For those in the dark about what in the metaverse AR is, it's simple. AR enhances the user's real-world experience by overlaying virtual, digital content on top of whatever they see in real life. It's typically used on smartphones or tablets by detecting markers such as barcodes or QR codes to activate an AR experience.
A study by the IGD identified four key areas where brands can innovate with this relatively new technology to make shopping at home, in store, online and out of home an engaging, personalised experience.
Augmented reality navigation systems deliver a unique in-store experience, improving convenience for shoppers and offering opportunities to emphasise other similar products and their benefits.
For example, in the US, Lowe's has created a "digital twin" of one of its stores. Using spatial data and Lowe's data, including a history of bestselling products, allows the company's associates to collate information regarding sales performances and customer traffic to hone in on customers' shopping behaviours. It will enable consumers to access the virtual store via various devices to access more detailed product information, increasing purchase confidence.
Giving AR demos in store allows 'virtual' stock to be unlimited. No more out of stock; an item can be immediately ordered via an app and fulfilled from a warehouse location. This access to online inventory frees up space in stockrooms which, in the uncertainty of the current climate, offers solutions for businesses to cut costs and maximise the efficiency of their brick-and-mortar spaces.
Strategically placed QR codes allow brands to provide consumers with a wealth of product information in store and later at home. Simply aiming their smartphone at a product's code can unlock customer access to rich, informative content to educate and boost consumer confidence post-purchase.
A study by Bond showed that 95% of loyalty program members want to engage with brands through a mix of new, emerging, and growing tech, including augmented reality. A successful example of this, Bombay Sapphire brought their product to life by partnering with Shazam, drawing consumers into an AR audio and visual world full of blooming flowers and the soundtrack of jungle wildlife, enriching the multi-sensory "feel" of the product. In addition, it allowed users access to animated cocktail recipes to try out at home, heightening the sense of exclusivity, which boosted brand advocacy.
AR doesn't just allow brands to inform and delight their consumers; it works the other way around as well. The information yielded from products customers choose to interact with through AR shopping speaks volumes about their interests, preferences, and shopping behaviour patterns. Brands can use these insights to deliver more personalised advertising and marketing campaigns tailored to their target audience, which can only strengthen that all-important connection between the two parties.
With AR, customers can interact, customise, and engage with products more effectively, which boosts their confidence in making the right purchase decisions. Pairing the right product with the right customer is beneficial for brands too, with the rising costs of returns reducing if a consumer has access to an informed purchase decision in the first place.
Millennials are the largest shopper segment today, spending more than other demographics. 61% say they would shop more often if they used AR. AR creates virtual simulations for users to interact with a product, just like how they try on an outfit or encounter the aesthetic of a new sofa in a physical store. These options are no longer nice-to-have but essential to an engaging customer experience. Using AR technology makes it simple for consumers to try before they buy, speeding up the decision process and closing sales quicker.
Ikea Place allows customers to envision how their products will look from the comfort of their homes by showing how true-to-scale 3D models fit within their space via their online platform. With Millennials placing high importance on personalisation and convenience, this technology encourages informed, assured purchases, promoting the likelihood of repeat custom and increased brand love.
Using smart mirrors in stores reduces long waits for changing rooms and gives opportunities for shoppers to try on a much wider range of products, with high customisation opportunities. In addition, it makes for a less overwhelming experience when consumers need clarification on what they're searching for and is an effective way of exposing them to new products.
A more immersive out of home experience inspires target audiences, making brands more exciting and increases dwell time. An AR adventure also gives customers something to talk about and share on social media or through word-of-mouth. The comments and discussions that ensue help spread product and brand awareness.
Harrods is famous for its annual Christmas window displays, and last year its campaign focused on the theme of "Witness a Spectacle." As such, they turned four store windows into large-format AR markers, which, once scanned, animated a creative 3D dancing robot, delighting crowds of all ages. The display was so popular and trailblazing that it garnered attention across various national news channels.
In a recent activation with our client, Garden Gourmet, N2O integrated an AR experience to inform, excite and delight consumers about the ease of including vegan meals into their lifestyles. Scanning a QR code with their mobile phone activated a cook-along video with a vegan chef that consumers could follow in the comfort of their homes. The experience was hugely successful, and Emma Harsum, Shopper Activation Manager for Nestlé, said:
“The key was to demonstrate how straightforward it is to prepare a vegan meal and how easy it is to integrate a vegan dish into weekly meal planning. With the help of N2O and ella_vegan, this was accomplished in a really exciting way using AR technology. We were delighted with the result!”
By 2024, there will be an estimated 1.7 billion mobile AR user devices worldwide. There's an opportunity for brands to position themselves as leaders in AR experiences, with only 1% of retailers currently claiming to use AR technology. By providing the wow factor of "new" technology to those unfamiliar with it, brands that present as pioneers in the digital world stand to win fans with experiences that no others can deliver.
With all these positives, it's no surprise that augmented reality is becoming an integrated expectation of the buying experience.
Using these four pillars as the foundations for an AR strategy, brands can build an interactive platform that entices customers to immerse themselves in their digital world, connecting with them today and tomorrow in the metaverse and beyond.
Check out some of N2O’s recent campaigns using AR technology: