Don’t get left behind
Augmented reality has moved beyond the experimental stage and is rapidly becoming a key sales tool for companies worldwide. Last year the AR market was valued at $11.14 billion and is expected to be worth $60.55 billion by 2023
(that’s a whopping compound annual growth rate of 40.29%). Now that most people’s mobile devices can handle AR tech, big companies are investing in all kinds of immersive experiences to attract them, whether it’s Patron’s tiny virtual hacienda projector
that lets you chat with a bartender, or Microsoft’s splashy new Minecraft Earth
While it may seem like custom AR apps are the domain of major brands with seven-figure budgets, there are lots of ways small and mid-sized businesses can get in on the action, too.
Let’s start by looking at some of the most common ways retailers of all sizes are using AR right now:
Viewing 3D products in your home
Furniture is bulky, expensive and hard to return—it’s the kind of purchase you want to get right the first time. And while AR can’t help you sit down on a couch to see how comfy it is, it can help you picture it your living room in 3D and at scale. AR is a common sales tool for both online-only retailers (including Overstock
and Amazon Home
) and home furnishing stores with showrooms (such as Bob’s Discount Furniture
and Pottery Barn
). If you’d like to redecorate your whole place, you can choose from one of the many AR interior design apps (like DecorMatters
); they’ll help you come up with a floorplan and find furniture from retailers across the web. On a bigger scale, realtors are using apps like iStaging
to virtually stage entire homes for sale.
Trying products on virtually
Seeing something in your home is one thing—putting it on your face is another. Beauty brands have been at the forefront of AR for a while now because it saves money on samples and makes online shopping much easier. Beauty brands and retailers (such as L’Oreal
) make it possible for users to virtually try on thousands of products—from eye shadow to nail polish—then pick their favorites, take pictures and even share them on social media. Clothing brands are getting in on the action, too: Gucci
now has you virtually try on a pair of designer sneakers, and Warby Parker’s Virtual Try On
app lets you swipe through different eyeglass frames until you find your favorite.
You AR what you eat
Food is notoriously hard to photograph (who hasn’t been grossed out by unappetizing amateur table pics on Yelp?). But what if you could see a 3D image of your dinner straight off the menu? Kabaq
is an AR app that specializes in 3D renderings of food for restaurants and caterers that are surprisingly detailed and realistic. New York-based Magnolia Bakery
is using it to help couples choose their wedding cakes; burger chain Bareburger
lets diners visualize their meals right on the table using Kabaq and Snapchat.
Even smarter cars
You won’t mind getting fingerprints on your next car’s windows if it has built-in AR tech. GM
has patented AR-enhanced backseat windows that younger passengers can play video games on or doodle pictures Etch-a-Sketch style. Toyota
has developed an AR/photo hybrid that has a similar doodle feature, but also lets you zoom in on the view outside your car and tap items to learn more about them. Ford
’s team in Italy has come up with an AR experience that will help visually impaired passengers: “Feel the View” uses vibrations on side windows that offer a braille-like relief of the world outside.
With these in mind, let’s look at some ways AR can help your business:
- Confident purchasing. Online shoppers have a chance to experience a product in three dimensions and in the context in which it will be used, leading to increased sales and fewer returns.
- Production savings. You won’t have to manufacture and give away as many sample products.
- Social marketing. Letting customers share AR snapshots with their friends shows off your product to a new audience.
OK, so you have an AR idea for your company now. Great! How do you make it happen?
- Hire an agency. An agency that specializes in AR is the right move if you don’t have the time or money to hire fulltime developers but still have cash to spend.
- Let your developers experiment. Give your in-house devs the time and resources to play with a tool like Google’s ARCore and see what they come up with.
- DIY your own. Want to experiment with AR but don’t have access to developer time? Try Spark AR Studio for Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat’s Lens Studio, or one of the many drag-and-drop AR toolkits on the market (such as WakingApp and ZapWorks); you’ll be able to try out ideas without writing any code.
Create AR experiences that seamlessly blend the physical and digital worlds with the HP ZBook 17
, which is built to handle 360-degree content, complex visual effects and more.