Adapt and survive is the number one motto of any business on this planet. As consumers’ lives change and technology advances, their expectations grow, their needs also increase and they expect to be served according to these new demands. For instance, remember the early days of the internet? Many brands did not consider having a website a priority. Those businesses are now extinct. The same thing happened to businesses that did not make their websites responsive when mobile internet browsing became the norm.

Augmented Reality Apps and Retail–The Next Shopping Revolution

Right now, we are in the midst of a new paradigm shift: many customers have already experienced shopping using augmented reality apps and have started demanding that retailers adopt this new technology. Various surveys and market researches indicate this increasing preference for augmented reality shopping among consumers. For instance, a research conducted by Digital Bridge found that:

  • 41% of consumers expect retail brands to offer them augmented reality experiences;
  • 69% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to buy from a brand that offers augmented reality, mixed reality or artificial intelligence features;
  • 51% of consumers believe that retail brands do not take full advantage of the technology available to them;
  • 51% of consumers delayed home improvement projects because they could not virtually visualize the final result.

The numbers above are highly suggestive of the trends among consumers: they expect a new, “try before you buy”, way of doing their shopping. This powerful experience can be created through augmented reality apps and for the customer it is as simple as pointing their mobile phone camera ahead of them.

How Top Brands Use Augmented Reality Apps to Attract and Keep Customers

The power of example is the most powerful. For this reason, this article will focus on the key takeaways from existing augmented reality apps developed by major brands. These examples show how powerful and efficient augmented reality is, and how it can tell brand stories and build customer loyalty.

1. See the Product in Your Home–IKEA Place App

Buying furniture is not an everyday shopping activity. Aside from the significant price of quality furniture, there is the issue of fitting a product precisely in the available place.

The old way of buying furniture meant measuring the empty area, then finding a product with approximate measurements in stores and hoping for the best. The end result was not always what the customer had in mind.

But this changed when IKEA launched its IKEA Place app, one of the first augmented reality apps for furniture shopping. Using their mobile phones, customers can project a holographic image of the product in their house. They can see it in real size, change its position, and see how it fits with the rest of the furnishing and decorations. Once they are happy with the result, they can simply hit the Buy Now button in the app.

2. Take the Product Manufacturing Journey–Macallan 12 AR Experience

Fine whisky is enjoyed by millions of people across the globe. But with the rise of cheap, knockoff products, old, reliable brands want to educate customers. On one hand, they want to give an explanation for the significantly higher price of their products; on the other hand, they want to create an emotional bond between their brand and the customer.


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The Macallan 12 AR Experience

The Macallan 12 AR Experience does exactly this: it takes the customer on a journey from raw materials to the finished product they hold in their hand. The augmented reality app developed by the Scottish company can be used by pointing the camera to the label of a bottle of Macallan 12-year old whisky. Once they complete the journey, accompanied by vibrant animations and an explanatory narrative, customers really feel that they have gotten their money’s worth.

3. Customize Your Product–Converse Shoe Sampler

The Converse brand was one of the pioneers in the use of augmented reality. They launched one of the first augmented reality apps for trying on and buying products, back in 2010.

What makes this type of app so useful in building customer loyalty is its playful character: users can easily try on various products, change their color, and find their own personal style. Gamification (the use of games and play in the shopping experience) is one of the key components of a successful retail strategy, and Converse was one of the first brands to show how it is done using the latest technologies.

4. Teach Customers How to Get the Best of the Products–Sephora Virtual Artist

The cosmetics industry should take a leaf out of Sephora’s book for wooing customers. The internationally acclaimed brand did more than launch just another augmented reality shopping app.

When it comes to makeup products, virtually trying them on is not enough. Consumers want to know how to get a specific look (such as smoky eyes), or how to enhance their features and feel better about the way they look after applying Sephora’s products. Sephora Virtual Artist does exactly this: it offers helpful AR tutorials, showing customers step by step how to select and apply the products.

5. Get Customers into the Store–Lacoste Augmented Reality Campaign

Augmented reality apps are not only useful for creating a shopping experience from home. They can also be used to bring customers to the brick and mortar store. For example, the sports clothing brand Lacoste created an augmented reality app to promote a new product–the LCST shoe model.

In addition to being able to virtually try on the new shoe model, users were incentivized to go to a Lacoste store and unlock AR window display experiences or interact with in-store signage.

6. Reach Customers in New Locations–Yihaodian AR Store

Every company wants to grow and reach customers in new locations. But opening a new store is a serious investment that may backfire. This is where new technologies step in to help brands.

The largest grocery retailer in China, Yihaodian, opened hundreds of new stores in a single day. How was it possible? They were not real, brick and mortar stores, but virtual ones, opened by launching the dedicated augmented reality app in select locations notified by the retailer. People who use the app in these locations can visualize merchandize on shelves, pick the products they want and have them delivered at home.

7. Add Value to CSR Activities–WWF–Coca-Cola Arctic Home Campaign

Corporate social responsibility is a cornerstone in the activity of large brands. They sponsor or make donations to various social causes and charities, winning the consumers’ goodwill and trust.

For example, Coca-Cola partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to create an awareness campaign concerning the effects of global warming on the habitat of polar bears. The experience was extremely impactful as it was presented in augmented reality in the Science Museum in London. Even though this specific experience did not involve an app, it shows the path other brands can take in bringing their CSR work closer to customers and creating a strong connection with them.

8. Reinventing Product Unboxing - adidas Deerupt

Unboxing a new product is always an exciting experience. YouTube videos featuring product unboxing are extremely popular - but can the experience be more vivid and realistic than simply watching a video?

adidas originals thought so and partnered with Rose Digital, app development firm, and Annex88, digital agency, to create a unique augmented reality app as a pre-launch teaser for its new shoe model, Deerupt. A number of celebrities and influencers received the shoe box containing an AR marker which offered access to the virtual shoe model.

This type of augmented reality app shows how new technology can transform every step in the marketing process, starting from the pre-launch campaign. Companies can draw attention to their product release and get prospects emotionally involved in the launch campaign.