8 September 2020

Augmented Reality in Retail Marketing

By Joe Durbridge

The most successful shopping centers have already transformed into ‘lifestyle centres’, whilst leading high street retailers have become brand immersion hubs.

These pioneers have recognised the role that physical stores now play within the customer journey, as consumers seek ‘experiences’ to establish deeper connections with products and services. The retailers have embraced emerging technologies to facilitate the creation and delivery of unforgettable experiences that resonate deeply with their customers.  

One technology making waves is Augmented Reality (AR). AR overlays digital content and information onto the physical world — as if they’re actually there with you, in your own space. Mobile apps such as Snapchat and Instagram utilise AR to add fun filters to your face, such as dog ears or sunglasses and these experiences feel seamless as AR acts as a natural bridge between the offline and online world. And when tailored to meet customer needs, can become a very powerful marketing and sales tool.  

 Here are some of the best examples of AR used by retailers.  



Google’s new Beta maps features AR to sign post the real-world environment you’re in. This technological advancement will soon make it much easier for shopping centres and stores to drive physical footfall, guiding customers right to their shop front.   

GatwickAirportlooked to address the issue of navigating its large site. This was achievedby installing beacons that would guide passengers through the airportviaan augmented reality (AR) section of their smartphone app,which pinpointed their location and directed them to their intended location.

Virtual shop windows 

In the interest of convenience and comfortability, Timberland created a virtual fitting room. Using motion sensing technology, Timberland’s virtual fitting room allowed shoppers to see an image of their face, and a similarly sized model body, in different outfits. 

NET-A-PORTER, the world renowned e-tailer, created a pop-up shop with a window shop campaign that brought products to life along with randomly rewarded prize competition entries. 

Try before you Buy 

No more ‘close your eyes and picture’ moments. With AR you can place 3D-animated objects over real environments. One of the main reasons retail brands have invested in AR technology is to help customers make better and more informed product decisions. 

 IKEA Place allows you to see how a sofa will look in the corner of your living room.    

The Dulux AR app can show you your walls in different colours, without a drop of paint wasted.

 Sephora encourages its customers to explore different make up looks, using their AR app to see how different makeup products will look on their face, allowing them to trial many different products and combinations, to find a favourite look. Whilst customers can try products in store, the AR feature, allows them the additional benefit of being able to try a lot more product and experiment with their look.  

Gucci lets you try on its shoes anywhere, as it becomes the latest luxury brand to add an AR feature to its app, letting users ‘try on’ sneakers wherever they are. Pointing their smartphone camera downwards, users can choose to see a digital overlay of 19 different trainers on their own feet, swiping left or right to change to a different pair. The app also allows users to take photos, which can then be shared on social media or in messaging apps;   


AR makes advertising interactive, allowing marketers and advertisers to reach out to consumers in totally new ways. Many companies have already embraced this cutting-edge technology. 

AMC Cinema’s film posters come to life unveiling trailers and cast info that a printed poster couldn’t provide. The benefit over digital posters is that the AR function is working to the customers timings and not on a programmed loop.  

Pepsi Max used the real ‘world environment to bring a bus stop sign to life in a fun way. The production showcased Pepsi’s playful personality and provided the audience with an exceptional experience. Of course, this created hype and was shared exponentially;  

In-store fun  

Once AR has driven footfall to stores, the technology can be used to enhance the instore experience with education and entertainment.  

Toys ‘R’ us ran a virtual Easter egg hunt instore, where children searched for hidden eggs, only revealed with the AR app. This was used to drive traffic around the store to key areas.  

At Footlocker a LeBron James slam dunk poster was enhanced with AR to bring it to life. Rumours of the unique poster experience spread, and traffic was driven to the store. LeBron James even tweeted about the installation, further amplifying the effect.

Product enhancement  

Using marker-based triggers, products can activate an AR experience which enhances the product experience. This includes bringing AR recipe videos to life when you scan a packet to walk-through user instruction.   

In the world of retail Starbucks brought their cups to life! 


It’s the future right?  

AR by its nature brings the digital and physical retail world together, in a timely and convenient manner. It can utilise the mobile tech most people already have in their pocket and its newness attracts attention and intrigue. It’s highly interactive, which creates longer engagement and dwell time with the brand. And ultimately, the association between brands and a creative and innovative experience, is very likely to contribute to an increased positive brand perception.  


Talk to us about how your brand could utilise AR and for more information on the technology and implementation of AR in your marketing toolbox.   

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