Augmented reality is set to transform both the in-store and brand experience

Thought Leadership
By Michelle Whelan, CEO, UK


With the recent Cannes Lions Festival in mind, I took note of two marketing frontiers dominating conversation: voice communications (think Alexa and Siri), and, visual communications (Snap is calling this “Camera Marketing”) embracing visual search, code scans and Augmented Reality (AR).

It occurred to me that by building visual communications into our communications strategies [anchored in AR] we can help brands and businesses bolster relevance in today’s modern marketing world.

AR: a new super-hero?

Despite all our hopes, the high street continues to shrink -  reports show the number of stores standing empty for over two years has risen by a fifth.

Meanwhile, Gartner predicts that, by 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in augmented reality with one in five global brands using AR for shopping by the end of 2017.

Our view is this:  AR will transform in-store and brand experience alike, offering competitive edge to companies brave enough to dive in.

Simply defined, AR is a technology that allows digital data to be overlaid onto a view of the physical world and is interactive in real time. Think Pokémon Go – launched in July 2016 –  which pushed mainstream adoption. To date, it’s been downloaded 500 million times globally, earning $10m per day at the height of its popularity.

And now AR is firmly on the marketing radar. Snapchat, probably the most widely used AR app, has remarkable reach: 166 million users spend 25 to 30 minutes in the app every day.  
Last year, Alex Bennett, a marketer at building society Nationwide, told Marketing Week that “you can potentially do as much with a Snapchat filter as a 90-second film”. Snap is now set to launch an augmented reality ad unit letting marketers add graphics to the front-facing camera - Warner Brothers, Netflix and Dunkin’ Donuts are already queuing up. 
Meanwhile, media platforms Snapchat, Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have all announced that AR will be central to their platforms.

In short, AR is penetrating our lives and we believe it will close the gap between digital and physical retail experience.  Today’s customers reward or punish companies on a single experience — a single moment in time. Once a Millennial behaviour trademark, it’s now in play for older generations too. As brands and retailers struggle to pinpoint the perfect moment to deliver the perfect experience, and, inspire people to do something – AR brings exciting opportunities – allowing us to break down shopper barriers and create new ways for shoppers to engage.

Imagine you decide to buy a new sofa. It would be nice to know how it might look before you make the purchase. With AR, you overlay an image of the sofa onto an image of your living room. You can change colour, texture and more.

IKEA has used AR technology for some time to bridge the gap between customer perceptions and product reality. It recently announced a partnership with Apple to expand the experience -  allowing customers to choose from over 500 3-D rendered furniture pieces to scan across their homes with an AR impression that’s close to reality.  An excellent way of giving shoppers an IKEA experience without ever needing to walk into an IKEA store. An experience, let’s be honest, many try to avoid.

In the glamorous world of cosmetics, AR is fast becoming a “must-have”. As a woman I, along with many others, often hesitate to buy red lipstick - unsure which shade might suit me best. Max Factor giant has partnered with AR specialist Blippar to create an app to recommend the perfect shade for skin tone. I can explore the whole range and tune into video tutorials for the perfect lip look.  A fantastic augmented real-world experience where I can choose the perfect lipstick and avoid the make-up graveyard of decisions that we’ve all got wrong.

And a special shout-out to Yihaodian, China’s largest online grocery store. It brilliantly uses AR not only to enhance customer experience online, but to expand to new locations, without spending a single penny on real estate. Opening “virtual” stores nationwide in car parks, parks, and tourist spots, people with the Yiahaodian app can shop virtually through mobile platforms at designated locations. The phone camera app guides shoppers through ‘virtual aisles’, where they simply touch a product on screen and add to their carts. The products are sent straight to their homes. By using AR, Yihaodian has turned the tedious process of grocery shopping into an engaging AR experience.

What does all this mean for marketers?
Brands and retailers need to come together and use this exciting technology to transform shopping experiences - making them more inspiring, relevant and personal.

But it’s important to remember: while technology is a great enabler, brands will always require insight and creativity to deliver the service, usefulness and consumer reward that defines success.

Let’s jump in together.


Source: The Guardian 

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