You have managed to get hold of a ticket to watch England play Brazil in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final. You spot your favourite player, England’s captain Harry Kane. You point your iPhone at him and a virtual sign appears in the sky above his head. It lists his career stats. But it also offers you the opportunity to click on his shirt and order it at an exclusive knock-down price.
The Harry Kane example is similar to one used by Si Brown, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Skignz, during his presentation at Wired Retail in 2015. Skignz is an AR platform that uses geolocation to place digital signs in the sky. Purchasing a football shirt when you’re at a football match is an example of what Brown labelled “emotive purchasing”. “As we all know, when your emotions are high, your common sense is low, so you’re more likely to spend money,” he said.
This technology is a godsend for retailers—and it’s just the start. Skignz wants to “provide an ecosystem of information around the world”. For Brown, the aim is to encourage users to “stop looking at their phone and start to look through it”. He imagines a world in which we all wear smart glasses and can access content through voice-activated search, with the results being displayed in the real world around us.
Skignz is just one of the ways in which augmented reality (AR)—defined by Merriam-Webster as “an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (such as a smartphone camera)”—can and is changing our shopping experience online and offline.
Google Glass, released in 2013 and rereleased in 2017, and Niantic’s Pokémon Go, released in 2016, put AR in the spotlight. But it is Apple Inc. that is now leading the way with ARKit, a set of software development tools that can be used to build AR apps for Apple’s iOS mobile operating system.
The best-known ARKit app designed for the retail sector is perhaps IKEA Place, which allows you to “virtually place” true-to-scale 3D models of IKEA products in your own home.
But IKEA is not the only brand using AR. Housecraft allows you to “Furnish and visualise a room in AR”. Using Houzz’s My Room 3D feature, you can view true-to-scale 3D models of products available for purchase on Houzz and place them in your home. Paint brand Delux’s Delux Visualiser allows you to virtually paint the walls of your home with paints from the Delux range. TV Plan, created by Toronto-based iOS developer Gabriel O’Flaherty-Chan, “lets you project a life-size flat screen television onto the walls of your living room, so that you know exactly how your new TV will look in real life”. Lovers of Patrón can download The Patrón Experience and enjoy a virtual tour of the Patrón Hacienda, where Patrón tequila is made. There is even a virtual barman who will provide information about each bottle. BMW has the iVisualiser app that enables you to sit in the car, switch on the radio, turn on the lights and see how it would look in your driveway. The Virtual Artist feature on make-up brand Sephora’s app allows you to virtually try before you buy.
US start-up ApolloBox, an online marketplace for lifestyle products, uses an AR feature called Teleport to allow customers to view virtual 3D models of 121,466 of its products in their own home. In March 2017, TechCrunch reported that since starting Teleport in beta the sale of 1,105 items on ApolloBox, approximately 8.5% of all sales during the period, had involved AR.
VR is also being used in-store. UK-based digital creative studio Holition is responsible for Nails by Holition, an app that allows users to virtually try on nail varnish, but it has also created a number of in-store solutions for retailers, including a “blended reality” Magic Mirror for French cosmetics brand Borjois that uses facial recognition software to allow users to virtually try on makeup. Last year, Swiss retailer Migros added the Discover function to its mobile app that utilises AR technology to allow shoppers to access information about products in-store, including recipes and ratings, by scanning them with their mobile phones.
UK-based visual search start-up SnapTech provides numerous AR solutions for retailers, including a “magic mirror”. “Instead of seeing a fitting room as somewhere to just try on an item and then discard it, we’ve created a ‘magic mirror’, which effectively turns a fitting room into a ‘discovery portal’,” Snap Tech founder Jenny Griffiths told Wired. “When you try on an item, we ask you if you liked it or if you didn’t like it. If you don’t like it we ask you what’s wrong—is it the colour, the quality or the fit? Based on your answers, we tap into different combinations of our algorithms to show you items we’ll know you’ll love instead; either in store or online.”
SnapTech has also created “digital stylist” Snap InStore, a search tool that allows shoppers to match items of clothing in store.
The list of examples is endless, and the stats also suggest AR has a starring role to play in the future of retail, with Digi-Capital’s Augmented/Virtual Reality Report in 2017 predicting that mobile AR could be the driving force behind a US$108 billion VR/AR market by 2021 and Global Market Insights predicting that the AR market, boosted by adoption across retail and e-commerce, will grow at approximately 65% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) between 2017 and 2024.
This story is designed to throw an everyday lens on some of the issues being discussed and debated by investors across the world; it is not research, so please do not interpret it as a recommendation for your personal investments. However, if something has piqued your interest and you would like to find out more or discuss what investments might be suitable for you, please contact one of our Investment Managers on 020 7337 0777.