AR Sparks Revolution in Consumer Engagement

Few could forget the international mania surrounding Pokémon Go, an interactive social app that brought the popular 90’s characters to virtual life and took summer 2016 by storm. Though the Pokémon Go craze has long passed, many retailers have taken note of the exciting potential presented by augmented reality (AR). Distinct from virtual reality (VR), which completely obstructs a viewer’s surroundings to immerse them in a virtual world, AR is a virtual overlay that works alongside the real world, enhancing physical surroundings with digital images, text, graphics, and video. AR is distinct for its ability to work in tandem with print, providing retailers the unique ability to pair their print marketing campaigns with digital technology to achieve a deeper level of consumer engagement.


Enhanced experiences

Using the power of AR platforms, retailers can take 2-D printed in-store graphics and transform them into a multidimensional interactive experience. Disney’s Star Wars recently teamed up with major mass market retailers like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy to create an engaging AR scavenger hunt in advance of the newest Star Wars film. Utilizing the “Find the Force” AR app, fans hunted through stores in search of specially printed signage that interacted with their phones to display virtual characters and exclusive content that could then be shared on social media. This unique initiative successfully merged print and AR to generate excitement, drive store traffic, and promote merchandise sales.


An AR app developed by Converse allowed shoppers to virtually try various styles and colors of shoes. (Converse)

Motivation to action

AR technology can help retailers create a seamless path from shopping to purchase. Several brands–such as Uniqlo, The Gap, Converse, and Adidas–are utilizing virtual fitting rooms and phone apps, allowing customers to digitally “try on” apparel products in multiple different styles and colors to make the best selection. Make-up brands like Sephora and L’Oreal offer virtual make-up applications with facial recognition technology that maps users’ facial features and enables them to “apply” various shades of lipstick, eyeshadow, blush, and mascara. IKEA uses AR in conjunction with their printed catalog to overlay 3D images of their furniture products on their customer’s camera feeds, allowing them to visualize new furniture in their home and accurately approximate the amount of space needed. By creating customized AR experiences that empower customers to learn about and “try” products at their convenience, retailers provide a streamlined avenue for customers to discover, compare, consider, and purchase.


Sustained engagement

Keeping customers engaged and loyal are crucial tasks for every retailer; repeat customers are 60-70% more likely to make a purchase, and are willing to spend 60% more per transaction than new customers. AR technology has great potential to aid in customer service, fostering loyalty through convenience and customized offers. Imagine an intelligent shopper app that consumers could use to scan printed signage in a given area of a store in order to receive relevant product information, user ratings, brand recommendations, and promotional coupons for merchandise in that specific area. While not yet widespread, such useful, personalized AR enhancements present retailers an exciting opportunity to create more targeted and meaningful connections with consumers.


When strategically paired with print, AR presents a valuable marketing opportunity for retailers to make shopping more exciting and relevant. By experimenting with AR technology and blending the digital world with the real world, retailers can take their in-store experience to the next level, providing customers richer, more personalized experiences that create lasting impressions.