Image Source: lenovo

Augmented reality (AR) has been around for some time now, but AR is getting a fresh take in the young new year. Why? Because the pandemic has accelerated its adoption among businesses. And because Apple. As we enter another stretch of prolonged social distancing, retailers in particular are looking for ways to apply AR to make shopping more natural.

The News

  • At the annual CES event, AR is already making its presence known early on. Lenovo previewed its new line of ThinkReality A3 smart glasses that can show up to five virtual displays. The AR eyewear is intended for enterprise use – an area where AR has already taken hold, for example with product design. Lenovo envisions its augmented reality-enabled eyewear to be used in locations such as factories, laboratories, retail locations, and hospitality spaces. Meanwhile, Panasonic unveiled a new AR heads-up display for automobiles that projects 3D information into the driver’s line of sight to help reduce driver distraction and potentially increase safety on the road. AR in automobiles is an increasingly competitive space as automobile manufacturers seek to improve driving safety.
  • The New York Times reports that more retailers are making AR a priority in the new year especially as popular apps such as Snapchat make it easier for retailers to reach shoppers with AR filters. According to the New York Times, Snapchat began adding shopping filters in 2020 and AR reality try-on experiences for luxury brands such as Gucci and Dior, and makeup tutorials from the cosmetics manufacturer Too Faced. Some 19 million Snapchat users have tried on Gucci products using the filter. Snap recently teamed up with Perfect, a company that creates makeup try-on experiences, to add more beauty filters and shopping experiences to Snapchat.
  • “The pandemic accelerated a lot of conversations that we were already having,” according to Carolina Arguelles Navas, product strategy lead for augmented reality at Snap, the parent company of Snapchat.
  • Snapchat is not the only app collaborating with businesses to use AR. According to eMarketer, Bollé Brands has adopted try-on experience on Instagram that not only lets people see what the brand’s sunglasses looked like on them, but also let them experience their own environment through the polarized lenses of virtual sunglasses.
  • Deborah Weinswig, the chief executive of Coresight Research, says people stayed engaged with AR experiences for three times as long as they do with traditional e-commerce websites. Retailers hope that will mean fewer exchanges and returns.
  • Meanwhile, we’ve seen a spike in news reports about Apple unveiling its much-anticipated AR eyewear in 2021. Mac Rumors says that Apple suppliers have been told to gear up for an unspecified augmented reality device in 2021. To be sure, this is not the first time we’ve seen rumors about Apple AR eyewear surface, but perhaps because the pandemic has accelerated the use of AR, we’re seeing those rumors gain more currency

Why This News Matters to Businesses

  • This news is another example of how savvy businesses are sensing and responding during the pandemic to adapt to changing consumer preferences.
  • The uptake of AR during the pandemic is especially meaningful because it offers a clue into what consumers seek: they want shopping to be more of an utilitarian search and click on the internet. As a shopper quoted in The New York Times said, “If I’m going to buy something, I want the experience of going into the store, trying things on and making sure it actually is for me. It’s not an automatic ‘I’ve got to have it.’”

What Businesses Should Do

  • The key for businesses to sense and respond quickly is to use test-and-learn tools such as design sprints that make it possible to try new business models and technologies quickly and cost-effectively.
  • We also believe it’s essential that enterprises apply immersive reality to create lovable experiences that put the needs of people at the center. As our own Mark Persaud wrote in 2019, “At Moonshot, we believe in the power and need for empathy-driven design with all of our products and experiences to really enhance or enable the lives of the users. Those experiences need to be designed with users, not just for users. The difference between “with” and “for” is again a small nuance in how we design, but it makes a big difference in the outcome and the associated product adoption.”

For more Insight

At Moonshot, we’ve shared extensive thought leadership on the uptake of augmented and virtual reality. Recent examples include: