Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Reinventing experiential retail through augmented reality

As you may have heard, consumer attitudes and behaviours were accelerated by a number of years thanks to the pandemic. The shift has meant that brands have had to consider new ways to attract new customers and keep their existing ones. This was made even more challenging by the pandemic also opening up consumers to an abundance of different brands.

In fact, 75% of consumers switched from their usual stores or products over the last few years, according to statistics shared by Claire Valoti, Vice President EMEA at Snap. Despite this, there is a big opportunity for brands to focus on delivering high-quality, relevant experiences to gain new – or recapture old – customers, particularly within the Millennial and Gen Z demographics.

Valoti shared that 71% of Gen Z consumers expect companies to deliver personalisation, with 76% getting frustrated if they don’t see that personalisation. Moreover, 75% of consumers see personalisation as being critical to them making a purchase.

“Both groups [Millennials and Gen Z] don’t just want brands to get them, they expect them to get them,” said Valoti, speaking at Shoptalk Europe. “If they’re going to give you their time, their money, their loyalty, then you absolutely have to relate to them, understand their needs, their wants, and your values have to be aligned with theirs. That’s only going to get greater. So, it’s time now to really start understanding those customer needs, and really deliver on them.”

Clued up retail

Valoti highlighted that, despite the retail sector having “gone through the most transformation we have seen in any sector”, the changing room experience hasn’t really evolved.

She used the example of the 1995 film Clueless, where lead character, Cher Horowitz (played by Alicia Silverstone), owns a device that enables her to virtually try on items in her wardrobe. Valoti pointed out that, though that movie came out almost 30 years ago, this still isn’t quite the reality of the world we live in today.

“If you think about what you’ve done in retail, you’ve essentially built – because of the internet – the world’s biggest shopping centre,” Valoti stated. “However, along the way, the experience, the changing room, the magic you get when you’re in store, has got lost on the way. And I find it incredible that so many brands would look at Cher’s wardrobe and still see that as the future, even though the technology exists today.

“What I’m talking about today is not a hypothetical future. It’s about what’s happening right now. I think that’s the key. We’re often spending more time talking about potential of what could happen, and losing opportunities of what’s happening in front of us.”

Augmenting the shopping experience

Technologies like augmented reality (AR), which Snapchat has been utilising for the past six years, can open up the several possibilities for the retail sector, according to Valoti.

She shared that 250 million Snapchatters have engaged with AR shopping lenses more than five billion times this year. And added that, in less than three years’ time, it’s expected that 75% of the global population will be frequent AR users.

Interestingly, 56% of shoppers agree that AR gives them more confidence about product quality, and AR drives a 94% higher conversion rate.

“Now, you’re starting to see shopping becoming about the person, and not the product,” said Valoti. “AR is the future of commerce, because it puts people first. It brings the person to the forefront of that shopping experience.”

Valoti also feels now is the perfect time for the retail industry to embrace technologies like AR, despite the effects of the pandemic, the ongoing supply chain issues, inflation etc.

“I believe in these times is when you have to lean in and transform the business, because that’s when expectations begin to rise amongst consumers,” explained Valoti. “If you’re not learning and building now, you’re not going to be ready to deliver at scale.

“It doesn’t need to be difficult; it’s really about leveraging your existing assets and scaling that to give someone a really great experience.”

*Snap is a client of Bluestripe Communications, owned by Bluestripe Group, owner of ECA