Stacy Bingle
Stacy Bingle is Senior Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. She engages clients in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

A few short years ago, the term ‘augmented reality’ (AR) seemed far-off and futuristic to many. Today, smartphone-wielding consumers are generally familiar with the technology that overlays a view of the physical world with a digital display. If you’ve used a Snapchat filter or ‘tried on’ makeup digitally, you’ve used AR.

For brands and marketers, this technology creates room to make consumer experiences more seamless and engaging in entirely new ways. Recent advancements such as Apple’s release of its ARKit, which makes it easier for app developers to create high-quality AR experiences, are quickly expanding the opportunity.

In tandem with opportunity, rising comfort and adoption levels with virtual worlds translate to rising consumer expectations for a seamless experience, as discussed in the Mintel Trend ‘Alternative Realities.’ Brand activations from around the world can inspire fresh ideas around leveraging AR to provide consumers with clear benefits.

Tangibility

Bringing products and services to life can help consumers choose from among their many options by making the selection more palpable.

  • Clothing retailer Zara introduced AR displays to connect the online and offline shopping experiences. Customers could hold their smartphones up to sensors in shop windows or in-store to view models wearing selected related looks, with the option to then click through and buy the items online.
  • Bareburger tested Snapchat AR to facilitate visual menu exploration. The brand also created an AR ‘spokesbear’ that rewarded diners with free food for interacting. Bareburger’s CMO says these approaches have increased same-store sales.
  • The beauty industry is notable for its on-point adoption of AR to allow shoppers to virtually try on new colors and learn new makeup looks, whether in store or at home. NYX Professional Makeup, Estée Lauder, and MAC Cosmetics are some of the latest brands in the space to launch new features.

Physical guidance

When people could use a little direction, a digital overlay can be incredibly helpful.

  • Starbucks joined forces with Alibaba to develop an AR tour of its recently-opened Reserve Roastery store in Shanghai. The tour guided customers through the colossal store and provided additional information about coffee. Customers who participated in the tour earned virtual badges, which they could use to access a custom Roastery photo filter.
  • American Airlines partnered with Groove Jones to design an AR app that guides travelers to their gates, showing them restaurant wait times and other points of interest along the way.

Thrills and excitement

Brands can gain the attention of distracted consumers by taking promotions to the next level with AR.

  • A campaign in Singapore allowed consumers to create a personalized Magnum ice cream through an AR experience, then pick up their bespoke treat from Magnum’s Pleasure Store at the ION mall for a discounted price.
  • Movie-goers can scan Regal Entertainment Group’s collectible magazine Moviebill to access exclusive content and immersive AR experiences related to each film.
  • In Brazil, Oreo developed an AR scavenger hunt that gives users clues to find virtual Oreos in the world around them. Once the virtual cookie is found, players scan it into the app to unlock points.
  • Ally Bank’s AR mobile game ‘The Ally Big Save’ challenged consumers to think critically about their savings goals through a playful approach. Users could download the app and start playing during the Super Bowl’s commercial breaks, with each break offering a new chance to win a cash prize.

Deeper understanding

AR can contextualize news and information to make it clearer and more digestible.

  • Coca-Cola China launched an AR experience that allowed consumers to interact with each of 23 new limited edition cans that highlighted the distinct cultures of different Chinese cities.
  • Media outlets are allowing readers to bring the news to life and engage with it. The New York Times began integrating AR content into its app with a focus on the 2018 Winter Olympics. USA Todays app ‘321 Launch’ delivers a multi-layered interactive experience for space-related news and content.

As the continued adoption of AR blurs the line between physical and digital worlds, expect to see consumers increasingly seek out any experience that streamlines the way they access information and make decisions.

Brands who respond quickly can stand out from the competition, create immersive environments, and help consumers clearly envision their world with your product or service in it.