How Brands Are Using AR to Engage Consumers and Measure Results

Ikea, Kate Spade, MTV and Patron bet on tech

As Apple, Facebook and Snapchat open augmented reality to the masses, brands like Ikea are cashing in on it.
Animation: Yuliya Kim; Sources: Ikea

In the span of a few seconds, Patrón’s new augmented reality app creates a miniature hacienda on iPhones that replicates the distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, where the brand’s tequila is made—complete with a virtual bartender and a tiny agave field. At first glance, The Patrón Experience—one of many branded apps built using Apple’s recently launched ARKit platform—may seem like a gimmick, but Patrón has bigger plans for its latest mobile innovation. The spirits company wants to eventually turn augmented reality into an ecommerce platform of sorts by selling tequila through platforms like Amazon and alcohol-delivery site ReserveBar.

“In the future, [imagine] you’re in a VR or AR experience, a bartender has made you a cocktail based on your preferences and now you can click and that cocktail is being sent to you,” said Adrian Parker, vp of marketing at Patrón Spirits. “We’re not too far from that—I’d say we’re 12 to 18 months away.”

As platforms like Apple, Facebook and Snapchat open AR to the masses, Patrón isn’t the only brand betting on the technology. Ikea, MTV and Kate Spade New York are cashing in on AR and analyzing new sets of data to gauge their success. Within one day of Patrón’s app launch, Google searches for the words “tequila” and “Patrón” increased by 100 percent, and the app has been downloaded about 600 times in the past month. The brand is busy crunching stats on time spent in-app and shares while looking for ways to map the specific parts of the app people engage with the most.

“It’s a very consistent process to what you would consider a sales funnel,” Parker said. “We get top-line data now [and] one of our big goals is that we get a little bit more visibility into the functionality within the app so we can understand what are the hot spots, what are they interacting with, is there a product that they’re interacting with more?”

Still, branded apps have a reputation for struggling to gain momentum, since they require consumers to go through the steps of downloading and using an app. Apple is also notoriously stingy when it comes to giving data back to developers and brands, which is why Nestlé, MTV and Kate Spade New York have all chosen to work with third-party AR app developers that already have millions of users and data.

This week, London-based startup Vyking is launching an AR platform that plugs facial-recognition ads that look like Snapchat lenses into a handful of publisher apps including Mail Online, Dailymotion and PicsArt, which collectively reach more than 100 million monthly active users. One advertiser, Nestlé’s Perrier, designed a mobile promo that overlays a pair of branded sunglasses on selfies. According to Vyking co-founder Thibault de Procé, 400,000 users are spending an average of 15 seconds with the campaign. “AR for brands is no longer monopolized by Facebook or Snap and now [has] lower cost-entry barriers,” he said.

To that point, MTV recently worked with hologram company 8i on a campaign to promote the Video Music Awards. Within 8i’s Holo app, consumers could download Moon Person-shaped holograms and apply them to social posts. On average, users spent two minutes and 35 seconds with MTV’s content, and the holograms were viewed 2.43 million times and racked up 278,000 engagements on social media in four days.

“Distribution becomes really key with AR,” explained Andrew Turse, head of brand solutions and sales at 8i. “We are looking to allow [brands] to control the distribution, meaning that we’re selling the tech and the holograms.”

Kate Spade New York is currently running an AR campaign within French media company Tapage’s My Little Paris app to promote its first store in Paris. Ten Kate Spade-branded illustrations located around the city can be unlocked by using the app to scan attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the brand’s store. Consumers who share an AR-enhanced photo on social media can receive a free set of pins in the store.

As part of the partnership, Kate Spade New York ran an email promotion with My Little Paris to promote the app. The email generated a 42 percent open rate, which is “almost quadruple what My Little Paris averages,” said Mary Beech, Kate Spade New York’s CMO. Moreover, the campaign has pulled in 2.5 million impressions, while the average user is spending two minutes perusing its content.

With the campaign ending this month, the brand is now looking for other platforms and markets where it can use AR. One possibility Beech mentioned was popular Chinese social networking app Weibo.

“As we go to new markets, it’s the technology around the illustrations that we would carry with us,” she said. “We figured out a lot of the mechanics and what made it hard, so I don’t want to lose those best practices.”

While reach and time spent are the metrics that marketers are most focused on now, Justin Marshall, vp of emerging media at Possible, argued that he’d also like to see velocity and emotion tracked in order to measure how fast content is shared and how consumers feel while experiencing it.

“With AR experiences where it’s face-forward, why aren’t we finding ways to tap into whether people are smiling or not?” he said. “Is it fun? There isn’t an emotive metric that I’ve seen yet and I know that ability is available, but why aren’t people reporting that?”

Your move, developers.

1. Time spent
Tracks how long people spend with content. (Ex: People spent two minutes and 35 seconds playing with MTV’s Moon Person holograms.)

2. Downloads
Gives marketers a ballpark idea of how many people they can reach. (Ex: Patrón’s AR app has 600 downloads.)

3. Digital media
Using other digital stats like social engagement and email open rates, gauges how consumers find and share content.  (Ex: Kate Spade’s email had a 42 percent open rate.)

This story first appeared in the Oct. 16, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.