Why WebAR will change the face of AR forever

By Cristina Ferrandez

There is no question that AR is an incredibly powerful and innovative tool, but its adoption can sometimes feel a little slow, particularly when it comes to brands. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that AR can still pose certain barriers to adoption, as it often requires users to have a particular app installed, and to understand what the AR activation process looks like (how do you scan a QR code? How do you find face filters on Snapchat?). However, one revolutionary technology is set to eliminate this barrier in one fell swoop: WebAR.

What exactly is WebAR?

WebAR, as the name suggests, is a technology that enables users to access an AR experience using – you guessed it – their web browser. Typically, the end user will scan a QR code, which will in turn open a link on their mobile browser where they can access the web experience.

There are many reasons to be excited about this technology, particularly when it comes to brands still struggling to bridge the gap between the AR experience and the end user. Three particular benefits that are unique to web-based AR stand out:

1. Low barrier of entry

To access WebAR experiences, all you need is your browser

Firstly, WebAR is the AR platform with the lowest barrier of entry. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram all require the end user to have their respective mobile apps installed, but with WebAR all you need is your mobile browser. Often you can also access the experience from a desktop browser if needed.

What this means for brands is that it makes AR distribution a lot easier, potentially increasing the reach of AR effects significantly. When you remove the need to download or update an app, you’re effectively reducing the number of obstacles the end-user faces to access the AR experience. Users will no longer need to open their app store, search for and download the specific app, instantly accessing the AR effect instead.

Moreover, WebAR is fairly straight-forward, especially compared to other AR platforms. The QR-code-to-browser user journey only requires one step, so as long as the end user knows how to scan a QR code with their phone, they’re good to go. Compare this to some of the other AR platforms, which require you to open their app and sometimes navigate to a designated area or scroll through a carousel, and you get the idea.

2. Website integration

Another great use of WebAR is integrating it into a website journey, typically an online shopping checkout process. The most powerful use we have seen of this is virtual try-on, an AR feature that allows users to “try on” a product before purchase by using their phone’s camera.

Our virtual try-on effect for Speedo

We recently worked with Speedo on such a project, delivering an AR effect that is now fully integrated with their mobile website shopping journey. The effect allows customers to select from different models of swimming goggles and to try them on, visualising how the goggles would fit them in real life.

This is proving an effective way to empower customers to make smarter purchasing choices, and Speedo expect to see more sales and fewer returns as a result of the AR effect.

3. Physical activation

Our WebAR project with Jack Daniels

Finally, an often overlooked but very powerful use case of AR is physically activated experiences. These might include event-based or in-store AR campaigns, where the end user must scan a QR code to access the experience.

WebAR is a particularly effective technology for physically activated AR experiences due to its ease of access. For example, we have previously worked on a campaign with Jack Daniels that relied on physical activation. The campaign was rolled out across Slug & Lettuce restaurants in the UK, to customers purchasing the Jack Daniels-based Lynchburg Lemonade. Upon ordering the drink, customers received a card with a QR code clipped onto their glass, which they could scan to access the AR experience. 

jack daniels ar experience
Customers who ordered a Lynchburg Lemonade received this QR code

Once customers scanned the QR code, they were redirected to a mobile website, which triggered the AR effect. On the front camera, users were able to play with a fun face filter, which transformed them into Jack Daniel. On the back camera, they could select between three portals, which took them to the Jack Daniels distillery and showed them the different stages of production of their famous whisky, in 360°.

This AR effect brought new layers to the experience of ordering a Jack Daniels drink, enriching and engaging rather than seeking to reach new audiences. WebAR is proving to be a very effective tool in this area.

Final thoughts

AR is taking social media by storm, but brands might want to consider what use cases it can offer them besides social lenses. As a rapidly evolving technology, there is going to be a high influx of opportunities for engagement and growth through AR. 

WebAR offers a powerful tool to incorporate some of these new approaches in new and powerful ways that are simply not possible through the major social platforms.

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