Augmented reality (AR) has transformed the smartphone camera into a window through which consumers can engage with interactive digital scenes in the physical world.
On the other side of this window, brands are also harnessing AR to serve up creative experiences to delight their customers.
We launched Shopify AR to help you create personal and interactive AR experiences for your customers on iOS devices—with 3D models of your products that can be viewed at scale and from all angles via Safari.
But the applications for AR go well beyond showcasing the size and details of your products in 3D. With use cases at every stage of the customer journey, AR can fundamentally change the way people discover your products and how you engage with customers after they make a purchase.
Here’s a look at what’s possible when augmented reality meets commerce.
Product discovery through branded AR “scenes”
Today, more brands are investing in blended shopping experiences that set them apart from their competitors and connect with customers in more familiar settings.
Through mobile AR, you can create interactive 3D scenes that can be brought to your customers or even be used to bring your customers to you.
Bringing the interactive AR scene to customers
With mobile AR, brands can draw customers in with unique marketing activations that bring products to life right in front of them.
Without the restraints of physical inventory or set up, the experience of picking up and evaluating products in a retail setting, or discovering a product while passing by an artistic window display, can be actualized wherever your customers are.
These engaging AR displays can enhance your product launches and marketing campaigns with new layers of excitement.
For example, you could send customers a push notification with a VIP alert on their phone to build buzz about an upcoming product launch. After a countdown clock strikes zero, the customer could also use their AR-enabled mobile device to participate in the product reveal in the comfort of their own living room.
Your creativity doesn't need to be bound by the same real-world barriers of physical retail either.
In the video below, the floor in front of the customer opens up to reveal a selection of sneakers flying in from outer space—a sample of what’s possible with today’s technology.
Create immersive local AR experiences
The beauty of mobile AR is that you decide when and where your AR scenes can be accessed, making them as convenient or as exclusive as you wish.
This unlocks the opportunity to use mobile AR in offline marketing activations—such as hiding a product display or promotion somewhere in a city or at a major public event and inviting customers to go out and find it.
Jordan Brand’s Air Jordan III ‘Tinker’ release is just one example of how augmented reality can add another layer of engagement to an in-person marketing campaign.
Jordan Brand teamed up with Snapchat, Shopify, and Darkstore to pre-release the sneaker during the NBA All-Star game in February of 2018. Air Jordan fans invited to the exclusive event were then prompted to scan a mobile Snap code to reveal the new sneaker, purchase it, and have it delivered to their home or hotel room by 10:30 pm that same night.
The sneaker sold out in just 23 minutes.
Recommending products with a more personal context
Beyond product discovery, mobile AR can tailor the shopping experience to a customer’s tastes by using their environment to make personalized recommendations.
AR is becoming increasingly integrated with machine learning: the ability for computer systems to "learn" from and adapt based on a customer’s past behavior. Working in tandem, these technologies can begin to respond to a customer’s physical environment and offer real-time product recommendations that customers can “see” in their space.
The mockup below illustrates how a customer could open an app with their mobile AR device, scan their living room, and immediately receive suggestions for complementary furniture and accessories based on their current decor.
You can imagine how enhanced AR personalization could be used to recommend anything from additional automotive features, beauty products, clothing, sporting goods, and more based on the customer’s context.
The next big leap for AR and machine learning will likely involve reading your physical features or characteristics to recommend products that complement your outfit, your hair or eye color—while taking your recent purchase history into account as well.
Connecting with customers after they buy
Mobile AR puts your product in context and provides valuable, personalized information that helps customers get more utility and enjoyment out of their purchase.
Advancements in AR animation will enable businesses to offer guided experiences that make products easier to use and enjoy.
For example, after a customer receives a product, an interactive tour can show them how to put it together. For furniture, that might mean offering AR animations demonstrating how to assemble a bookshelf step by step. Customers could also watch and learn how to put together toys like a giant LEGO structure, or how to use additional functions and add-ons that are sold separately.
The video above showcases how a customer might experience the assembly of a Gramovox floating record player alongside an AR animation. Notice how each part of the process is slowly animated to add a new, 3D visual that complements the included instruction manual.
What’s more compelling is that the demonstration unfolds on the actual surface where the customer will put the product together. In the case above, assembly takes place on a table, but AR animations can just as easily be viewed in your car to watch how to install a dash cam, or a tent to learn how to set up camping gear.
This added product education is something few brands offer, and it provides rich context that helps customers get more immediate and long-term value from a product, improving their purchasing experience and overall satisfaction.
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Augmented reality: The next frontier for commerce
Within the next few years, you can expect to see more and more creative applications of mobile AR, with brands using the technology to engage consumers at every stage of the customer journey, from discovery to post-purchase.
At Shopify, we’re committed to creating that future by making augmented reality more accessible for businesses of all sizes.
You can learn more about Shopify AR and how you can create AR experiences for your store today at www.shopify.com/ar
Header image: Extra Butter's AR activation at ComplexCon 2018 powered by Shopify