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AR helps retailers re-imagine the entire shopping journey

by Johan Walters

Despite the speculation about the rise of the machine and the threat to jobs at best, and to humankind at worst, technology will not spell the end for bricks and mortar retail stores any time soon. However, the way customers are experiencing and engaging with the world is shifting and this is one place technology can actually help retailers.

We can all agree that technology has forever shifted how consumers engage with their world. A growing number of games and other marketing campaigns have exposed many of us to Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Realities. AR in particular, with its low cost and high penetration is one technology that retailers can immediately use to improve their customer engagement.

Unlike VR which still requires expensive headsets, AR gives us a new, richer version of the real world. Digital data overlays are delivered to the user through mobile devices found in the hands or pockets of the majority of consumers.

Augmented Reality users are growing rapidly, and the global market is predicted to reach about 90 billion U.S. dollars by 2020. Moreover, AR software revenue is expected to be three times higher than that of VR by the same year.

It’s all about the shopper experience

Online stores have a tech head start on their physical counterparts. For them, it’s much easier to add technology to deepen the shopper experience. However, physical stores are not excluded from imagining and designing shopping experiences.

The smart digital professional will design an AR campaign which drives footfall and increases sales – this is what retail is all about after all. However, this shopper journey needs to start long before we reach the doors of the store.

The trick with this is to isolate the various touch points in the shopper journey and to create an immersive experience that answers the needs and desires of the customer – it’s about creating things to do, over and above the purchase.

The experience needs to begin in the customer’s home. Here your interaction needs to create awareness of the offerings and instill a desire to motivate your customer to enter your store.

Once inside, keep your customer engaged, not with single items, but multiple possibilities which they otherwise may not have considered. Optimising consideration at the shelf boosts cross-selling of products and finally, encouraging customers to engage with an expert – either virtual or real – will  maximize sales across the brand.

International campaigns showcase the opportunity

Using Blippar,Max Factor produced an excellent campaign, showcasing how AR can be effectively used. The objectives were to empower shoppers at key moments with knowledge and inspiration, drive purchase and repurchase of Max Factor products and increase basket spend through cross sell recommendations.

All of Max Factor’s products – nearly 500 individual items – were made fully interactive with curated digital content. By blipping the items shoppers could reveal high-quality information and interactivity tailored specifically to each product. Before and after photos for a particular makeup product, customer reviews, professional makeup tips, and matching your skin tone to different colour palettes helped shoppers get the most out of the decision making process.

Users engaged with the experience 3.5 times on average and 82% of users clicked through to purchase a product. Of the women surveyed after the campaign 70% said they trusted the app’s product recommendations
For local food retailers – especially those concerned with their environmental footprint – an Asian Blippar campaign shows how AR can bring the shopper closer to the brands, through an immersive experience.

Blippar worked with the Visual Trust Initiative to create an end-to-end solution that allows Chinese shoppers to check the quality and origins of their food simply by scanning an item with the Blippar app. The initiative is powered by Blippar, Transparency-One and SGS, and Carrefour is the first international retailer to take advantage of the technology. 
When shoppers scan products they can access quality certificates, test results, location details and images of the relevant farm, as well as nutritional information. This provides full supply-chain transparency from farm to plate.
On the local front, NMPi Labs is seeing a marked uptick in interest from retailers. As AR becomes more pervasive on smartphones and gathers increasing business focus from phone manufactures, we are seeing retailers excited about including AR into their digital strategy. In fact, the more forward thinking executives see AR as a key focus for 2018.

About the author

Johan Walters heads up NMPi Labs (previously C2C Labs). He has over 17  years in the digital marketing space and is also part of the NMPi global consulting team. NMPi Labs is the innovation hub of NMPi digital marketing agency. Focusing on AR, VR and mixed realities, NMPi Labs augments the services offered by NMPi including: digital strategy, performance display, DoubleClick technology, data analytics and SEO. NMPi Labs is a certified Blippar partner in South Africa