AR trends

Key augmented reality trends for 2021 (part 3)

By Laurie Ainley

Trends in fast-moving spaces like augmented reality (AR) are notoriously difficult to call. While last year turned many predictions on their heads, one thing that did happen was widespread digital transformation. For AR, 2020 also saw consumer interest, brand adoption, and technological capability advance tremendously. Consequently, AR uptake among retailers and brands has snowballed.

Between January and June of 2020, the number of retailers expecting to spend on new AR and virtual reality (VR) experiences more than doubled in the U.S. Since then, the groundswell of interest in these technologies shows no signs of receding.

Even though the future is still far from certain, we can confidently predict the further progression of specific AR trends. To help you plan an engaging future for your business, here are three AR trends to keep an eye on.

Hologram technology is becoming an AR trend for fashion brands

AR trends

It was hard to miss the media frenzy that surrounded the resurrection of Kim Kardashian’s father Robert in the latter part of 2020. While the birthday gift from Kardashian’s husband Kanye West seemed eerily real, it was really a hologram: a three-dimensional projection visible without any special equipment. For most of us, creating a hologram of our relatives or friends is still too expensive. However, companies and brands are already taking advantage of this new AR trend — and will continue to do so in 2021. 

From hologram music performances to holographic circus animals, industries as diverse as entertainment, medicine, and architecture are harnessing the technology that not so long ago seemed like something from Star Trek. Today, one sector in particular is leading the way. Fashion brands, both big and small, have been experimenting in this space for decades.

In 2006, Alexander McQueen showed a hologram of Kate Moss at the end of his “Widows of Culloden” show in Paris. This was the first time a major fashion show featured a human hologram. A year later, in 2007, Diesel created one of the biggest holographic fashion shows to date. And in 2016, Pinar&Viola projected a virtual fashion line onto real-life models using hologram technology to “save resources, time, space and the ecosystem.”

Fashion shows are not the only place you may see this AR trend. Jeans brand Wrangler used a holographic cowboy to draw customer attention to a self-service jeans station launched in 2019. Over the week the station was in operation, the brand witnessed a conversion rate of 32% from over 1,500 customer interactions. To bring holograms into people’s homes, ASOS tested an augmented reality feature on its app that lets you view virtual ASOS models in front of you. All you have to do is point your smartphone camera at a suitable surface and press the “AR” button on the app to bring a model to life and see how clothing fits on them. 

Creator services are making augmented reality development more accessible

AR trends
Poplar Studio, creator services platform

Creator marketplaces are on track to make advanced AR experiences available to every type of  brand and business. Brands that want to create AR campaigns for their products or services don’t have to hire expensive in-house personnel with skillsets limited by their specialisms. Instead, they can collaborate with professional augmented reality developers and creators across the entire technology spectrum on demand directly via creator services platforms like Poplar Studio

These platforms operate as marketplaces for people who design AR filters. Brands submit briefs detailing their needs and creators respond with ideas and information about themselves and their past work. Alternatively, brands can buy digital assets from “asset stores,” where creators list ready-made digital assets, templates, and source code for sale, but these still require assembly and publishing as finished experiences.

By directly connecting pioneering creators with brands looking to get ahead of growing consumer desire for AR, marketplaces will become an increasingly ubiquitous destination for future conscious brands.  

Visual search and logo recognition are improving customer experience 

AR trends
Logo recognition AR experiences from Coca-Cola and McDonald’s

According to the artificial intelligence company ViSenze, 62% of Millennials and Gen-Z consumers want visual search capabilities. Pinterest, Google, and Snapchat are among the many tech giants that are already getting ahead of this trend and are offering visual search to their users. 

Pinterest, for example, launched its visual search tool back in 2015. Its pioneering tool allows users to find and organize ideas and discover the names of 2.5 billion home and fashion objects. Crucially for brands, it also shows users where they can purchase items of interest. Released in 2017, Google Lens works along similar lines except that users direct their phone’s camera at an object to get Google Lens to identify it. Snapchat uses a similar concept but takes users directly to Amazon product listings.

Visual search users, who may not know how to describe an item they’re looking for, can still search for it using real-world imagery. In cases where it’s impossible to find an exact match, visual search will return products that are most like the image, giving customers the chance to discover new brands. 

Last year, Snapchat took visual search a step further by combining it with AR to create Snapchat Scan. With Snapchat Scan, Snapchat users can scan a brand logo, regardless of where they find it, to unlock augmented reality experiences, such as immersive themed lenses. Coca Cola, McDonald’s, and Ralph Lauren are just some of the brands that have tried this latest AR trend. As this behaviour becomes more commonplace and engrained in consumers’ minds, it’s likely that brands’ logos will become a point of entry into the immersive world via a simple scan with a camera.


While the augmented reality and virtual reality market saw estimated revenues of $22.1 billion in 2020, by 2025, AR and VR will generate over $161 billion. 

With massive consumer demand for AR, this is no surprise. More than 6 in 10 consumers say they prefer retailers that offer AR experiences. However, only 1% of retailers are using AR or VR in their customer buying experience at the moment. This presents an obvious opportunity for brands to become early adopters of AR technology and capture customer attention. 

Getting on board with the three AR trends listed now could go a long way in helping you keep your customers engaged in the long term.

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