Augmented reality has had its advocates and critics over the past few years, as retail companies explored how to use the technology in the most effective way. Now, after successful experiments in immersive store activations and home try-on technology, data from Snap Inc, Alter Agents and Publicis Media shows that consumers have bought into AR as a shopping staple.
In a three-part study conducted in the U.S., U.K., France and Saudi Arabia, consumers reported that branded AR experiences increase their likelihood of purchasing a product, particularly when used to support product personalization (73%), virtual try-on (72%) and product demonstration (70%). This suggests that shoppers are viewing AR more as an e-commerce tool than a marketing gimmick, which is how the technology has commonly been deployed in the past.
This could have powerful impact on the bottom lines of retailers who are able to leverage AR in their own digital channels. At the moment, the space is still only dominated by a few key players like Nike yet participation rates are high: the study found that more than half of people aged 13–49 claimed to have used AR in the past, while almost a third have engaged specifically in branded AR experiences.
For merchants looking to take advantage of this trend, they might want to consider partnering with an experienced AR platform – both for operational assistance and to boost their audience size. Snap is known for its innovative launches in the AR market and counts a highly engaged consumer base, with its users 56% more likely than non-Snapchatters to participate in a branded AR program.
This is likely due to the company’s popularity within the Gen Z demographic. Snap reaches over 90% of 13-24 year olds and over 75% of 13-34 year olds in the US, UK, France, Australia, and the Netherlands. As a trusted source, it becomes an obvious gateway to brand partnerships, particularly as the study found that over half of consumers actively sought out AR experiences, such as by searching within Snap’s camera function.
Snap, Alter Agents and Publicis Media found that, of those surveyed, Gen Z has the highest conversion when exposed to branded AR and also the most familiarity with the technology overall. One of the biggest barriers to technology adoption is asking customers to learn a new interface; by reaching out to those who are already in the know, merchants can focus on providing a compelling user experience.
Perhaps most importantly, the data showed that this is not a pandemic-specific trend but rather one that is likely to continue into the new normal. Not only do more than 3 out of 4 customers believe that AR will play a role in the next five years of retail, but 57% reported that they would increase their use of AR after the pandemic. This comes despite shoppers commonly reporting an interest in returning to stores, thus showing that AR has applications for both in-store and online channels.
Those looking to explore AR for the first time should be aware of its most common use cases for retail: to inspire product discovery and inform purchasing decisions, such as through virtual try-on; to help foster brand engagement and loyalty, through gaming or personalization experiences; and to educate consumers, often tied to activations at physical locations or larger initiatives.