Augmented Reality (AR) has become the go-to choice for retailers when it comes to accurately representing their online products, but it wasn't always this way.
It all began with a few retailers that took the leap of faith and tested out an emerging technology that had shown promising results in the gaming, entertainment, medical, and even military industries. It was only then that the retail world turned its attention to this powerfully engaging technology.
Soon, it became stunningly clear that AR is not only fun for customers but can also increase revenue, minimize product returns, and even outperform traditional advertising. For these reasons, brands are doubling their AR advertising spend year after year, and 90% of brands are brainstorming how to incorporate AR into their business. And they should, considering an estimated 3.5 billion mobile users will be using augmented reality by 2022.
On that exciting note, let's take a look at the brands that started it all. Who knows, maybe one will spark an idea or two for your own business.
These furniture retail giants were among the first in their industry to trial AR mobile apps with their customers. In 2018, Wayfair introduced their Android app 'View in Room 3D', while IKEA launched 'IKEA Place' for both Android and iOS. Both apps have similar features where the shopper can scroll through their online product catalogue, tap on the item they like, and use their smartphone to view that item within their own space.
Both retailers soon discovered that allowing shoppers to turn their home into a virtual showroom gave them a newfound confidence when ordering online. It meant no more waiting until products arrived only to find the size wasn't right or the colour didn't quite match up, then sadly sending it back to the retailer. (It also saved customers from navigating the endless mazes in IKEA shops!)
These companies were the inspiration behind the AR efforts of many of today's furniture and home goods retailers, including Amazon and Target. One retailer, fonQ, recently tried their hand with their own AR mobile app to 'make online shopping easier for their customers'. After just two weeks, they discovered a 16% jump in conversions! Nowadays, they're wisely adding more products to their AR catalog—because as the CMO of fonQ. Jeriamah Albinus, has rightly said:
'AR will become just as standard as a product photo.'
The fashion industry sees an obscenely high number of product returns, for obvious reasons. You see a nice shirt online, order it, then when you actually try it on you find it's smaller than you thought—and back to the retailer it goes. The sad truth is half of all online shoppers expect to return their online apparel purchases.
In 2010, Converse decided to give shoppers the chance to 'try before they buy' with their Converse Sampler app. Customers simply had to choose the shoe they liked, point their iPhone at one foot and instantly see a virtual shoe on it. The app also supported in-app purchases so they could swiftly order the shoes they loved.
In 2012, Uniqlo took a slightly more inventive approach to AR with their famous Magic Mirror, which allowed customers in-store to see themselves wearing a certain item of clothing in every colour without actually having to try them all on. It didn't take long for queues of customers to fill their San Francisco shops, waiting for their turn with this unique AR feature!
Today, countless apparel retailers have embedded AR into their shopping experiences, both online and in-store. Just this year, in 2020, UK retailer ASOS launched an augmented reality fitting tool so online shoppers can see how clothes would look on their particular body type. This is just one of the ways brands are shifting AR from simply ‘entertaining’ to ‘empowering’.
Cosmetics are one of those products that can be uniquely difficult to buy online. It's why millions of people around the world rush into shops to dabble in the test samples, compare different shades, and ask shopping assistants for personalised advice.
This is where major brands like Sephora and L'Oreal have found AR to be a game-changer. With mobile apps like 'Sephora Virtual Artist' and L'Oreal's 'Makeup Genius', avid shoppers can try on hundreds of make-up products before heading to check-out. All they have to do is use the selfie camera to see themselves on-screen, select the products and shades they want to test, and voila. They can even turn their faces to see how it looks from every angle. Once they're ready to purchase, they can find the name and price at the top of the screen and a button to purchase it online. Simple.
These apps have not only proven immensely valuable to customers, but also to the retailers who didn't have a practical way of knowing what items certain people tested or discarded in stores. '[The AR app is] an immense source of data in terms of understanding what consumers like, and what they like less in terms of colors, looks, textures." says L'Oreal's chief digital officer.
Now, they can peek into the latest trends in real-time and bring their customers the makeup collections they're more likely to test and love.
Source: Living Wine Labels
When you think 'AR', your next thought doesn't automatically jump to 'alcohol'. That changed for many people after one of the world’s largest wine companies, Treasury Wines Estates, brought a whole new 'wow' factor to their bottles with AR wine labels.
Living Wine Labels was a novel initiative that invited wine-fans to learn more about their favourite bottles by scanning the label with their smartphone. On the screen, they'd watch the label come to life and tell them the history of the wine and give them tasting notes. The campaign was so influential that they earned a finalist spot at the 'Best Campaign at the 2018 Auggie Awards'!
But wine isn't the only thing getting a kick out of AR. Tequila brand Patrón launched The Patrón Experience AR app as an educational experience, in which users could watch a virtual bartender at the company’s distillery in Mexico give the history of the brand. But, once they passed 50,000 views and downloads, Patrón began to leverage their AR app to sell their bottles of tequila.
Looks like AR is helping consumers go beyond just drinking alcohol—to actually experiencing it.
So those are our top picks for most unforgettable AR experiences that inspired a new generation of augmented apps and webpages. If you have one in mind that you think should be on this list, let us know in the comments! If you liked reading this post and want to check out some more, feel free to explore the rest of our budding Blog and subscribe to our mailing list below (it's in the footer).