Believe it or not, the grocery industry is getting some major cool points. Grocery chain Stop & Shop recently announced that it will be partnering with Robomart and officially begin testing self-driving vehicles this spring. These vehicles will essentially serve as “mini grocery stores on wheels.” Customers will be able to call the vehicles through an app, similar to calling an Uber, and once the vehicle arrives, they can pick out the items they want to purchase and the vehicle will continue on its way.
Stop & Shop is one of the first grocery store chains to push the barrier in regards to experimenting with new technology. Other businesses, including those in the small business category, need to take note. While I’m not saying you need to create your own driverless vehicles, brick-and-mortar shops have felt the effects of e-commerce firsthand. In order to survive in this digital-driven world, you have to get creative.
So, how can small businesses continue to separate themselves from their competitors on a miniature marketing budget? I’ve got two words for you: augmented reality. Our agency currently creates augmented reality (AR)-driven marketing campaigns for professional sports teams and a few individual brands, but for the sake of this article, let’s focus on the retail sector.
According to research, 41% of customers already expect to be offered access to AR from retailers, but only 21% of small businesses actually conducted AR marketing in 2018. The takeaway? There are a lot of opportunities for your business to make a splash in 2019. While there are dozens of ways AR can be plugged into your strategy, here are a few we think you should you should home in on:
Try Before You Buy
Since the core of AR technology is integrating digital information with the user’s environment, retailers can address the pain points of shopping head-on and enable virtual try-ons. While there are mobile apps that provide users with similar functions, Coty, a global beauty company, created the first-ever in-store augmented reality “magic mirror” in 2018.
The sole purpose of the mirror is to promote shopper-product interaction. Once a customer picks up a lipstick or eyeshadow they’re interested in, the color will immediately appear on their face when looking into the mirror. Customers can now get the digital experience they’ve been seeking without having to sacrifice the intimacy that comes with trying on makeup.
When surveyed, one-third of consumers say they’re more likely to make a purchase after using AR to preview the product, according to DigitalBridge. AR provides you with the opportunity to allow a risk-free trial of your product while making the user’s shopping experience with your brand all the more memorable.
Not only does AR allow shoppers to virtually try on products in real time, but it also gives them the opportunity to customize their items — a double whammy of a personal shopping experience. Providing this comprehensive and seamless experience will give you a great foundation of loyalty with your customers: 57% of marketers say that personalization technology is key to unlocking true 1-to-1 customer experiences. Think about it: when your customer designs a product, they’re putting in a lot more time and effort than they usually would when making a sale. Odds are, if they love the product they designed, they’re going to purchase it, and they’ll probably come back to buy from you in the future.
Kate Spade New York has continued to stay out in front of retail innovation by partnering with PERCH to create its “Make It Mine” line of personalized handbags. When a customer picks up a handbag, the AR display immediately detects which bag they have chosen and have it appear on an interactive touch screen. Customers are then able to explore thousands of straps, colors and patterns to create their own unique handbag. The display has seen great success since its launch in 2018, averaging over 100 daily customers and 800-plus daily interactions.
Improving In-Store Navigation
If you’ve ever shopped in a large department store (or a very disorganized boutique), then you know the struggle of trying to locate a specific item. Cue the triumphant music, because AR has got your back once again. AR makes it possible for you to provide your customers with simple and reliable in-store navigation. A recent report estimates that the indoor location market, which includes indoor navigation and data tracking (i.e., how long someone spends in a specific store), will be worth $41 billion by 2022.
Now, if you’re wondering how to make this possible, let’s put the spotlight on Lowe’s. In 2017, Lowe’s announced the launch of its in-store navigation app, the first of its kind to leverage AR indoor mapping. The mobile app utilizes motion tracking technology to provide users with efficient, turn-by-turn directions, navigating them to their desired items in real time. This technology saves customers time and frustration while enhancing their overall shopping experience — and also makes a brand stickier.
AR For The Masses
On top of AR being really freaking cool, it’s also become easy and cheap (even free) for any businesses to implement into their marketing strategy. Software tools such as Facebook’s Spark and Apple’s AR Kit are available to anyone who wants to use them, and puts the power of AR right at your fingertips, no experience required. With some basic trial and error, even the most inexperienced users will be creating triggers, objects and face filters in no time. (Full disclosure: As a Facebook preferred agency, we are working closely with the platform to beta test AR formats.)
As you start to develop different ways to incorporate AR into your marketing efforts, it’s important to think about the impact it will have on your customers. While AR can definitely give your business a cool factor, don’t implement AR just to say you did it; really consider how this technology will improve all aspects of your customer’s journey.
While e-commerce provides buyers with convenience, brick-and-mortar shops provide consumers with an experience. With increased accessibility in AR marketing, any size retailer now has a fighting chance.