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3 Brands Making AR the Star of the Customer Experience

Augmented reality (AR) has evolved from a novelty into a critical investment for retailers that want to capture audience attention and dollars.
Photo credit: Andrey Popov - stock.adobe.com

Augmented reality (AR) has evolved from a novelty into a critical investment for retailers that want to capture audience attention and dollars. Businesses that offer AR-driven experiences are 41% more likely to capture consumer attention than those that do not, according to Deloitte, and 66% of consumers are interested in using this tech while shopping.

However, retailers need to think critically about how AR can support their unique product assortments and brand experiences — or run the risk of it being redundant, or even worse, frustrating for the consumer.

“It’s important that retailers implement AR in situations where it can be a value-add to the shopper in a way that fully substitutes for in-person trial,” said Melissa Minkow, Director of Retail Strategy for CI&T in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Otherwise, it’s a tool that may be fun but is not driving efficiency for the customer.”

Learn how three brands across three different categories are using AR intentionally to support different stages of the shopper journey.

Shopper Journey Phase: Engagement Coach

What it is: Brands and retailers that want to ramp up foot traffic need to invest in their store windows. Some brands, like Coach, have integrated AR try-on tech into this invaluable real estate in order to stop shoppers in their tracks — literally. The fashion brand’s Prince Street store in SoHo, New York City, was outfitted with a digital mirror, powered by Zero10, to drive customer engagement and inspire them to have some fun with Coach’s Tabby bag.

How it works: When people stood in front of the virtual mirror, they could virtually try on Tabby bags in a variety of colors. The experience had some other fun and quirky elements: for example, a giant “TABBY” in bold bubble lettering appears, with the letters dancing dynamically around the screen. The display was a conversation starter and certainly fodder for social media. If consumers were inspired to enter the Coach store after having this virtual experience, they could engage with another AR-powered kiosk that allowed them to browse more bags, save their snaps to their phones or share them on social.

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Why it’s impactful: Store windows are critical design real estate — and they can either be attractors or repellants. In this case, the AR display had the right amount of tech glitz to stop people on the street and inspire them to engage further with the experience. Additionally, this is a case where the technology aligned strategically with the brand’s goal: to drive attention. There were enough branded visual elements and products included that it felt interesting and shareworthy, and there was another opportunity for consumers to engage with the second AR-powered experience in-store.

Shopper Journey Phase: Comparison & Discovery
Ikea

What it is: Ikea is no stranger to AR; the brand has had the technology embedded into its app experience for years. However, the retailer’s Kreativ experience brings AR’s capabilities to a whole new level, by blending it with interactive, shoppable showrooms and even “build-your-own space” features that empower everyday shoppers and interior designers alike.

How it works: Ikea app users scan a 3D replica of their rooms using the Kreativ feature in the mobile app. Once the scan is complete, customers can visually remove the furniture in their room and add new items from Ikea’s vast assortment. These items can be situated in spaces seamlessly and at scale, so users get a detailed understanding of how items will look in their spaces. If several color options are available for products, shoppers can even select to test those options, too.

Why it’s impactful: Shopping for furniture online is extremely difficult. While something may look good in a perfectly curated website shot, it may look completely out of place in your home. Ikea Kreativ combines 3D scanning capabilities and AR to not only overlay products in their rooms but to make them feel fully integrated into these spaces — and in context. No more tirelessly measuring rooms and furniture to find the perfect fit!

Shopper Journey Phase: Decision
Benefit

What it is: Benefit offers a diverse range of cosmetic products for eyes, lips and face, but the brand has become known for its brow offerings. Although Benefit Brow Boutiques have popped up around the U.S., offering brow threading, waxing, lamination and tinting services, some consumers just want to be able to quickly see which shade they should select when they want to buy a new brow pencil or gel. Benefit offers a virtual try-on experience, powered by AR, to make this process easy and inspiring.

How it works: The AR tool is embedded into the product display page, making it easy for consumers to access and try it. The “Brow Cam” is a real-time virtual try-on feature they can access using their phone camera, but consumers also can either select a photo from their phone or simply snap a pic of themselves through the site in order to have the products and shades overlayed on their brows.

And consumers that don’t want their personal data captured by the system can simply pick a model based on their age and skin tone and have the product (digitally) tested on them.

Why it’s impactful: The biggest reason this experience is impactful is that it works really well. When AR is embedded into PDPs, the process can sometimes feel clunky — the tool is hard to find or it’s a headache to give the site access to your camera or photo album — but this process was incredibly smooth. Plus, the product try-on looked clean and natural, just like it was blended into my eyebrows! It looked like I went to a Benefit Brow Boutique to get a mini glow-up, especially because the tool automatically matched the ideal shade to my grow color.

“This is a category that is especially hard to buy and try in real life,” Minkow noted. “You can’t test out a brow shape and then change your mind after you’ve tried it. This tool does a very convincing job of showing you what it would really be like post-purchase.”

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