The key augmented reality trends of 2021 will be a continuation of this year’s worldwide digital transformation. Whether the kitchen table became your new office or phrases like “social distancing” entered your vocabulary, the events of 2020 transformed our world in ways that would have been unimaginable even a year ago.
Some aspects of this transformation were indeed novel, but most, including the rapid growth in augmented reality adoption, resulted from existing trends being fast-forwarded. By making virtual engagement a part of everyday life, COVID-19 has proved to be a springboard for technology use.
Looking forward to 2021 and beyond, the future of augmented reality will see both technology and consumer expectations reach a point where AR will become ubiquitous far sooner than previously predicted. As consumers see the usefulness of making digital and hybrid shopping experiences tangible and brands witness the dramatic rise in engagement that AR brings, it will soon be difficult for brands to grow without it. However, adopting AR still presents a rare opportunity for forward-thinking brands to get ahead of their competitors.
We already covered three important AR trends in our last blog post, but to help you leverage AR’s potential for growing your business, here are four more trends to keep an eye on.
Augmented Reality Redefining E-Commerce
A recent IBM report found that the COVID-19 pandemic has compressed five years’ worth of e-commerce growth into one year. Accordingly, as millions of consumers and brands migrate to online and hybrid shopping, e-commerce is fast becoming the frontline of AR adoption.
When the pandemic recedes, this trend’s long-term impact means that AR will become a standard part of the online shopping experience. With Shopify reporting a 94% increase in conversion rate for products that feature AR or 3D content, this is not without good reason.
Technologically, the capability to deliver 3D and AR experiences through a browser has matured, as well. While apps are currently still the dominant method of AR delivery, as browser-based AR technology advances in 2021, being able to deliver AR content to a broader audience will greatly increase the accessibility of AR for e-commerce customers and brands.
From previewing what a new TV may look like in your living room to virtually trying on a new pair of glasses, incorporating AR into e-commerce sites will reduce returns and increase consumers’ propensity to complete a purchase by increasing confidence. It will become an expectation that retailers offer these try-ons; in the near future, not providing them will be like trying to sell a product without displaying any photos of it.
Easier Production Through 3D Object and Room Scale Lidar Scanning
While consumers increasingly expect brands to offer AR, producing high-quality content at scale can be a significant challenge. However, the ability to create high-quality models from 3D scans using a mobile phone or tablet will lower the barrier to entry significantly.
Built-in Lidar embedded within the latest generation iPad Pro and iPhone 12 Pro allows anyone to instantly scan without needing an expensive photogrammetry/volumetric video studio.
This technology uses the cameras within both the iPad Pro and iPhone 12 to act as sensitive scanning and ranging devices. Through the data gathered from these depth sensors, these devices can accurately model real-world objects and spaces in 3D, ready to import into AR experiences.
Combined with the increased capability of on-device software such as Apple’s ARKit, the rise of high-quality consumer-level 3D scanning will democratise AR production by making it accessible to a mass audience. As with photography, there will be a need for professional photographers to come on site for certain use cases, as well as studios set up for professional shoots for others, but this represents the 3D equivalent of putting the first high quality phone camera in consumers’ hands.
Beauty Brands Embracing Augmented Reality
Beauty products and AR are a natural combination. When it comes to buying beauty products like makeup or hair products, trying them on is vital to the shopping experience. Unfortunately, trying products is generally absent outside of the store environment.
However, AR makes virtual try-ons a reality. Almost all of the major beauty brands, such as L’Oréal, Chanel, Sephora, MAC, Maybelline, and Bobbi Brown, now offer a virtual try-on experience. L’Oréal has even launched a digital-only line of makeup looks for users to use exclusively on video calls, giving a hint that their future product range might extend beyond physical products.
Shoppable social media experiences are another avenue where AR will transform the beauty product shopping experience. Look at how social media service Pinterest has launched a makeup try-on experience which links AR product content with user search terms such as “red lips” throughout its app.
For beauty brands, the reason for AR’s growing popularity is its dramatic impact on customer engagement. Ulta Beauty, which launched an AR try-on feature through its app last year, saw a 400% increase in virtual customer engagement with their AR try-on feature as stores closed due to COVID-19 restrictions this year. As more brands in the beauty space start using AR, the technology will become an essential part of the customer experience.
3D and AR Advertising Entering the Mainstream
With the average consumer now witnessing around 5,000 ads per day, it’s no surprise that ad blockers have become increasingly prevalent as consumers zone out of advertisements. For brands looking to cut through this increasing volume of noise and reach potential customers, AR and 3D advertising present a way of dramatically increasing engagement.
The AR “Arctic Home” campaign by the World Wildlife Fund and Coca Cola generated over $2 million in donations by allowing viewers to protect endangered arctic species in their own homes. Further down the line, for businesses reliant on passing trade, AR, alongside future iterations of AR glasses, will enable hyperlocal advertisements to become a reality.
3D will also revolutionise online advertising. Thanks to Google’s new 3D ad format, Swirl, on-page banner ads can showcase 3D models of products that allows users to explore themselves. MG Motor has shown this kind of technology to lead to an eight-fold increase in engagement compared to traditional ads.
The key augmented reality trends for 2021 are already part of today’s technology landscape. With AR on the brink of mass consumer and brand adoption, businesses and brands should take the experience gained during the COVID-19 pandemic and use it to help build new retail experiences that will engage and attract customers.
If you’re interested in getting ahead of these trends and launching an effective 3D or AR campaign, you can find out more about our services here.
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