How web AR can help retailers reach customer loyalty and sales

Competition for consumer attention is fiercer than ever. Experts suggest that the average consumer is fielding 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. In today’s attention economy, brands are spending millions of dollars on marketing and ad communications strategies to stand out amongst the sea of digital content that floods consumer’s devices. But the harsh reality is that still so many brands go unnoticed. So how do brands cut through the noise and deliver memorable messages that drive real-world impact? One answer to this challenge is Augmented Reality (AR).

Augmented reality, when deployed correctly and for the right use cases, is proving to be an incredibly successful tool for capturing people’s attention and driving successful campaigns for marketers and advertisers alike.

AR in advertising and marketing

The AR market is forecasted to be valued at more than 18.8 billion dollars in 2020.

With the introduction of ARKit and ARCore (the iOS and Android platforms that run AR for mobile) and web-based AR platforms such as 8th Wall (we’ll dive into the technical nuances later), advertisers and marketers now have a big opportunity to create innovative campaigns that integrate the digital world into the physical world.

Whether it’s through augmenting product packaging with interactive content, virtual tours in brick-and-mortar shops to display more detailed information, or ‘try before you buy’ at home opportunities (Starbucks or IKEA as two obvious examples here), augmented reality is enriching the customer experience digitally in a way that few technologies can.

AR marketing campaigns are far more likely to convert browsers to buyers. Brands online have between 3-7 secs to convert to a sale but with AR, dwell times are increased to 75 seconds (4x that of mobile video). Memory response to AR is also 70% higher than non-AR.

AR ads are also seeing a 520% increase in intent to purchase over the next six months (95x the benchmark for non-AR). Virgin Holidays ran an AR-enabled email campaign that saw a 40% increase in email rates and a 75% increase in click-through-rates (CTR), a key indicator for engagement.

With the online retail market making up 16.1% or about $4.2 trillion of the overall retail market and expected to reach 22% by 2023, brands know they need to create a standout digital shopping experience for their customers.

For example, Shopify has found that viewing 3D product visualizations result in a 2x boost (200 percent) in conversions.

AR marketing uses are versatile and can break down language barriers for brands looking to expand into international markets. Simply by holding up your phone, consumers can read content in their preferred language. Google translate AR mode provides text in more than 40 different languages.

It’s also an accurate way for brands to capture valuable data on what customers like and dislike for more targeted advertising and to integrate with existing retargeting services like Facebook Pixel, Google Ads, landing pages, or wish lists.

Immersive AR platforms can tell a story that directs people to deeper content engagement through gamification and interaction, bringing consumers into the experience itself since AR is accessible to anyone with a smartphone.

Not to mention, in today’s COVID landscape, consumer brands have to try even harder to connect, communicate, and sell to customers who are less inclined or unable to safely go into stores. Digital transformation has become critical for the success of any business and augmented reality is an important part of this evolution.

COVID-19 and demand from younger generations require businesses to offer better digital experiences and more efficient ways to shop online. Immersive storytelling and Web-based AR can help deliver on that–creating new ways for companies to reach and delight customers, drive brand engagement, and achieve measurable value

The difference between web-based AR vs app-based AR

Where app-based AR (think Pokemon GO) requires the user to download and store an application on their phone (taking up time and space), WebAR is app-less and requires no downloads.

Like application-based AR, WebAR uses your phone’s camera to register computer-generated information and virtual experiences to the real-world. But where WebAR has the upper hand is its usability and accessibility as it’s initiated through a QR code or hyperlink that runs on your phone, similar to a traditional website in the browser.

WebAR breaks down barriers to entry for users and dramatically improves engagement numbers. All a user needs is the smartphone in their pocket. With approximately 3.4B smartphone devices in the market today that’s a pretty broad pool of potential users!

WebAR is still in its infancy and does limitations today. In many ways, Web AR can be thought of as an extension of a webpage with the corresponding memory and 3D file format constraints which has a knock-on effect on the visual and real-time performance quality.

But big players including Facebook, Apple, Google, and Snapchat are already placing bets on web-based AR with everything from ads, product quick views, and face filters.

In similar fashion to other emerging tech, WebAR is expected to evolve quickly over the next few years and be even more performative with the roll out of infrastructures such as 5G.

WebAR offers the simplest way for big tech players like Apple and Google to build their own AR capabilities straight into their web-browsers and operating systems for both control and ease of use.

The benefits of web AR in retail

The potential of Web-based AR in retail is huge, particularly in terms of attracting new customers and boosting sales. By using WebAR, brands can engage customers in-store using QR Codes to interact with products, services, posters, flyers, receipts, or tags to gain insight into the brand in a way that can educate, engage, and entertain the user.

With 60% of shoppers looking up product information with their phones while in-store, customers are already used to pulling out their phones while shopping, Nudging shoppers to scan a QR code to activate an AR experience that will help inform purchasing or extend product information is a small ask, especially when it’s that easy.

Why should shoppers care about WebAR?

Studies have shown that 91 percent of online shoppers have ordered clothes online that didn’t fit right. More than a third, 37 percent, regularly buy more than one size of an item and return what doesn’t fit. That equates to huge pain for any shopper and huge expenses in return costs for any company.

How does Web AR solve this challenge? Say a customer—let’s call her Jane—loves a pair of pants in green, but the store only has her size in black on the shelf. Using her phone camera and a simple QR code, Jane scans the tag and can now easily see a holographic fashion model (or a 3D avatar of herself in the near future) wearing the green pants in front of her.

Jane then configures her avatar with a pair of black shoes and matching sweater. The app is connected to the store’s warehouse management system and Jane is notified she can have the green pants shipped to her home from another store along with the recommended sweater.

Jane now has the confidence and information she needs to make a more informed purchasing decision. Jane adds both items to cart and buys. Jane is happy and the store just received an upsell with zero sales touch.

Taking this example one step further, customers like Jane don’t even need to go into stores to try on clothes. Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, worked with Rock Paper Reality (RPR) to develop an AR fashion configurator that allows customers to customize a virtual mannequin with the clothing of their choice both instore and at home, add it to their cart, and purchase.

It’s AR experiences such as these that increase a buyer’s confidence and convenience to shop online, especially during a time of social distancing when it’s often safer to remain in your home.

Additional reasons why brands should care about WebAR?

  • The cost to implement WebAR doesn’t require a native iOS or Android app which reduces development complexity and project costs
  • WebAR offers the ability to beta test and get real-time feedback from users before fully committing to a large investment up front.
  • Since WebAR is web-based, it’s simple to get real-time data and ROI on experiences by integrating tools like Google Analytics into the experience.
  • WebAR offers benefits of scale and reach, since you can target your audience on just about any channel or platform
  • WebAR helps brands connect more personally with their customers by integrating AR into their CRM and seamlessly pushing out experiences to their customers wherever they are and whenever they need an AR experience most.
  • WebAR offers proven results – we’ll look at some examples further down this article.