How Retailers and Brands Are Using VR and AR

I had the opportunity to present to an audience at LSA 16 this week, discussing how VR and AR is being used by retailers and brands. During the presentation I demonstrated three augmented reality solutions, followed by a summary of existing executions within the retail and brand market. There are many more implementations in market than I was able to cover, but the below post provides a taste of this fast growing segment of VR and AR. 

Both augmented reality – which can be described as overlaying hyper-local digital content on the real world through a mobile device or headset, and virtual reality – which can be described as full immersion into a stereoscopic, 3D, 360 degree environment with a VR headset, are showing strong signs of being able to drive local commerce. Here are three examples video demos that will spark your imagination on what's possible. 

3D Animated Cat in AR:

This first example is quite amazing, and was developed by Google. As you see, a 3D, animated augmented reality cat is navigating his way around real world obstacles. He walks in front of you as you move. He jumps on chairs, on tables, then back to the floor. And as you get close to him with the device, he paws at the screen. As you see this, you start to imagine that this cat, could be anything, or any-one, you want it to be. If I wanted to follow Taylor Swift for example, along her shopping path through Bloomingdales, I could! The technology exists today. In this demo, you can see that this new prototype device, powered by Google's Project Tango technology has depth sensing, and 3D mesh point cloud technology that’s processing data in real time. And even better, it’s coming to mass market this summer, when Lenovo is launching a Tango powered Android phone.

Project Tango Cat Created by Google, Displayed in the Aisle411 Office 

3D Augmented Reality Furniture Placement:

This next demo was created by Elementals, a company based in Singapore, which allows you to place furniture in a real world environment, change the color, move the furniture around, and essentially, get comfortable with how it will look in your own home.

A home improvement application created by Elementals based in Singapore, through augmented reality with high quality configurable furniture 3D models. Designed on the Google Project Tango platform.

In-Store Navigation in Augmented Reality

This next demo is a device screen capture taken inside a Best Buy store. Augmented Reality allows a user to experience in-store navigation, and discovery, like never before. By creating a 3D map of the store with a Project Tango device, we are then able to overlay contextual data about what products are where, and add rewards and discovery mechanisms that allow for a really unique experience you can only get in-store. 

Aisle411 Project Tango Demo in Best Buy

These three examples are augmented reality, which is inherently location-based. In that, the device needs to know where I am, within centimeters of accuracy. It also has the potential for influencing purchase behavior in a local capacity. 

There are many different approaches to how both AR and VR are influencing retail purchase intent, and brand building.

AR and VR strategies for retailers and brands typically fall into 1 of 4 categories:

  1. Pre-planning a shopping trip - using augmented reality or virtual reality to allow for a more informed purchase, and therefore, as shoppers go-in-store, they convert into buyers at higher levels
  2. Marketing - brands are creating an emotional attachment to a brand or product through VR - driving a shopper to a buying experience.
  3. Enterprise store planning - using VR to allow merchandisers and shopper marketing teams to experience new designs, and test with shoppers before building out an entire new store layout. 
  4. In-Store Engagement - navigating the store with augmented reality, getting product information in-store using AR, and creating rewards and game based incentives for visiting certain areas of the store.

9 more examples of existing AR and VR deployments fueling local commerce:

  • Sephora- testing augmented reality videos that play at strategic places in-store when using your mobile app, creating digital and physical engagement while educating shoppers so they make confident purchase decision.

  • Bud Light - using VR to take you to Bud Light branded parties and concerts. You feel like you're in another place, and it's being brought to you buy Bud Light.

  • Lowe's - working with Elementals based in Singapore on furniture and appliance placement in your home through augmented reality. They’re also working with Marxent for VR experiences in-store.

  • Tommy Hilfiger – let’s you go in-store, and experience being at their latest runway show in VR.
  • Walgreens and Best Buy - working with Aisle411, based in St. Louis, on in-store augmented reality navigation
  • Dacor - working with Pair based in Washington, DC to showcase their appliances in AR
  • Prizmiq - based in Seattle is building the largest 3D models of products for use in VR and AR.
  • Incontext - based in Chicago, is creating Virtual reality stores and shelves to plan store layouts more efficiently.