enhanced product experience it offers. By showing people in 3D how a piece of furniture will look in their homes, AR solves for the problem of Asymmetric Information and takes much of the guesswork out of shopper, resulting in both a smoother payment process and reduction in returns.

AR also increases overall product engagement and likelihood of purchase. Shoppers actually spend four times as much time on an item's product page with AR than without it. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has recognized this, and is already allowing shoppers to step into a virtual Alibaba store utilizing AR. Utilizing a headset, Alibaba shoppers can grab products, examine and rotate them, add them to a shopping cart, and make payments all with the glance of an eye or nod of a head. What Alibaba recognizes is that shopper interaction with AR increases conversion rates, as consumers feel more invested in the purchase. And by integrating e-commerce mobile payments with AR, consumers can feel more confident with their purchase than ever.

Augmented reality is taking what smartphones have done with mobile payments and pushing the envelope even further. What brands like Alibaba, MasterCard, and Lego realize is that integrating AR with mobile payments not only makes the shopping experience more fun, interactive, and engaging, but also makes a ton of sense from a business perspective. By streamlining the buyer's journey and enhancing the in-store experience, smart brands are leveraging the perfect match of AR and mobile payments to make customers - and themselves - happier in the long run.