Technology has well and truly changed the way that businesses operate across all industries. Entire sectors have been disrupted by businesses who have built from the ground up with technology at their core, exemplified by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Uber. Advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) hold almost infinite capabilities for brands, yet the number of businesses effectively integrating the technologies into their business models remain relatively slim.
Adoption of AI, AR and MR technologies present two key opportunities for brands: the ability to create truly seamless end-to-end customer experiences, and the facilitation of highly personalized offerings. Brands who use these technologies effectively are creating deeper connections with their customer and achieving longer-term customer loyalty, repeat purchase, increased conversion rates and reduced return rates. Here are four best-in-class examples of brands who are using AI, AR and MR to power the customer experience.
Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant, opened it’s first physical Hema supermarket in 2016, with the aim to combine online technologies with the offline experience to create a truly seamless end-to-end shopping experience. Hema uses Alibaba’s machine learning technologies to inform the supermarket’s inventory based on what people are buying in the area, ensuring the supermarkets can meet consumer demand and eliminating waste.
The Hema supermarkets have continued to adapt more sophisticated technologies, including QR codes on each product that can be scanned to give consumers more detailed information about each product, in direct response to food safety concerns surrounding products such as milk that have been prevalent in the market. Hema have also introduced in-store dining, using robotic technology to collect items from shelves, deliver them to the kitchen and serving the completed meal to the customer. The Hema app also facilitates the end-to-end customer experience, allowing consumers to book a table for in-store dining or pay for their shopping.
Social media platform Snapchat was amongst the first companies to bring AR technology into the social sphere, using the technology to power its lenses, deepening engagement with app users and increasing time spent on the platform. In recent years, Snapchat has further developed its AR capabilities, working with advertisers and retailers to enable shopping experiences for the app’s users.
In a partnership with US-based retailer Kohl’s in late 2019, Snapchat capitalized on the busy holiday shopping period by using AR to allow consumers to step into a virtual store where they were able to buy real products. The limited-time nature of the AR lens created a sense of urgency for consumers, allowing Kohl’s to drive sales during the key Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping period. By working with Snapchat, Kohl’s were able to tap into the hard-to-capture audience of young, tech-savvy consumers; according to parent company Snap Inc., 75% of US consumers aged 13-34 and 90% of US teams, who are significant influencers in household purchase decisions.
The home furnishings industry offered a natural opportunity for businesses to integrate AR technologies into the customer journey. Homewares retailer Wayfair was an early adopter of the technology, allowing their customers to envisage products in their own homes ahead of purchase, by using their camera lens to get an image of how a piece of furniture would look in the room the user was standing in.
Today, Wayfair’s AR capabilities have developed, with shoppers able to use the feature even when they aren’t physically standing in the space where they want to see the piece of furniture. Instead, consumers will be able to upload a photo of their room and visualize multiple products within the space, to enable a more accurate vision of how the products will fit within the room, both spatially and aesthetically. In doing so, Wayfair have connected the online and offline retail experiences, enabling consumers who are in-store to picture a piece of furniture in their home. Deloitte research indicated that a home furnishings retailer who utilized AR technology in their app saw a double-digit increase in online sales, reduced return rates and increased conversion rates.
Swedish cider brand Rekorderlig enlisted mixed reality technologies to bring their ‘Rekorder-land’ pop-up to life in London, celebrating one of Sweden’s most celebrated traditions, midsummer. Guests used augmented reality headsets to interact with the ingredients of the cider, with each viewer getting a unique encounter depending on what they were looking at and touching.
Rekorder-land is a great example of the multi-sensory experience that mixed reality design can provide. Through a more interactive experience, brands can create deeper connections with their consumers, building brand awareness, salience and loyalty. After attending the pop-up, 91% of surveyed consumers said they would be very likely to recommend the Rekorderlig brand to friends and family, and 92% said they would definitely purchase Rekorderlig in the future.
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