A roundup of technology-driven tools that drive consumer understanding, engagement and conversion on every step of the path to purchase.
The good news about AR/VR is that marketers now realize its novelty value has worn off, and that content must reward all the fumbling around with cameras, codes and whatnot. Topo Chico, the Monterrey, Mexico-based mineral-water beverage marketer, set a pretty high bar for quality content this summer as it celebrated its 125-year anniversary with an AR-experience campaign aimed at Millennial shoppers.
Conceived by shopper agency Visual Latina and its digital production company, Titan7, the campaign is built upon a series of vintage bottle labels, packaging designs and in-store POS that integrate elements from the brand’s history and are truly distinctive. Shoppers can either access an AR microsite by scanning a QR code or bring up a 3D video player by scanning a variety of vintage bottle labels with their phones: Each label brings up a 3D animation with relevant historical content.
The AR campaign was launched in mid-April and slated to end Aug. 31, but due to its popularity with shoppers (gauged through AR metrics and retail foot traffic) the promotional window was extended to Dec. 1. Another key reason for extending the campaign showed up via social media monitoring: While Topo Chico brand fans traditionally have created their own items out of bottles and merchandising swag, there was a continuing groundswell of demand for the vintage bottles and packaging.
In late July, Allure editor-in-chief Michelle Lee announced, via an interview with Publishers Daily, that the magazine’s November issue would be visually redesigned to help readers sample and shop beauty products. Virtually the entire issue will be integrated with the YouCam Makeup app, enabling readers to take augmented-reality selfies and virtually try on products from hundreds of beauty brands and retailers. The issue (which should be on newsstands by Oct. 20) will have four sections – Makeup, Skin, Hair and Fragrance – featuring product swatches, infographics and on-page trials.
Basic lipstick, eyeshadow and other “virtual makeup” effects have become popular on selfies in recent years. But the next level seems to have been reached by Perfect Corp. with its July introduction of an “AR virtual try-on” capability in conjunction with Johnson & Johnson’s Acuvue contact lens brand. Designed for the Taobao (Alibaba’s AR-shopping app) and WeChat mini programs, it uses advanced facial recognition technology to detect the position of the eyes and allow for a safe, true-to-life colored-contact lens try-on.
There’s no silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is spurring innovation such as appointment-based shopping apps like Qudini. The London-based company (with offices in New York City) has developed scheduling software that helps retailers manage customers as they enter stores, create personalized wait-time estimates for them, streamline their in-store journeys and best allocate staff to customer-service tasks.
Asda, Britain’s third biggest supermarket chain, began testing Qudini this summer, using it as a “virtual queuing” system that allows shoppers to log in remotely, wait in their cars for a signal to enter a store, and avoid standing in the very long outside queues being created by social distancing.
Using a new “Augmented Reality Lens,” Snapchatters can now use the messaging app to virtually try on and buy Gucci shoes. Called “Snap Lenses,” the app includes four versions of Gucci shoes. If users like the look of the product after the AR try-on, they can buy directly using Snapchat’s “Shop Now” button. This is said to be the first time Snapchat is using AR try-on technology with a brand. The feature was announced in June as part of the “Snap Partner Summit.” The effort is aimed at younger users in the U.S., Europe, Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The spacing guideline for proper social distancing in public areas is 6 feet, a calculation that really isn’t all that hard to gauge on the fly. But this being a “there’s an app for that” world, we now have Sodar from Google. Sodar is a Chrome-browser AR feature available on Android mobile devices that uses a technology called WebXR. It superimposes a 2-meter radius or circle of safe space as you move through your environment. Until someone comes up with a distance-detector for maskless-cougher-sneezers, it’ll have to do.
In late July, Eyely.com – a rug retailer “catering to the Millennial state-of-mind” – launched an AR rug-visualizer tool that lets shoppers upload a photo of their room to preview any of the company’s rugs in their own living space. To “preview” a rug, consumers can upload their own photo or select from one of nine rooms – including an outdoor space – in the Eyely library.
Do you struggle to find your favorite movie/music/TV/fashion star’s products at retail? Little wonder: Online marketplace GrapeStars says more than 200 “celebrity brands” have somehow elbowed their way onto America’s store shelves. And that’s why this summer, GrapeStars launched “the first-ever virtual direct-to-consumer sales channel,” an app where celebrities can promote their wine and spirits brands directly to fans via social media.
By scrolling through an Instagram or Facebook feed, you can get products from the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, 50 Cent or George Strait, shipped to your doorstep. Future features will enable fans to interact with their favorite celebrities through AR and AI tools, receive recommendations from a virtual sommelier, enter user chat rooms and live stream special events.
Winerytale, self-described as “the AR App for the wine industry,” is certainly setting an ambitious agenda with its July 2020 rollout to the American market. The Australian tech company says it has been harnessing existing content from 10,000 American wine brands. Artificial intelligence is being used to recognize existing labels so that no special printing is required. An AR display will then showcase the wine’s backstory via content streamed from the cloud including videos of the winery, food pairings and tasting notes. Winerytale says that more than 500 wineries across the world already have been taking part in field trials for the app.
Natuzzi Italia, an Italian furniture and lifestyle brand, last year christened an “Augmented Store” on NYC’s Madison Avenue that brings together virtual and augmented reality, holographic displays and advanced 3D interior design configurators. Using the platform, a customer can create a custom room design and then visualize it in two ways: In a miniature, interactive holographic version or as a full-scale, immersive virtual version.
Microsoft’s “mixed reality viewing device” called HoloLens 2 lets a shopper see holograms of products as miniatures that are placed on a horizontal surface, and even “walk around” them to inspect them in detail. Before customers leave the store, they receive a 360-degree rendering, which they can browse by touching the screen of their phone or looking into a VR headset. The company says it hopes to extend this mixed reality technology to its entire Natuzzi retail network by the end of 2020.
In late-spring, British fashion house Burberry unveiled an augmented reality shopping tool (using Google Search on a smartphone app) that lets consumers see its products “embedded in the environment around them.” A mobile search for the “Burberry Black TB” bag or “Arthur Check Sneaker” should enable users to see AR versions of these products “at scale against other real-life objects.”
The company is an active AR experimenter, having in recent months created exclusive, in-store AR experiences activated by QR code as well as “digital pop-ups,” powered by Google Lens, where users can see a live feed of themselves “surrounded by a herd of Burberry deer.”
An augmented reality product launch? One Plus Technology, Shenzhen, China, said why not and debuted its Nord smartphone at 10 a.m. EDT on July 21, creating a special Nord AR app to enable both the tech press and an estimated 150,000 fanboys to “attend.” After downloading the app, attendees were instructed to create their own custom avatars, hover their device over a flat surface (a floor or tabletop), plug in their earbuds and watch. The event presented videos of the Nord’s features and then enabled attendees to virtually “handle” the phone itself, inspecting it from front to back, side to side, and so on.