Whatever your personal opinion of it, it’s undeniable that the trend of AR gamification is still gathering momentum. Though it may appear gimmicky and even silly on the surface, it essentially draws from decades of research into how our deeply-embedded behavioral preferences can be exploited to capture our attention and incentivize our actions — ultimately helping you turn the UX of your choice into one of Skinner’s operant conditioning boxes. Given this combination of traits — somewhat peculiar but undoubtedly effective — it’s no surprise that the retail industry is welcoming gamification—specifically AR gamification—with open arms. With so much money to be made online, any competitive advantage is going to be embraced, no matter the source.
And when it comes to delivery, AR (Augmented Reality) is a popular choice. After all, while VR is still a little too far off mainstream appeal, AR is an excellent platform for retail AR gamification: most consumers have AR-capable smartphones, and the combination of real and virtual elements allows for a lot of creative scope where AR gamification is concerned.
But how are retail businesses actually implementing AR gamification? That’s what we’re going to look at here. Let’s examine the top AR gamification strategies impacting retail right now.
Led by apps such as Ikea’s Place and features such as Amazon’s AR View, this element of retail gamification gives shoppers the ability to virtually place items in real-world environments. For instance, if someone is considering a particular sofa from Ikea but doesn’t want to head to a physical store to get an idea for how big it feels, they can open up Place and use their phone camera to position a size-accurate 3D model of the sofa in their house.
This strategy is more limited than the form of virtual previewing detailed below, but it’s also more consistently useful. With product previewing, you can’t expect the mocked-up image to accurately reflect reality, and though that’s also the case with an app like Place, you’re not using it for the texture or the color — you’re using it for the scale, and to get additional context. In that regard (and in most circumstances, as some environments don’t work), it’s already very strong.
Led by DIY stores (which isn’t surprising given their large stores and larger product ranges) in the form of Lowe’s and The Home Depot, this practice sees shoppers given access to in-store support tools through provided apps. The Lowe’s app only functions on certain types of phone, but offers complex product navigation in the form of superimposed directions and product labels. The Home Depot app, however, helps shoppers find items on a map, and will also find similar products to those detected in gallery photos.
In the future, we could see retail warehouses fully equipped with IoT-style connectivity, and apps allowing for detailed and customizable overlays to help shoppers find what they need with maximum efficiency. You would never again need to walk several times around a store to hunt for a certain item — you’d simply be able to chart a path to it using your app.
With the classic brick-and-mortar retail model having lost much of its significance by now, stores have begun looking for fresh ways to engage with the still-present desire for offline retail experiences, and AR has provided them with the option of creating virtual pop-up stores. A pop-up store grants them the option to sell in person without needing a dedicated building, and provides the whole thing with a fun element of unpredictability.
Pop-up stores were brought into prominence years back by stores such as the The Airwalk Invisible Pop Up Store, and the technological requirements are quite minimal. As long as you can place some geolocation tags and AR elements in whichever map and AR apps are most appropriate for the targeted audiences — and can handle the product movement and POS systems — then the location of your business doesn’t really matter. Instead of trying to bring your prospective customers to your store, you bring your stores to your prospective customers.
Whether executed through consumer smartphones or complex in-store AR mirrors, this AR strategy is the oldest and simplest — but it’s effective, and it has mass appeal. When consumers are shopping for wearable products, they can use AR tech to preview how they’ll look, giving them at-a-glance comparisons and making them more likely to experiment with completely new styles.
This is very widely used because it has so many applications. You can preview glasses, hats, shirts, pants, shoes… even makeup or hairstyles. And you can provide a live preview (along the lines of a Snapchat filter, for instance), often through an AR mirror for optimal presentation, or you a static processed preview (taking a photo and running it through a filter). Some services, such as Ditto, allow you to record videos for more sophisticated previews —- using Ditto, you can preview a pair of glasses across a range of head rotation.
AR gamification is all about using interactive elements (no matter how simple) to add some flair and/or convenience to your customer experience. Through mitigating the lack of physical presence, making in-store experiences more engaging, bringing retail to shoppers, and providing simple virtual makeovers, you can ramp up your conversions and get people talking about your brand.