Augmented and Virtual Reality Will Both Become Immensely Important This Holiday Season

Brands should embrace them or risk falling behind

AR and VR will open a seemingly endless amount of opportunities in the new year. Getty Images

They may not be ubiquitous quite yet, but augmented reality and virtual reality are beginning to reshape modern shopping, providing consumers immersive experiences and enabling them to envision everything from a kitchen renovation to how different cosmetics could enhance one’s appearance.

The Boston Consulting Group estimates that 80 million Americans engage with AR at least monthly and projects more than 120 million regular users in the U.S. by 2020. Social media giants like Snapchat and Facebook have announced the launch of AR ad technologies for marketers while Amazon and Google are integrating AR solutions onto their platforms as well.

With millions of consumers leveraging the benefits of AR and VR to test out gifts before purchase this holiday season, the next stage of ecommerce’s growth is already here. Brands looking to capitalize on the unprecedented opportunities being made available through these new technologies should ramp up their AR/VR strategies.

New digital frontiers

AR and VR are ideal for advertisers who want to transcend the run-of-the-mill ad and take on new dimensions that expand far beyond the four small corners of the digital screen. With industry experts citing interactivity as a crucial element for consumer satisfaction, it’s all about providing positive immersive experiences.

Take, for example, a trip to your local mall during the holiday season. In the real world, holiday shopping translates to overwhelming throngs of shoppers, unkempt store displays and frenzied sales assistants. By contrast, through AR and VR brands can create a virtual shopping experience that is calm, orderly and even enjoyable. Imagine peering into a shop window filled with the latest winter fashion where customers can take their time looking for a sweater that suits their style, easily find the correct size and even see what the clothing looks like on an exact customized avatar.

Investing in these experiences pays off: In a recent survey, 40 percent of consumers said they’d be willing to pay more for a product if they could try it out via AR.

In this virtual world, the holiday shopping experience is suddenly and dramatically transformed. While particularly relevant during the holiday season, AR and VR advertising should be integrated into a long-term strategy to accelerate ecommerce growth. As more consumers crave the immersive experiences AR and VR provide, other brands will have no choice but to rapidly adapt. Think of the holidays as a prime time to hone an AR/VR approach that will see your brand throughout all four seasons.


To make the most of AR and VR technologies, marketers must focus on optimizing their efforts to where consumers are already spending so much time: their mobile devices.

A Facebook IQ survey found that 40 percent of shoppers globally turn to their mobile devices to accomplish key tasks during the holiday season, and the 20 percent growth in mobile-first shoppers between the holiday seasons in 2016 and 2017 underscores mobile’s increasing importance in ecommerce.

The survey revealed that 55 percent of holiday shoppers consider Facebook “influential” in making their holiday shopping decisions, and 39 percent say that Instagram plays an influential role, indicating that regardless of where purchases are made, mobile impressions are essential in guiding purchase decisions.

Boundless opportunities

The fashion and beauty industry and ecommerce retailers have established themselves as early adopters of AR and VR, but more industries are slated to get in on the action during this and future holiday seasons. AR marketing will also infuse apps for entertainment, gaming, travel, education, music and even dating. Planning a New Year’s getaway? Imagine a VR journey that allows you to test out a hotel room and experience the view.

Leveraging the user data these apps hold, marketers can craft and personalize their ads to reach high-value consumers and generate high ROI. Not only will users enjoy enriching sensory experiences they’ll also be directed toward experiences that are tailored to them. By tapping into these heightened senses along with the exponentially growing wealth of consumer data available each time the user plugs in, advertisers will be able to far more accurately pinpoint specific user interests, making things more interesting and relevant.

During this celebratory time, there’s no substitute for the warmth and joy of close family and friends. But to help people make the most of those gatherings, whether it’s finding just the right thoughtful gift or selecting the optimal destination holiday, AR and VR advertising open a new world of possibilities.

@inbalavi Inbal Lavi has led Webpals Group since 2014.