Facebook and Nike Are Using Augmented Reality to Let You Unbox Before You Buy

Facebook and Nike want to bring a new way of shopping for limited-edition sneakers to your smartphone.

At Tuesday’s F8 developer conference at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the newest features of the Messenger app, among them a way for brands to use augmented reality to enhance the shopping experience.

Nike is among the first companies to roll this out on the app, giving customers the chance to shop limited-edition sneakers and see the shoes up close and personal using AR. To snag the initial pair, the Kyrie 4 “Red Carpet” edition, fans of the brand had to link their SNKRS account to Facebook Messenger, enter a code of emojis and unlock the shoe, which was displayed on a red and gold platform and could be moved or manipulated by the user, as well as shared with his or her friends to get a second opinion.

The move marks the sneaker brand’s latest foray into AR-powered commerce: it’s also developing a virtual design system and a location-based marketing experience that lets shoppers unlock sneakers by visiting a specific drop site.

Phone screens showing Nike's Facebook Messenger AR shopping features.
Nike’s Facebook Messenger AR experience.
CREDIT: Facebook

Messenger, for its part, has 1.3 billion users, and over 300,000 active messaging bots, Facebook’s VP of Products, David Marcus, writes in a Newsroom post.

“Blending AR effects and messaging solves a real problem for people shopping online. There are so many situations where we need to visualize a product before we feel comfortable buying it. We often seek input from our friends and family before making a purchase. This feature — launching in closed beta — leverages the nature of messaging to help people get valuable instant feedback about purchases, customizations and more without ever needing to set foot in a store.”

Also among the initial launch group are Asus, Kia and Sephora, and more are expected to be added in the near future.

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