Ask Chris Abbruzzese, VP of Trade Marketing for Bollé Brands, how the company increased year-over-year sales by 456% from January 2020 to January 2021, and the answer will be a somewhat unlikely one: augmented reality (AR). During a session at the 2021 Retail Innovation Conference, titled How AR and Virtual Try-On Are Redefining Retail, Abbruzzese and Matt Maher, Founder of Bollé technology partner M7 Innovations, discussed the eyewear and helmet brand’s journey to successfully leverage AR capabilities to win with its customers through their smartphones or tablets.
Bollé, which offers eyewear and helmets for the action sports set, has a target customer that’s likely more adventurous than the typical consumer, but the company’s approach to successfully developing AR-centric campaigns can be adopted by many different brands across multiple categories.
“As a brand we represent ourselves as innovators, and what could be more innovative than AR?” Abbruzzese said. “Then we thought about the consumer and who they are and where they are. They are not always in-store but we wanted them to experience the glasses. Could we put this experience in the palm of their hands and personalize it?”
The early campaigns featured Bollé influencers and athletes testing the technology within their Instagram stories, resulting in organic promotion of the brand. The first campaign, launched in summer 2021 for the Bollé Chronoshield eyewear, generated nearly 2.5 million Instagram story views with no paid media spend for the brand.
Through its AR experience, customers could browse products and gain a point of view about how the world would appear through the lens of Bollé eyewear, or experience the different features of a helmet. They were also brought to the destinations where these items would be put to use, through an animated lens story that sets the customers’ scene within their reality.
“For those that couldn’t get out but wanted to try some goggles, we were going to take them to their happy place,” Abbruzzese said. “Our technology is called Happy Lens Tech, and we said let’s make this a little bit aspirational. Let’s make it fun. Let’s take them to the trees in Whistler [Canada] and show them their product in a context where they wanted to be if they couldn’t be there right in the moment.”
The brand continues to explore methods for blending its physical and digital approaches. While traditional brick-and-mortar retail relies on signage, product and knowledgeable associates, Abbruzzese believes there is much more potential to incorporate AR at Bollé locations.
“We’re trying to put across a story at retail, which is a challenging environment,” Abbruzzese said. “Sometimes the consumer is overwhelmed. Maybe they don’t see a message or maybe the associate is busy. You also need to make it so there can be self-help and the consumer can self-regulate and consume that information.”