Augmented reality is having a moment. Actually, a moment implies that it’s a passing fad and it’s not. When you look at the proliferation of use cases and in particular, at the opportunities AR is opening up for major retailers, this is no passing trend. And as the technology has improved and become more accessible, big name retailers have started to harness the benefits of an augmented experience that’s as easy to access as opening an app on your phone. With major players like IKEA, Sephora, and Foot Locker already harnessing the tech to engage consumers in new selling channels, it’s only a matter of time before this novel sales channel becomes an essential tool in the retailers’ sales kit — and for private brands.
Arguably the first major retailer to make a splash with AR was IKEA, a private brand powerhouse in home goods. Their Place app is a brilliant implementation of AR technology that helps customers overcome one of the biggest obstacles to purchasing by giving them a chance to see what IKEA’s products would look like in their homes, before they buy. It’s a technology-market fit that really set the tone for AR in retail, all to support its own brands and build loyalty.
Sephora is another major retail leader in AR, having launched several different augmented solutions for customers including Magic Mirror, an in-store AR experience, and Virtual Artist, a smartphone app. Though they differ in functionality — Magic Mirror is a recommendation engine and Virtual Artist is a simulated makeup try-on app — both offer enhanced shopping experiences that not only guide customers to products that better meet their needs, tastes, and desires, but they also create a more engaging and personalized shopping experience that is more satisfying for the customer overall. With functions that enable easy purchasing within the AR experiences, both apps improve CX while boosting sales.
The technologies can be used to boost Sephora’s store brand products as well, becoming that end-solution product that shoppers eventually seek through engaging with these experiences.
AR offers compelling long- and short-range opportunities for retailers and their private brands. Ongoing engagement and more holistic experiences are increasingly important as CX carves out primacy in brands looking to build loyalty in a competitive landscape. And purchasing in-app as part of an AR experience answers an immediate omnichannel growth strategy. Both are compelling reasons in their own right to begin leveraging AR’s potential for retailer store brands.
In some ways, it feels like an opportunity for retailers that is hidden in plain sight: AR opens up new ways of showcasing private brand products to customers.
As part of a strategy for increasing awareness and driving sales, an AR experience is a natural fit. A custom recommendation engine like Sephora’s Magic Mirror could be leveraged as a marketing opportunity for private brands, surfacing those products alongside — or even ahead of — market leading comparables.
Take Foot Locker, for example. Foot Locker used AR to drum up interest in a specific product: they created an AR scavenger hunt that led customers to a secret drop of a highly coveted sneaker that sold out in two hours. And Tilly’s leveraged AR for a similar in-store hunt that led consumers to virtual tokens they could collect which translated into coupons for products in store. Both of these scenarios showcase how easily AR can be used to encourage shoppers to seek out specific items — like a retailer’s private brand products. And the allure of AR as a fun and novel tech application means retailers will be entering a new space with a high-engagement tactic for surfacing their products. Best of all, implementations like these can be relatively straightforward to create, making it easy to enter the realm of branded AR experiences.
AR opportunities are abundant. Brands can combine an AR experience with their loyalty app to bring additional value to their core customers or connect their private brand with an AR experience on an existing and popular platform, like Instagram, to gain significant exposure in a new channel. Regardless of the marketing intent, there’s an AR solution out there waiting to be harnessed and now is the time to start testing the waters and experimenting.
Jason Cottrell is founder and CEO of Myplanet, a software studio headquartered in Toronto. MyPlanet creates digital experiences such as AR/VR to help their retail clients redefine what’s possible in how they work and serve their customers every day.