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Altering the Shopper Experience With AR

How brands are delighting, surprising and serving consumers throughout the retail experience, writes Arc Senior Art Director Glenn Madigan

As retailers look for ways to revolutionize brick-and-mortar stores, brands are using augmented reality (AR) to break the mold and break through these physical confines. From immersive in-store experiences to bringing showrooms to your smartphone, AR offers brands new ways to show up throughout the shopper journey.

While AR was once a futuristic fairytale, in which the tech was not affordable or accessible, companies like Magic Leap and Snap Inc. have altered that reality. Snapchat quickly became the go-to platform to play with face-mapping filters, dancing hot dogs and, later, a Bitmoji playground for your avatar self. Now, other platforms and apps like Facebook/Instagram, Snaappy and Pokémon Go all have ways to transform your world.

This has made the population-at-large (especially Gen Y- and Z-ers) more comfortable to interact with AR in new ways. For brands, this means they have the opportunity to bring added dimension to their products, services and retail spaces in ways that prior digital/mobile expressions could not.

DC, for example, offered exclusive AR content for Walmart shoppers last fall for the theatrical release of Warner Bros.’ “Justice League.” Shoppers could find the movie display in select stores to unlock video content and a virtual photo-op with the superheroes through their phones. In this instance, AR serves as a worthwhile traffic driver to store, which delivers an experience offered nowhere else.

Beyond in-store displays, AR can become an impressive addition to packaging, as found on the labels of Australian wine brand 19 Crimes. A series of bottles feature the mugshot of a different criminal. When paired with their app, the mugshots come to life to share an animated retelling of their crime and punishment. This use of AR not only offers a new way to interact with the wine for brand loyalists, but also encourages other shoppers to pick up a bottle and share with friends (one party trick that this author is certainly guilty of).

Alongside any entertainment value, AR can also serve a brand in more functional ways. Consider “Ikea Place,” an app that offers you the chance to select and virtually place Ikea furniture in your home before you venture off to the warehouse. The app, developed with Apple’s ARKit developer toolkit, allows shoppers to explore different pieces in their home with accurate depictions of fabric, lighting and scale.

In 2018, brands have an opportunity to surprise, delight and serve shoppers in inventive ways through AR – bringing audiences cutting-edge ways to unlock exclusive content, animate once-static packaging and appear virtually anywhere in an AR-activated world.

Headshot - Glenn Madigan

Glenn Madigan is a senior art director for Arc’s Retail Design Group, a team devoted to building branded environments and activating shopper senses in all dimensions.