A rack of Adidas sneakers.
CREDIT: REX SHUTTERSTOCK
For years, augmented reality has been posited as the new frontier in retail innovation. The visual technology, which went mainstream in the industry around a decade ago, offers an array of benefits to businesses, whether in the form of product visualization, enhanced customer service or concept testing. (The smartphone game Pokémon Go that went viral in the summer of 2016 is one example.)
Now, an increasing number of brands and retailers are investing in immersive tech for customers who crave something more than the average shopping experience. From A to Z — that is, from Adidas to Zara — FN rounds up 10 fashion names that are moving toward an AR-enabled future.
Two months ago, the German sportswear brand prereleased its Deerupt sneaker via AR before the shoe physically launched. Among the first to test the concept was ambassador Kendall Jenner, who shared on social media just how the technology works.
Powered by tech consulting firm Rose Digital and tech agency Annex88, the unboxing experience asks that users access Adidas’ website, which “breaks that [app download] barrier and puts AR into the hands of any person with a smartphone that has a modern web browser,” Rose Digital founder and president Evan Rose said in a statement. The advancement comes eight years after Adidas introduced its AR Game Pack, which invited customers to view a virtual world upon holding the brand’s physical shoe to a webcam as well as play video games by using the shoe as a controller.
The London-based luxury fashion house joined forces with Apple in September to debut a new feature in its mobile app, giving users the ability to add Burberry-inspired drawings by artist Danny Sangra to their iPhone camera feeds. The service, which arrived within a year of Burberry’s app launch, used the Fruit’s ARKit platform — a software development tool that takes advantage of motion-tracking sensors — with the purpose of increasing customer engagement and promoting brand awareness.
One of footwear’s AR pioneers, Converse allowed customers to virtually try out a wide variety of its online catalog — from the classics to limited-editions — with the help of The Sampler, an app introduced in 2010. It worked like this: A user browsed the available selections, positioned his or her foot in front of the camera and then scaled the shoe to fit.
He or she could then snap an image to save to the gallery, share the look with Facebook friends or buy the shoes through the app. (The Sampler is no longer available on the App Store.)
It’s a common mobile shopper’s dilemma: The inability to try on a style and see how it fits on one’s body. Enter Gap, which came up with a solution through its DressingRoom app.
In January last year, the clothing and accessories retailer added the service to the Google Play Store, inviting customers to shop by selecting a virtual 3-D mannequin that comes in different body types, sizes and heights on which they can experiment a variety of looks. The catch? The app, created in collaboration with Google and avatar developer Avametric, is available only to Google Tango smartphone users.
5. Kate Spade
To draw attention to the opening of its Paris flagship last fall, Kate Spade created an exclusive AR-based campaign in which users got to explore real-world Parisian landmarks and receive a reward upon arrival at the store. The “Joy Walks” experience started with the download of the My Little Paris Tapage app, where customers were encouraged to visit a variety of venues with the help of a curated interactive map.
At those locations, customers would be able to view via their smartphones imagery unique to the Kate Spade brand, from a flock of flamingoes frolicking in the Seine to a taxi cab cruising down city streets. Here, a video that depicts the whimsical scenery as seen in the GPS-led app:
Following the launch of its LCST extension brand, the French apparel label partnered with UK-based Engine Creative in mid-2014 to produce an AR campaign that allowed customers to try on its trainers. Triggered by 3-D product scanning, the experience got shoppers to align their smartphones’ cameras with graphics located in Lacoste’s brick-and-mortar stores and view the shoes as if they were on their own feet. They could also click through to see more details, swipe to see more selections and make a purchase through the app itself.
A day before Pokémon Go broke through smartphones in the United States on July 5, 2016, Nike filed a patent for an augmented reality design system. Since then, the sportswear brand has become a big proponent of the technology, debuting in its Paris flagship that year a customization service that can transform the brand’s sneakers based on a user’s chosen color or texture combinations.
Fast-forward to May 2018, when Nike improved on the customer experience yet again through a joint effort with Facebook, giving fans the chance to shop limited-edition kicks after linking their SNKRS accounts to the Messenger app. “There are so many situations where we need to visualize a product before we feel comfortable buying it,” Facebook VP of products David Marcus wrote in a Newsroom post. “This feature — launching in closed beta — leverages the nature of messaging to help people get valuable instant feedback about purchases, customizations and more without ever needing to set foot in a store.”
Looking to usurp the traditional method of trying on clothes in a dressing room, Topshop teamed up with Russian agency AR Door to temporarily install Kinect-powered fitting rooms in a Moscow store seven years ago. The AR-driven kiosks superimposed clothing on customers, who would signal an outfit change with easy gestures and on-screen buttons. Although imperfect in sizing and alignment, the tool undoubtedly gave shoppers an idea of what shopping would look like in the future.
Having expanded past its Japan headquarters, Uniqlo introduced its Magic Mirror service to coincide with the launch of its fifth retail spot in the United States. In October 2012, the casualwear brand offered its San Francisco shoppers the ability to see themselves in a full color range of its most popular jacket styles in the fall season without having to do a clothes swap. Using technology from Holition and Dai Nippon Printing Co., the AR experience was also linked to social media, so customers could share their looks directly from the store.
Targeting millennials, the Inditex-owned fast-fashion brand made its foray into AR last month when it launched store displays that showed models wearing select outfits from its range of products when a smartphone was held up to sensors at designated shop windows. The technology, which rolled out for two weeks in April to 120 stores worldwide, also engaged customers with virtual pop-up models when they hovered their smartphones over an online-ordered package. See it in action: