How H&M and L’Oreal are making the ordinary look fabulous with augmented reality technology

The explosive rise of e-commerce over the past couple of years means it’s more important than ever that retailers stay fresh, innovative, and tech-savvy. Retail is already undergoing huge shifts in how it’s leveraging new technology like artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the in-store customer experience. Along with AI and virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) is also making strides in retail through experiential and in-depth consumer insights.

Instead of putting on virtual reality headsets and submerging our minds in foreign and sometimes disorientating worlds, AR adds 3D models, new layers, and endless possibilities to the physical environments around us. Using a visor or simply holding up a smartphone, users can watch inanimate objects and everyday scenarios come to life around them. See how IKEA uses AR to visualize furniture in your home before a purchase.

AR technology has gone from strength to strength over the past few years. Global Market Insights forecasted that the AR market is set to exceed $50 billion by 2024. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the fashion and beauty industries, and some pioneering brands have started to integrate this tech as part of their marketing efforts to gain valuable customer data.

Bringing products to life

Last week, H&M unveiled an augmented reality fashion show experience for their guests at this year’s New York Fashion Show, showcasing a new collaboration with popular brand, Moschino.

This unveiling included an experiential pop-up that literally brought their new collaboration clothing line to life.

Visitors were encouraged to put on a headset and wander around the multi-colored space, gazing at gold chained baseball caps, pink fur coats, and stuffed teddy bears. To the naked eye, these items appear bright but nothing spectacular. With augmented reality added to the mix, the bear gets up and starts breakdancing, a purse slowly melts into the table, and vaults open to reveal gold bars.

Anna Tillberg Pantzar from H&M’s Laboratory understands that technology will play a pivotal role in the future of fashion retailing. “We invite guests to experience fashion like never before. We are looking at ways to apply [technology] to our business in the future”.

As much as this was a creative stunt designed to surprise, delight and amaze their guests, H&M realizes that incorporating new tech into their business is a fundamental part of their transformation. They gain deeper insights into what customers interact with in their stores and can elevate the online shopping experience.

Try before you buy

Another example of AR in action is from one of the world’s biggest cosmetics brands. L’Oreal has firmly placed its stake in the ground when it comes to incorporating new technology as part of its future road map. The company recently bought Modiface, a Toronto based start-up that has a history of creating some of the most innovative augmented reality features around. Some of their capabilities include real-time video and photo-realistic hair color and style simulation.

Whether it’s adding features to an existing beauty app, integrating modules to HTML e-commerce pages, or simply installing smart mirrors to physical stores, Modiface allows women to digitally apply make-up and share their new looks without having to buy any products.

Parham Aarabi, the founder of Modiface, has high hopes for augmented reality technology and believes that personalization will be the future of the beauty industry. “There’s a lot of opportunity for optimization. If you’re looking for an industry to make the biggest impact with technologies like AR and AI, beauty is almost as good as it gets”.

Similar to the H&M concept, L’Oreal’s new acquisition will allow them to understand customers’ preferences in much greater detail. Not only can they learn what products customers use, they’ll also be able to upsell additional items. Overall, this helps increase brand affinity as users spend more and more time navigating this new technology before making L’Oreal based purchases.

Augment your marketing strategy

It cannot be denied that augmented reality is one technology that will revolutionize the way brands interact with their customers. At first, it may be seen as purely grandiose, over the top special effects but take a moment to look below the virtual surface and behind the façade.

Every interaction, every click, and every second spent under AR’s spell is valuable customer data that can be used to not only capture attention but also improve products and services. Brands like H&M and L’Oreal are already miles ahead of their competition on the path to digital transformation and building stronger customer relationships.

We’ve worked on multiple brand campaigns that integrate this exciting technology to increase engagement. Get in touch and we’ll see how best to fuse AR into your marketing strategy.