Why Businesses Are Investing in Augmented Reality

What does the uptake of augmented reality (AR) look like in this new era of social distancing? What kind of opportunities exist for businesses to embrace AR?

These questions loom large as technology analysts such as IDC assess AR’s growth. Recently IDC delivered a report on both AR and virtual reality (VR) that offered a mixed assessment. IDC predicted that spend on AR and VR would decrease in 2020 partly because of a broader slowdown in technology spending caused by a recessionary economy. But IDC also noted that:

“. . . the longer-term growth opportunities for AR/VR may emerge even stronger. Remote working requirements, contactless business processes, augmented meeting places, and virtual social togetherness portend an updraft in expected demand for the enabling of AR and VR technologies.

In other words, AR is about opportunity – specifically to break away from the pack especially if a brand’s competitors are not investing in AR.

The AR Opportunity Gets Stronger

And the opportunity is getting stronger. eMarketer, for instance, recently discussed how some businesses have embraced AR during the pandemic. eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said in an interview,

“The shutdown of many retail stores spurred some marketers to invest more in AR as a way to offer virtual try-on and other experiences typically only available in-store. Several social media properties now enable try-on within their apps.”

In fact, industry leaders such as Apple are investing in AR in some big ways.

AR Delivers Measurable Value

On a broader level, AR may change how organizations operate, period – from how automakers design cars (as Ford has shown) to how healthcare providers care for people (as discussed in this article). We believe businesses should consider AR for both long-term and short-term uses. Consider far-reaching uses of AR to improve operations as a longer-term play. But AR can and does deliver measurable value in the short term especially in how AR can improve the customer experience.

We believe that AR experiences such as Pokémon GO that were launched before the pandemic hit are more relevant than ever. AR experiences already make it possible for brands to integrate the online/offline worlds in an immersive and safe way. For instance, recently, Adidas Originals tasked us with launching a new colorway for the iconic NMD shoe, available exclusively at Champs Sports. The goal was to drive engagement and purchase intent with real fans—not shoe resellers. We reimagined the product drop as a series of “hidden” WebAR experiences that eliminated lines and outsmarted resellers.

We reinvented the product drop, replacing the static queue with an engaging brand experience that was designed for real NMD fans. Across the country, WebAR-enabled wild postings transformed city street corners into instant hidden drop zones — no app download required. Fans who found the posters could skip the line and click straight to purchase. We provided local streetwear influencers with custom stickers so that they could create their own hidden drop sites. Influencers shared their sticker locations on Instagram — so only true fans who followed along could find them.

We distributed 590 WebAR-enabled posters across five US cities, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago. We activated five local streetwear micro-influencers, providing them with the new gear and their own custom-designed WebAR-enabled wild postings to create additional distribution channels. We worked with these influencers to co-create editorial content on Instagram Stories, along with interactive city guides to share the hidden dropzone locations with their communities. WebAR turned posters and wild postings into hidden product drop zones that only real fans would spot. Fans could explore the new NMD Camo Pack in immersive, interactive AR before clicking through to a mobile optimized commerce site, guaranteeing access to the shoe.

The experience resulted in a 168% sales lift for Adidas, 87% conversion by click-through to commerce, and 35.8 million impressions from wild postings.

We’ve created many other AR experiences as well, such as the Foot Locker “Hunt for Court Purple,” an AR scavenger hunt that gave sneakerheads a chance to be one of the first to buy the coveted LeBron 16 King “Court Purple” sneaker. We integrated the AR feature into Foot Locker’s existing mobile app — allowing them to offer customers exclusive content and experiences timed to limited-release product drops.

The beauty of those experiences is that they smash through the tedium of customers having to line up for sneaker drops. And nowadays, customers bunching outside stores waiting for product drops is less appealing from a health and safety standpoint.


Contact Isobar

At Isobar, we’re working with many businesses now to build their brands and generate commerce with technologies such as AR. Forward-thinking businesses aren’t waiting for the next wave of AR adoption to hit. They’re tapping into natural human behaviors (such as using our mobile phones) to create AR experiences that create value now. Contact us to learn how we can help you.