Is AR Part of Your Holiday Marketing Strategy?

It probably should be

The holiday season is undeniably one of the most critical times of the year for retailers. It’s a season filled with heightened consumer engagement, increased spending and the potential for lasting brand impressions. But, as witnessed in recent years, the landscape of retail and marketing is continually evolving, demanding innovative strategies to captivate an audience.

One of the ways in which you can do this is through augmented reality (AR). AR puts the user at the center of a story, making them an active participant with your branded content. By using this technology, you can create meaningful connections with consumers that surprise and delight while adding utility and value.

And with web-based augmented reality (WebAR), this can all be achieved in the browser, with no app download required, making it extremely easy and accessible for users to engage with.

Drive foot traffic to your store

Did you know augmented reality can convert your stores into interactive location-based AR experiences? Drive customers to your stores by providing an incentive to visit and guide them there with ease.

According to eMarketer, brick-and-mortar holiday spending reached $1 trillion for the first time in 2022—a 3.9% gain from 2021. While this surge in in-person shopping reflects consumers’ desire to return to physical stores post-pandemic, retailers must now employ innovative strategies that consistently draw people back into their stores.

For example, Coca-Cola took the University of Southern California campus by storm with its Halloween Collection, transforming real-world vending machines into virtual treat dispensers. For three days, students could fill their virtual bags with a variety of goodies by visiting one of five AR enabled vending machines located across campus.

To find these locations, students used the virtual map on the Coca-Cola Halloween Collection microsite and physically walked to each location. Once activated, students could see a futuristic digital twin of the vending machine which appeared to be in a spookier alternate reality. They could then walk around and explore the spooky vending machine, which is said to “contain real magic,” before receiving their treat.

The prizes for the virtual treats included AR masks, tickets to the Coachella music festival, Coca-Cola NFTs, Puma apparel and more. Students could visit each location daily and enter up to five times to try and claim a treat. This created a sense of urgency for students to visit the vending machines and encouraged them to return.

This campaign made use of Lightship VPS for Web, a visual positioning system developed by Niantic, as well as Lightship Maps for Web. Created by VICE in collaboration with Unbound, it’s one of the first commercial projects that integrated augmented reality into physical locations with pinpoint accuracy.

This technology allowed Coca-Cola to create an AR experience that felt more personal, more meaningful and more real, and gave users new reasons to explore the world around them. By blending the physical and digital worlds, AR can captivate users and encourage them to interact with your brand in ways that traditional marketing simply cannot match.

Increase sales and conversion rates

AR can significantly enhance the online shopping experience for customers, driving higher sales and conversion rates.

In Niantic’s 2023 Consumer Sentiment of AR Report, a significant discovery emerged: 61% of shoppers emphasized the importance of AR visualization. This group of consumers who actively embraced AR in their shopping experiences exhibited a remarkable 15-20% higher intent to make a purchase compared to non-AR users.

Consider implementing a virtual try-on or “view in AR ” feature to your products. Whether it’s clothing, cosmetics or accessories, this will allow shoppers to see themselves wearing the products, making more informed decisions.

New York-based fashion label KHAITE worked with creative agency ROSE to give customers and industry buyers a deep visual experience of its Spring-Summer and Pre-Fall 2021 collections using WebAR. This interactive experience allowed users to explore the intricate details of KHAITE’s clothing and footwear. Using photogrammetry, they transformed the designs into 3D models with accurate materials and textures. These models could be placed in any environment, and users had the freedom to scale, rotate and examine each item from every angle.

This experience was the first to use 8th Wall’s inline WebAR functionality which embedded the augmented reality experience into KHAITE’s home page. This led to an increase of 4 times in sales of the collection featured in WebAR and an average dwell time of over 4 minutes.

The use of augmented reality empowers shoppers to explore and visualize how products seamlessly integrate into their daily lives, reducing the likelihood of returns, fostering enduring brand loyalty and accelerating purchase decisions.

Gamify the in-store experience

AR isn’t just for online shopping; it can transform the in-store experience, too.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, AR can be a secret weapon to drive foot traffic and increase spending. Implementing AR-powered scavenger hunts within your store or retail location can be a game-changer. Shoppers can use their smartphones to uncover hidden discounts, engage in interactive challenges, and discover exclusive in-store experiences.

In 2021, Westfield Mall launched a large-scale, augmented reality holiday-themed scavenger hunt in 42 Westfield shopping centers across Australia and New Zealand. By scanning strategically placed QR codes at Westfield Santa Squad installations in each center, shoppers could unlock exclusive WebAR mini-games and a life-sized portal to Santa’s village.

The mini-games included: “Blizzard Squad,” which allowed users to explore the North Pole through an interactive AR portal, unfreezing reindeer, gingerbread men, and snowmen; “Frosting Squad,” which allowed shoppers to quickly find gingerbread men frolicking about a gingerbread house and frost them; and “Delivery Squad,” which challenged players to ride Santa’s sleigh and use a slingshot to catapult Christmas gifts into the matching colored chimneys.

The use of gamification throughout a store not only makes shopping more enjoyable but also keeps customers engaged for longer durations. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of multiple purchases and fosters brand loyalty.

As the holiday season approaches, it’s clear that retailers have a unique opportunity to engage consumers. And with WebAR, it’s not too late to bring the magic of the season to your customers.

Caitlin Lacey is the senior director of product marketing for Niantic. With more than a decade of experience in tech, Caitlin has dedicated her career to helping business leaders harness the latest technology to drive value for their brands.