AR Impacts Local Commerce, Disrupting Home Services and Retail

AR is emerging at a time when the physical retail world is undergoing significant transformation. Things like Amazon Go stores and the counteractive “retail as a service” movement have raised awareness and hunger for retail evolution. So AR’s retail shopping use cases fall on fertile soil.

But retail is just one way that AR intersects with local commerce. AR comes into play in another key local commerce category: home services. Innovators like Streem are bringing remote assistance to traditional service calls (think: busted pipe).

Visual Search Moves Beyond Experimentation and Into Prime Time

After years of experimentation and broad discussions about how visual search would someday take hold, it’s clear that the future has arrived. Visual search has moved into the mainstream, and companies like Pinterest, Instagram, and even Google are paving the way for consumers to engage more deeply with the products they find online.

As visual search moves into the mainstream, questions are intensifying over what impact the medium will have on SEO and traditional search metrics.

5 Visual Marketing Platforms for Brands

Amazon, Alibaba, and eBay are just a few online retailers with new visual search tools, and social media platforms like Snapchat are letting users take pictures of items to buy on Amazon and Pinterest. By using enterprise-level visual marketing platforms, brands can capitalize on their visibility across the web and drive more revenue from the images and other content their customers are creating.

Here are five visual marketing platforms that brands are using right now.

Does Influencer Marketing Have a Transparency Problem?

Although the average share of budgets spent on influencer marketing is just 10%, that figure is growing as visual platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest see explosive growth.

The problem? Brands are often focusing on misleading vanity metrics in an attempt to justify those investments. For example, many marketers track follower counts as a primary indicator for determining brand and influencer partnerships. Growing evidence shows that follower counts do not equate to true impressions or reach data, giving brands a false sense of how their campaigns are performing.

Visual Search and Local: A Match Made in Mountain View

Though visual search challengers such as Snapchat and Pinterest could shine in niche use cases such as fashion items, Google will rule as the best all-around utility for visual search. It has the deepest tech stack, and the substance (knowledge graph) to be useful beyond just a flashy novelty for identifying things visually.

The name of the game now is to get users to adopt it. Google Lens won’t be a silver bullet and will shine in a few areas where Google is directing users, such as pets and flowers. But it will really shine in product search, which happens to be where monetization will eventually come into the picture.

6 Influencer Marketing Platforms for Brands

As some of the most visual social channels, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest have become important tools for brand marketers. These are also the channels most likely to be used by so-called “influencers,” the social media stars who frequently partner with brands to promote products to their online followers. Influencer marketing has become a big business, with 31% of retailers now working with brand advocates to become influencers and 28% using paid celebrity influencers to spread the word about their products and services.

Here are six popular influencer marketing platforms being used by retailers and brands right now.

Retailers Use Visual Channels to Attract Last-Minute Mother’s Day Shoppers

Spending on Mother’s Day is expected to reach $25 billion this year, with consumers flocking to department stores and florists in search of the perfect gifts for Mom. The bulk of that spending will happen in the next few days, as foot traffic data from the location platform GroundTruth reveals that Americans tend to wait until the very last minute to shop for Mother’s Day gifts.

What are retailers around the country doing to prepare for the onslaught of last-minute shoppers? More than ever before, retailers are leaning on visual marketing opportunities to drive last-minute sales.

Letter From the Editor: Retail Transformation Rules

As we continue to evolve the definition of “local,” one key component of its market opportunity is offline brick-and-mortar shopping. After all, about 90% of all U.S. retail spending, to the tune of about $3.7 trillion, is completed offline in physical stores. And that’s usually in proximity to one’s home (thus, local).

This makes retail transformation a key focal point for Street Fight. And there’s a lot happening.

May Focus: Visualizing Local

Street Fight is rolling into May with the theme, Visualizing Local: a look at how marketers are using visual content to boost visibility, presence, and conversions. This includes everything from images in search results and local listings to utilizing increasingly popular social media like Instagram Stories.

Heard on the Street, Episode 24: Lowering Friction for Video Ads Part 2, with Waymark

Video has always been a coveted ad medium for local businesses. It carries a certain vanity factor and a high perceived ROI (and real ROI, depending on other factors). But one barrier has always been the creative production, which often results in low quality. We’ve all seen those cheesy auto-dealer ads.

Fortunately, technical barriers are lowering, says Waymark CEO Nathan Labenz in the latest episode of Street Fight’s Heard on the Street Podcast. In this episode, we feature part II of our interview with Labenz and pick up where we left off in discussing distribution strategies. If half the battle in video ads is creation, the other half is distribution.

Is Google Building an “Internet of Places?”

Use cases will materialize over time, but it’s already clear that visual search can carry lots of commercial intent. Point your phone at a store or restaurant to get business details. Point your phone at a pair of shoes on the street to find out prices, reviews, and purchase info. This proximity between the searcher and the subject indicates high intent, which means higher conversions and more money for Google. Moreover, visual search has the magic combination of frequency and utility, which could make it the first scalable AR use case: making the real world clickable.

Heard on the Street, Episode 21: Lowering Friction for Video Ads, with Waymark

Video has always been a coveted ad medium for local businesses. It carries a certain vanity factor and a high perceived ROI (and real ROI, depending on other factors). But one barrier has always been the creative production, which often results in low quality. We’ve all seen those cheesy auto-dealer ads. Fortunately, technical barriers are lowering, says Waymark CEO Nathan Labenz in the latest episode of Street Fight’s Heard on the Street Podcast.

AR in Local Commerce: Google Shows the Way

Mike Boland: A recent and relatively understated development from Google could portend the future of augmented reality. Its previously teased “VPS” was released into the wild for a small set of users. For those unfamiliar, VPS (visual positioning service) guides users with 3D overlays on upheld smartphone screens. Sort of a cousin of AR, this type of experience could represent the sector’s eventual killer apps. Though we’ve seen the most AR success so far in gaming (Pokemon Go) and social (Snapchat AR lenses), it could be more mundane utilities like navigation that engender high-frequency use cases.

Will Audio AR Drive Local Commerce?

Mike Boland: AR may not play out in the way you think, at least in the near term. Though it’s generally thought of as graphical overlays on your field of view, another “overlay” could be more viable in the near term: sound. This “audio AR” modality could come sooner than—and eventually coexist with—its graphical cousin.  

What Will AR Mean for Consumer Brands?

What’s driving AR today? And what does it mean for big consumer brands? Our lead analyst Mike Boland tackles these questions in this week’s Road Map column, which delves into the tech giants’ investments in AR and what they mean for the future of XR-driven brand advertising.

Will AR Bring Together the Best of Online and Offline Shopping?

Mike Boland: We know about the advantages of e-commerce. There’s more supply, transparency, cost efficiency, inventory (a.k.a “endless aisle”), and the ability to dynamically search and filter product attributes. AR can engender a sort of hybrid UX that brings these features to store aisles. The losers in the next era of retail will be those who try to fight this experiential innovation.