From virtual try-on shoes to immersive ads: 4 AR and 3D experiences for footwear brands

By Cristina Ferrandez

Here’s a disconcerting fact for online footwear retailers: almost 9 in 10 shoppers prefer to buy shoes in brick-and-mortar shops instead of online. Although this finding comes from a study that looked at Canadian customers specifically, it is more than likely that consumers in other parts of the world feel the same.

As attested by numerous articles on the internet that are some variation of “how to buy shoes online so they fit”, the main problem that anyone shopping for shoes on the internet is bound to run into is figuring out whether they will suit them.

In other industries, like jewellery, eyewear, and makeup, we have seen many brands overcome this exact problem with augmented reality (AR) and 3D technology. However, in contrast to face tracking, which has been around for a while, foot tracking has taken a relatively long time to develop. For this reason, virtual try-on shoe experiences have been pretty scarce — until now. 

Since Snapchat’s introduction of AR Lenses that incorporate foot tracking, more and more footwear brands have begun experimenting with AR, particularly virtual try-on shoes. However, AR experiences extend beyond virtual try-ons.

Here are some examples of brands producing 3D and AR experiences for shoes, from product visualisations to immersive advertising campaigns.  

1. 3D and AR shoe visualisation

Online shopping has taken off, but the vast majority of consumers still want to be able to “view-and-touch” products up close before buying them. While AR visualisation does not permit shoppers to touch items, it does allow them to interact with products as if they were really in front of them. 

With 3D and AR-powered visualisation technology, customers can view shoes from different angles, making it easier to assess colour, material, and other details.

One shoe brand that has recently taken advantage of AR visualisation technology is Adidas. Like most brands, in 2020, Adidas had to close its brick-and-mortar stores. Unfortunately, this coincided with the launch of its new sustainable Adidas Stan Smith shoe line. 

Determined to give customers the opportunity to see their new shoe line “in-person” anyway, Adidas created an AR experience that could be activated by scanning QR codes on the windows of its retail stores across Europe. Because the experience was web-based, users did not have to download any apps.

As passers-by scanned these codes, they could see a tornado of sustainable items materialise before them in AR, followed by the Adidas Stan Smith shoe accompanied with the phrase “dare to change” and a “Shop Now” button that made it easy for users to buy the shoes directly. 

On the other hand, taking advantage of social media networks, in 2018, Nike was one of the few brands to try out Facebook Messenger’s AR features (in beta) as a way to promote the Nike Kyrie 4 Red Carpet.

However, unlocking Nike’s AR experience was not so easy. Users first had to obtain a “secret code” that came in the form of four emojis (a basketball, fire, clapper, and skeleton key), and that was given out by influencers working with Nike.

It was only after users entered this code into Messenger that they could see a 3D version of the limited edition sneakers, designed by the professional basketball player Kyrie Irving, from up close and from all angles. 

After leaving the experience, users were prompted to buy the shoes directly from Messenger. The campaign was a huge success, with the shoes selling out in under an hour. 

2. Virtual try-on shoes

Virtual try-on shoes are similar to shoe visualisation. However, rather than seeing the shoes up close and in their own space, customers actually get to “try them on” to see how they fit. 

In 2020, Gucci was the first global brand to launch an AR shoe try-on Lens on Snapchat right after the social media platform released the new feature. Through the Lens, Snapchat users could virtually “put on” Gucci shoes on their feet to see how they would look on them. 

For the campaign, Gucci released two Lenses (one for each gender), with both Lenses capable of overlaying a digital version of two pairs of shoes — Gucci Rhyton, Gucci Ace, Gucci Screener, and Gucci Tennis 1977— onto smartphone users’ feet. 

Users could then click the “Shop Now” button inside the Lens to be redirected to a product page where they could purchase the pair of Gucci shoes they just tried on. 

The Lens reached 18.9 million people and led to a positive return on ad spend (ROAS), as many people bought the shoes directly through the app.

Shortly after, Hoka One One created a similar experience — with a slight twist. The athletic apparel maker released a World Lens that brought Snapchatters to an AR pop-up store where they could browse shoes and other apparel and try on items that caught their eye.

By clicking on a “Shop Now” button, users could purchase the items that looked good on them right from Hoka One One’s webpage.

Not only did the Lens see 82% lower cost per share and was shared almost 6 times more than the Snapchat retail benchmark, but, according to Hoka’s Director of US Marketing Ian Hill, it also exposed the brand to new consumers.

3. Personalised shoe recommendations

Although AR try-ons can give shoppers a good idea as to how shoes will look on them, they don’t necessarily make it any easier to choose the correct size. This may explain why the return rate for shoes can be up to 35%, which is three times higher than ecommerce in general. 

The good news is that a FitTech company named Volumental has come up with a solution to the retail returns problem: a 3D scanner app that “reinvents the fit experience”. 

Through their smartphone cameras, users can measure their feet and have their measurements compared to shoe purchase data from millions of customers. This is followed by personalised shoe recommendations based on things like the length and width of customers’ feet, forefoot height, arch height, heel width, and more. 

When customers see shoes that they like, they can click “Add to Bag” to buy them directly through the app. 

4. Immersive marketing campaigns

AR technology is helpful beyond just showing customers how a pair of shoes look in real life and whether it will fit them. It can also be employed to create more engaging ads to make a brand stand out from the competition. 

Research shows that AR draws out a “surprise” response in customers’ brains. What’s more, AR can lead to 70% higher memory encoding (i.e., how information is retained) than traditional media.

Curious to see the difference between traditional video ads and AR ads, the footwear brand GREATS ran a Facebook campaign of both ad types with the same creative concept. 

Appearing on Facebook users’ News Feed, the GREATS AR ad featured the messaging “This is an AR ad. Click to become one.” Individuals who opened their front-facing smartphone camera could see themselves in the ad and play with animations by changing their facial expressions. 

Users could also click the “Shop Now” button to buy a pair of GREATS or tap on the camera icon to snap a photo of themselves and see their picture displayed on a virtual phone with the phrase, “This is you. You are an ad” and a slogan at the bottom that said, “Be one of the greats.” In this way, the ad created a two-way dialogue between the brand and the audience.

Compared to conventional video ads, GREATS’ AR ads saw a 3.4% increase in brand lift, 29% growth in audience engagement, and 62% reduction in brand lift cost. Moreover, 38,300 additional people remembered the brand after interacting with the AR ad. 

The future of virtual try-on shoes and other AR and 3D footwear experiences

As virtual try-on shoes and similar AR experiences become more commonplace in the footwear industry, we will see more and more brands experimenting with this technology in an effort to engage shoppers and curb returns.

Although still in its infancy, augmented reality footwear experiences are a growing trend with proven benefits. As such, future-forward brands should not hesitate and capitalise on AR footwear experiences right now.

Whether you’re interested in virtual try-on shoes, immersive ads, or something else, contact the team at Poplar Studio for help in getting started with creating 3D and AR experiences for your shoe catalogue today.

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