Augmented reality turns 26 this year. First developed by the U.S. Air Force in 1992, AR has steadily grown into a technology that’s become a staple in our everyday lives. AR’s first major inflection point, Pokémon Go, taught tens of millions of users how to use their phones to interact with virtual objects in the real world. It’s safe to say the digital world is quickly becoming a lot more real.
The #AR software market is expected to reach $35.22 Billion by 2022.
Snapchat’s selfie masks allow users to transform into Chewbacca or a Luchador, LEGO’s AR-Studio throws breathing dragons into plastic play sets, and Emantras’ $3.99 Frog Dissection teaches students the guts and glory of biology while sparing the frog’s life. Thanks to ARKit and AR Core, software development tools for the iOS and Android platforms, Apple and Google continue to lay groundwork that makes bringing cutting-edge AR experiences to life as simple as building an app.
But AR’s transformative possibilities aren’t just for entertainment value: they’re serious business. Fortune 500 companies from around the globe are folding AR solutions into product lines and marketing at breakneck speed. Car manufactures such as Audi and Kia, for instance, have begun to experiment with ditching paper manuals, allowing motorists to learn features of their new vehicles and troubleshoot problems by pointing their phones at the dashboard to figure out what’s causing that engine light to glow. Soon enough, customers won’t just be delighted by AR experiences — they’ll come to expect them.
The promise of augmented reality to show off product features and capabilities isn’t just an added bonus — it’s a sales driver. By bringing to life products that consumers can buy with just one tap or click, AR, in its relative infancy, can help drive customer engagement and ultimate increase a company’s bottom line. Take a look at these five use cases of businesses using AR to drive their sales:
One of the first major commercial applications developed with Apple’s ARKit is IKEA Place. The Scandinavian furniture maker’s foray into AR uses your mobile device’s camera to visualize how virtual IKEA items would look in any given space. From sleeper sofas to end tables, a growing list of more than 3,200 items that can be placed in living rooms, bedrooms, offices or any place that can fit a chair. It’s also an incredibly user-friendly way to push AR further into the mainstream.
For movers, redecorators or people who are simply curious as to how much room that new lamp might take up, IKEA Place takes the guesswork out of making large purchases. Rather than measuring the room, driving to the store, loading the flat-box into the car, driving home and assembling a piece of furniture only to discover it just doesn’t work in your space, IKEA Place lets users preview the final result in real time.
Think of the benefit to IKEA’s bottom line: By allowing users to test out a major purchase through AR, the company is able to cut down on returns and boost customer satisfaction.
With over two million app downloads combined with the convenience of online shopping, it’s no wonder that IKEA’s website boasted 2.3 billion visitors in 2017 alone.
61% of shoppers prefer stores which offer augmented reality experiences.
If shoppers could experience product in AR, 71% would return more often and 40% would pay more. — Retail Perceptions
IKEA may be bringing its virtual store into real life, but it’s fast fashion retailer Zara that’s bringing virtual life into its physical store. In April, Zara replaced window displays and in-store mannequins with models and product demonstrations that could only be experienced through the Zara AR app.
Encouraged to “shop the look in augmented reality,” customers could point their smartphones at the seemingly plain signage and bring to life a virtual catwalk. In short video clips, models brought spring fashion to life by strutting through Zara’s aisles and window displays. And, of course, the models’ outfits were only one tap away from a user’s cart, a seamless transition from runway to retail.
While the promotion only lasted two weeks, Zara’s innovative use of AR offered a glimpse into a not-too-distant future where trying on clothing in person is as dated as travelling by horse and buggy. Even though Zara hasn’t shared any sales data from its AR app, it’s easy to see how the unique consumer experience of a virtual fashion show plus the ease of shipping a model’s outfit to your home with just a few taps is an equation for a runwaysuccess.
Who would have guessed a 91-year-old candy company would be at the forefront of AR technology? Everyone remembers PEZ, the cheerful Austrian confection served out of a playful dispenser topped with the heads of cartoon characters or historical figures. With PEZ Play, a new AR app released in 2018, PEZ introduced a new way to increase delight and consumer engagement in order to boost sales of their candy packs.
Here’s how it works: The PEZ Play app interacts with specific Candy Codes included with PEZ refill packs. Scanning a Candy Code unlocks access to PEZ World: a collection of interactive characters, puzzle games and skill-based challenges. The 13 different minigames are addictive, child-friendly adventures starring little PEZ men drawing pictures, matching fruit and taking selfies that can be shared across social media. Six different Candy Codes are included at random among millions of packs of PEZ, ensuring players will have to buy multiple packs of PEZ in order to get the full experience.
Though PEZ Play is just a few months old, it’s easy to see how this simple AR promotion will drives additional sales of PEZ candy. After enjoying just one PEZ play experience, children and adults alike will be driven to purchase more PEZ in order to complete the PEZ World tasks.
It’s not just the consumer market that’s taking advantage of AR — opportunities to boost sales are also taking off in the B2B environment.
By 2022 the number of VR experiences in B2B will account for 40% of all experiences. — b2bmarketing.net
Soft drink leader Coca-Cola teamed up with AR developer Augment to help solve a typical problem that plagued its B2B sales department: visualising how beverage coolers would look and fit in retail stores. Seeing a catalogue or website full of cooler options is one thing; bringing them to life and seeing how a fully stocked, completely merchandised display fits at the end of an aisle is another.
Coca-Cola’s use of AR allows potential B2B customers to browse every possible option for their store. By simulating soft drink coolers of different shapes, sizes, and designs, the sales team helps its customers make better product decisions. Even better, Augment’s app for Coca-Cola integrates directly with Salesforce, allowing clients to capture photos of every single purchasing option.
CoverGirl’s Virtual Makeover turns selfies into a glimpse of your best self. Using the camera on your phone, tablet or computer, this digital makeup tool uses AR to apply lipstick, eyeliner, blush and other beauty products over the live image of your face. There’s no need for makeup wipes or a tissue to blot your lips — CoverGirl’s software allows you to try on hundreds of product combinations, sparing your skin and saving the time of the clerk working behind the beauty counter.
Virtual Makeover doesn’t discriminate when it comes to makeup choices nor does it discriminate when it comes to platform use. It’s one of the web’s best AR experiences available directly through the browser, sparing your home screen from yet another app. Once you’ve found the perfect shade, it’s one click away from your cart.
It’s easy to see how Cover Girl’s software can save money by keeping stores from having to waste product samples on indecisive customers. But is Virtual Makeover driving sales? Take a look at one key indicator to suggest they are: Cover Girl’s competition. Mary Kay, L’Oreal and Maybelline also offer similar AR experiences to help customers determine their favourite looks. When customers are driving most major brands in one industry to adopt the same software solutions, AR has to be doing something right.
AR has arrived
From sugary candy to smoky eyes, the software adopted by IKEA, Zara, PEZ, Coca-Cola and Cover Girl all offer vastly different AR experiences around a core set of principles:
- Removing guesswork: Rather than having to predict how a shade of lipstick might look or how a refrigerator full of soda might fit near the checkout, these AR experiences help customers make decisions without having to rely on paper mockups, product samples, or their own imagination.
- Offering immediate feedback: Whether it’s fast fashion or a sleeper sofa, AR shows customers exactly how something is going to look in real time.
- Being delightfully interactive: Seeing a new version of your face or living room can be just as exciting as helping virtual PEZ characters scale a wall.
After a mere 26 years of existence, AR is only beginning to take its first steps toward blossoming into a new way to see the world. Companies should begin to embrace AR as a new method to drive consumer engagement at any stop in a product’s journey.
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