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AUGMENTED REALITY IN RETAIL

18.01.20

My recent blog – Online on the High Street – took a closer look at how bricks-and-mortar stores can adopt digital practices to entice footfall. From personalisation to social media activations to immersive, interactive experiences, there are a lot of avenues that traditional shops can trial. One such avenue is Augmented Reality (AR).

Once thought of as gimmicky, AR is fast becoming a go-to medium - enthralling customers and unlocking new levels of engagement in the process. Current projections indicate augmented reality will generate $120 billion dollars in revenue by the end of 2020. What’s more, with Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARkit, it’s easier than ever to present fresh content in this format. So, what attracts retailers, and consumers, to AR in the first place?

Providing viable solutions to common customer pain points is one key reason. Take IKEA, for example. Utilising Apple’s ARkit, they launched their Place app in Autumn 2017, allowing users to see true-to-scale 3D models of IKEA furniture in situ in their own homes before parting with their hard-earned pennies. The concept sounds simple, but delivering the technology behind it has surely been anything but. It’s a game changer, that’s for sure, but the IKEA team does not plan to rest on their laurels. Leader of Digital Transformation, Michael Valdsgaard, theorises:

 

We found out through research that some customers weren’t confident about buying. So, this is aimed at making that experience easier for them… It could eventually be that you put in contact lenses and you don’t need to look at a phone anymore. We’re really right at the beginning of the big bang with AR and understanding just how it can make everyday life better for people.

Large corporates in particular tend to invest in the latest technology trends in a bid to keep ahead of their competition. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the good, the bad and the ugly…  

THE GOOD

Engine Creative collaborated with Lacoste to design and develop an innovative AR campaign to bring their strapline of ‘Bring the Colour’ to life. They created an app that enables users to virtually try on trainers from the Lacoste range, interact with additional content and share their images on social media. Not only did more than 30,000 users interact with 3D products within the app, Lacoste were also able to utilise the technology as a sales tool to attract new stockists to their products.

THE BAD

Another global French brand, Sephora, developed their Virtual Artist app and website platform in conjunction with AR company ModiFace. Customers can upload a selfie and ‘try on’ make-up before buying via software that overlays their chosen products. Sounds like a great idea, and something I could envisage my wife using. But not all feedback was positive.

 

Certain looks were deemed unrealistic, and users were unable to get a good sense of colour swatches given that they were digitally enhanced. Not only that but some grew tired of looking at their own face for that long trying to make it look better – only to become frustrated with the app when it didn’t turn them into Jennifer Aniston! 

THE UGLY

Now, I can’t vouch personally for make-up apps, but I have encountered ugly executions elsewhere. I’m not sure who out there enjoys painting their house (I certainly don’t!), but the stress that comes with trying to find the “perfect” shade is something we could all do without.

 

Purchasing overpriced sample pots time and time again, brimming with confidence that this time you’ve found the one – until you get home, that is, when you find it doesn’t even come close to what you had in mind. It shouldn’t be that hard! 

So, I went in search of a technology-based solution that would take the guesswork out of finding the perfect pastel paint. Enter the Dulux Visualizer App. On the face of it, the premise is a solid one and their marketing spiel had me at hello:

Colour inspiration can be found just about anywhere; from a cushion or pair of shoes, to the flowers in your garden. Thanks to the Dulux Visualizer App and the new colour picker technology it’s now easier than ever before to bring those colours to life in your home and choose colour with confidence. The easy to use app lets you pick a colour from anywhere, and, with augmented reality technology, allows you to see the colours live in your living space.

The reality, however, made me want to say goodbye to Dulux for good. 

The effects are poor - just big blocks of colour over your already unappealing magnolia walls. It may work as intended if you live in a box with no furniture, but sadly the app is unable to easily distinguish what is and isn’t a wall! What’s more, I felt more confused about which shade of paint to plump for than I did at the beginning. To quote from App Store reviews: 

Terrible app, it’s free and I still feel ripped off.

 

And…

Takes a lot of trial and error to get anything working. Couldn’t stop it applying the colour to the ceiling and it seems like a glorified version of the ‘colour fill’ functionality on Microsoft Paint.

Ouch. Nice try Dulux, but the lesson here is clear: if you’re going to do it, do it right. Releasing a substandard app with disappointing results will only serve to alienate customers. It fails to give a true representation of Dulux products which will surely reduce sales as result. They lost my business, that’s for sure, as I ended up spending more than I’d like to admit at Farrow & Ball!

Clearly a lot of money is spent by companies on AR technology, but it’s much better to be the best than be the first. Sometimes it’s the extra time spent on development that pays dividends in the long run. 

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