Sabre Thinking

13 Jun / Is Augmented Reality the Next Big Retail and Marketing Trend?

Ever wonder what it would be like to shop in your favorite stores or test-drive a car from the comfort of your home? Or how about a virtual hike for the adventure seekers? Thanks to new augmented and virtual reality apps and experiences, consumers are getting a whole new look at their favorite brands. Vera Bradley’s new 360 Experience and Merrell’s virtual hiking experience on a rocky edge caught our eye as some of the most innovative new ways to interact with brands.

What Is Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality?

virtual-reality-creates-new-brand-experiencesAugmented reality (AR) is typically used via an app on your smartphone or tablet. The app accesses your camera to create a view of what’s in front of you, but then adds a layer of information such as text or images. This technology can be used in retail, real estate, even as a tool to locate a nearby ATM. Remember when Pokémon Go first came out? This was a pivotal moment when consumers around the world started to embrace AR technology.

Virtual reality (VR) on the other hand creates a simulated environment, so you’re not seeing the real world in front of you. VR is a more immersive experience for a few reasons: one being that you’re wearing a headset which alters your senses and two, you’re either viewing an animated environment or actual footage of a place in the world, not what’s actually in front of you. This type of technology is being used more to create new brand experiences, not necessarily to try to sell products or services.

AR and VR in Marketing

If you’ve recently been in a mall or tech store, it’s likely you’ve seen some young people (and hey, maybe their parents) looking around through their VR goggles. It’s been said that Generation Z is much more interested in the experience of a brand, rather than just the material items. For this reason, they would prefer to shop in a store that offers an experience beyond just shopping. And since Gen Z is estimated to become one of the most powerful consumer groups in the market spending nearly $44 billion a year, it’s essential for brands to stay aware of new technologies like AR and VR.

Implementing an experience into your retail store, or even online via an app, is becoming more and more common practice today. There are still some technical challenges concerning making these experiences feel even more real, but it’s not stopping brands like Merrell, Vera Bradley, Patrón and Wayfair from implementing new experiences to entice our senses as consumers.

A few of the ways in which these brands are using AR and VR are as follows:

Patron released an AR app for the iPhone that places a miniature scene from a distillery in Mexico onto your table or floor. Complete with your own bartender and an agave field, you can learn about the different types of their brand’s liquor and the aging process. Eventually, they plan to turn their AR experience into an e-commerce platform and sell their products.

Wayfairtest-new-furniture-with-augmented-reality now has a feature on their app that allows you to hold your camera in your room to see how a new couch or chair would look in the space. This will enable you to try out their products before purchasing them in an entirely new way.

It’s fascinating to watch long-standing brands, as well as new, innovate companies, adopting these new AR/VR technologies as part of their marketing strategy. While it’s likely going to take some time for these experiences to be more wide-scale across many industries, we can already see the rising trends, the high performing marketing campaigns, and the popularity of joining this new, altered reality in the marketplace.

What are your thoughts on augmented and virtual reality? Do you think it’s something your company would adopt? Let us know how you are keeping it real!

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