Augmented Reality is a household name… And now a household game
It’s clear that an ever growing list of retailers are using, or at least thinking about using, Augmented Reality. In a market driven by personalisation and customisation, consumers expect products to suit their lifestyles perfectly. The risk that an item might not do this has presented a barrier to purchase. The ability to see how something will look in real life without making a purchase is a tried and tested method of improving sales, and AR apps enable this at scale. Customers can visualise products in their own living rooms or driveways, whether that be a high end kitchen blender or a coffee table. Speaking of which…
Swedish company IKEA is the mother of all things decor and interiors. But according to Michael Valdsgaard, the Leader of Digital Transformation at Inter IKEA Systems B.V., company research revealed a lack of confidence amongst some buyers. It’s all well and good finding the perfect coffee table, but if that coffee table has to fit in your cramped living room it can quickly become a frustrating experience. IKEA answered this barrier to sale by inviting customers to use the Augmented Reality IKEA PLACE smartphone app. More than 2,000 virtual products can be viewed using the app, powered by Apple’s ARKit. Each product automatically scales to the size of the room, making sure that it fits both aesthetically and practically.
At the beginning of the year, German automaker Audi came up with an app enabled AR concept to turn passive TV adverts into an active experience. Triggered by the commercial, the app enables users to view one of four Quattro models in their own homes. This effectively turns any space into a virtual showroom. Users can also build their own mini test tracks, gamifying the experience. The car remains in the room after the commercial has finished, extending engagement. The app was designed in partnership with Norwegian creative agency POL Oslo.
International paint brand Dulux has been experimenting with AR features since 2014. The company’s Visualiser app, available on mobile and tablet devices, lets users apply different colours of paint to photos and videos of their own rooms. There are over 1,200 colours to choose from, and testers can be purchased within the app. The tool is primarily aimed at consumers but has also been used by professional decorators in Brazil.
4. John Lewis
In 2015, UK department store chain John Lewis rolled out their Sofa Studio at the Peter Jones store in Chelsea, London, to complement their Any Shape, Any Fabric service. The initiative lets potential buyers customise the dimensions, material and colour of a sofa. When teamed with Sofa Studio, customer’s changes are made in real time and displayed on a screen, turning any physical space into a virtual showroom. The company has also developed an app so that customers can view products in their homes.
AR apps can show how a certain car might look on your driveway, or help you work out what colour to paint your living room… But what about when it comes to clothes? Unlike paint or cars, it’s possible to go into a shop and try on a piece of clothing. However, not everyone has the time or inclination – which is where a recent patent filed by Amazon comes in. Earlier this year, the company patented a ‘blended reality’ mirror that would let customers try on virtual outfits. This technology could be used at home, but also perhaps in retail stores to negate changing room queues. The mirror, although yet to come to market, seems to be an extension of Amazon Echo Look, which rates and takes photos of users’ outfits.
6. L’Oréal Paris
In 2014, L’Oréal Paris launched their Makeup Genius app, bringing personalisation to cosmetics by applying virtual makeup to users’ faces. The user can see exactly how a certain shade of eyeshadow or mascara looks without going into a shop and using a physical tester, or buying makeup that they realise doesn’t quite suit their skin tone. Other cosmetics brands including Benefit have been quick to follow their lead.
Another car manufacturer taking advantage of AR is BMW. Last November, the company showcased their new X2 model using Snapchat‘s Augmented Trial Lens. Snapchatters opened their camera and an augmented version of the car appeared on their smartphone screens, with the real world environment as a backdrop. The car’s colour could be changed, and could be viewed from different angles. Users could even apply a special filter which turned their faces ‘Galvanic Gold’ – the exclusive finish developed for the X2. By using Snapchat, BMW hopes to attract a younger audience and bring a playfulness to their products.
Online architecture and design website Houzz displays renovation and redecoration products. In 2017, Houzz launched ‘View in My Room 3D’, which does exactly what you would expect with products from the site. Users can select an item and virtually drop it into any room in their house to see how it looks. They can then zoom in on the item, move it around, and add other items around it. Each product viewed in this way is automatically added to a shopping list – and there’s even an instant purchase option. The company claims that customers who use the tool are 11 times more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t.
Augmented Reality is helping brands to streamline the path to purchase in a fun, imaginative, and – most importantly – personal way. With AR apps, not only can a potential buyer customise an item to suit their specific tastes, but they can see how that item would fit in their own intended space. The above retailers have used this to their benefit, creating a bespoke experience for their customers. However, as technological and financial barriers decrease, major retailers won’t be the only ones able to develop AR apps. The challenge is to create an experience that stands out from the rest – and if that means turning your customers’ faces gold, so be it.
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