Back in 2016, well before COVID-19 turned the world on its head, a different type of phenomenon was sweeping the globe: Pokémon Go.
Much of the game’s popularity was due to its incorporation of a rising technology called augmented reality, which Niantic, the game’s San Francisco-based developer, used to effectively bring virtual Pokémon to life.
Augmented reality, commonly referred to as AR, is a technology which creates an interactive experience for its users by placing computer-generated imagery into real-world environments.
In the years since Pokémon Go, AR has become not only a technological fixture in smart phone cameras and applications but is increasingly being used in business advertising and marketing campaigns.
Advertisers — sensing a shifting desire for more virtual experiences — have more and more begun to adopt AR in order to create engaging environments and visuals for consumers to experience and learn about their products.
One company which could be considered an early adopter of AR technology was the Swedish furniture brand Ikea, which back in 2013 released an application allowing potential customers to see virtual images of furniture placed inside personal living spaces.
Home Depot, the largest home improvement retailer in the U.S., followed suit in 2017, when it introduced AR technology that allowed mobile application users to virtually place items in their homes.
“We saw (AR) as a way to bridge digital and physical characteristics, such as size, color, texture and coordinating items in their home,” Justin Burleigh, Home Depot’s vice president of e–commerce and interconnected experiences told digitalcommerce360.com. “It’s great that the capability came to life before people were at home so much.”
The technology has proven itself to be worthwhile for Home Depot during the pandemic, with the retailer reporting that customers who use its AR function are two to three times more likely to make a purchase.
“While it’s been an industry trend that people are shopping on their phones, we’ve seen that accelerate from an engagement perspective during COVID,” Burleigh told digitalcommerce360.com. “People are really living their digital lives on their phones.”
Another company which has successfully utilized AR technology is popular makeup brand Sephora, which developed an application that allows customers to virtually try on makeup without having to apply any actual product.
At first, Sephora’s customers were required to upload a picture of their face in order to apply the cosmetics, but eventually, as the technology advanced, are now able to virtually apply makeup in real time.
In addition to its uses in advertising, companies also use AR technology to help with in-house operations and logistics.