Augmented reality is still in its infancy as a local marketing technology, but if recent adoption by brand retailers is any indication, the AR revolution is near.
Coined as a term in the 1990s, retailers started taking notice of AR after seeing the massive success of Pokémon Go in 2016. That success led to renewed interest in the technology and an exploration of applications in the brand marketing space.
While just 12% of brands say they’re interested in exploring AR in the near-term, according to a recent Street Fight survey, that figure is expected to increase exponentially in the coming years. Part of that anticipated explosion in the AR market is thanks to companies like Facebook and Snapchat, which are aggressively building out their AR offerings. It’s also thanks to innovative thinkers at major brand retailers, who are reimagining AR technology and making it all their own.
Let’s take a closer look at how five brands are innovating in the AR space.
1. Target – Virtual Makeup Try-Ons
In a move designed to fight back against the hesitation many consumers have about buying beauty products online, Target launched its own AR experience for makeup, dubbed the Target Beauty Studio. Using real-time facial mapping technology, consumers on Target’s e-commerce website can “try on” hundreds of makeup items and see how they look on their own faces before completing their purchases online. Target’s Beauty Studio is accessible on both desktop and mobile devices. It was created in partnership with Perfect Corp.’s YouCam Makeup.
2. Lacoste – Combining AR with 3D Product Scanning
Lacoste is known for its luxury sportswear and its iconic green crocodile logo, but the company needed help engaging a younger audience when it launched a streetwear extension brand, LCST. Knowing how popular AR is among consumers in the millennial demographic, Lacoste worked with the digital marketing firm Engine Creative to create a mobile app that would combine AR with high-res 3D product scanning. The resulting app made it possible for consumers to try on products in a virtual setting. LCST shoppers are encouraged to scan “trigger images” on in-store displays and take photos that they can share with friends on social media platforms like Facebook.
3. Nike – Pushing AR Through Messenger Bots
An early adopter in the AR space, Nike started using the technology to fight back against auto-buying tools back in 2017. More recently, the sportswear behemoth entered into a partnership with Facebook to sell limited-edition sneakers through Facebook’s Messenger app in AR. Consumers open up the Messenger app, chat with a SNKRS bot, and enter special emojis, and a virtual pair of limited-edition sneakers appear. Through the AR experience, shoppers get a much clearer view of what the sneakers look like than they could with traditional 2D photography.
4. Lowe’s – Bringing Together AR and Geolocation Data
Lowe’s is frequently cited as one of the most innovative retail brands, and that’s for good reason. Like Nike, Lowe’s was an early adopter of AR technology for local marketing. One of the company’s most recent forays into AR combines the technology with geolocation data. The result, a featured dubbed “View in Your Space,” allows Android users with ARCore-enabled devices to see what selected products, like patio furniture and grills, would look like in their own outdoor spaces. The AR feature is accessible from inside the Lowe’s consumer app.
5. Lego – Putting Digital Blocks in Real World Environments
Lego is having a moment. The iconic toy brand, which saw tremendous growth in recent years, recently launched an AR Playgrounds app for users with iPhone 6s and above. Relying on multi-user support in ARKit, the app puts digital Lego characters and blocks in real world environments and encourages users to play together with their friends in the same playgrounds. Users can make their digital characters interact with their real world Lego sets in order to open up special effects and animations. The app scans real Lego playsets with ARKit’s object recognition skill.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.