2021 is shaping up to be a big year for augmented reality

Apr 29, 2021

As the ground-breaking Ikea Place app gets a big update, GDR’s Managing Editor John O’Sullivan ponders whether augmented reality is set for another breakthrough year in 2021.

Augmented reality has been one of the “next big things” of retail and brand engagement for the last decade. While its rise to power certainly hasn’t been as swift and all-conquering as many may have predicted, incremental technology improvements during the last five years have meant that, slowly but surely, the technology is starting to show its full potential for both brands and customers.

One of the big steps forward for augmented reality came in 2017 when the addition of ARKit to the iOS 11 update suddenly brought a vastly-improved augmented reality experience to millions of smartphone users around the world. One of the headline releases of that time  was the Ikea Place app, which suddenly allowed users to virtually trial 2,000 of the retailer’s products in their homes using augmented reality. Four years on Ikea has started beta-testing its successor Ikea Studio, which once again promises to be a big step forward for the use of the technology. Rather than just being able to virtually place single items in their homes, Ikea Studio users will be able to scan, design and experiment with whole rooms creating shareable and shoppable virtual places made up of photo-realistic 3D objects.

Elsewhere we’ve also seen a glut of innovative, non-gimmicky AR activations in the last six months that suggest to me that we’re on the cusp of another stellar year in the development of augmented reality.

In this article I want to highlight the key ways that augmented reality is starting to add real value to key moments in the customer journey. I’ll share examples showing how AR is being used to drive traffic to and around physical locations, how it’s offering next generation virtual try-on experiences and creating immersive brand engagement that blends the physical and digital worlds.

As ever, if you’re interested in talking to us in more detail about any of the themes discussed in this article, or the challenges you’re facing as a business, we’re here to help. Get in touch with rachel@gdruk.com


1) Wayfinding and gamification in physical stores

Huawei AR panda wayfinding

Huawei has created an in-store experience involving augmented reality pandas to guide shoppers through its new flagship store in Chengdu. It serves as a wayfinding tool helping customers to navigate the flagship’s five key zones, while also answering questions customers may have about specific Huawei products.

Click here to read more


Nike House of Innovation

Nike has launched an augmented reality experience at its House of Innovation store in New York to educate shoppers about its All Conditions Gear range of outerwear clothing. Shoppers use their phones to scan a QR code on a screen to open a checklist of tasks on a geofenced microsite, before moving around the collection’s displays, scanning AR markers to launch different pieces of content and challenges. Once the checklist has been completed, a physical gift to take home is brought to them by a store associate.

Click here to read more


2) Driving traffic to physical locations

Gucci and The North Face x Pokémon Go

Fashion brands Gucci and The North Face have collaborated on a collection of outerwear that is also available virtually within the popular mobile game Pokémon GO. Gamers hoping to get hold of items in the virtual collection for their avatars can do so for free, but they will have to visit one of 100 real-world locations in major cities around the world in order to obtain them.

Click here to read more


Ben & Jerry’s Easter Hunt

Ben & Jerry’s launched a Pokémon GO-style egg hunt in New Zealand and Australia to drive traffic to its parlours over the Easter weekend. The brand hid 50,000 virtual eggs in real life locations that could be discovered via augmented reality using the BlockV platform on a smartphone. The interface worked in the same way as Pokémon GO and once users found or “caught” an egg, which are all hidden near Ben & Jerry’s locations, they could exchange them for a free scoop of ice cream in-store.

Click here to read more


3) Blending the physical and digital worlds


VIDIYO is a new social app from Lego and Universal Music Group that allows children to create their own music videos in augmented reality and share them with their friends. In the app, the user can choose Lego minifigures to appear in their video alongside them as they dance along to songs by the likes of Rihanna and Taylor Swift.

Click here to read more


Bacardi’s AR Snapchat Challenge

Bacardi has created a new augmented reality-based Snapchat challenge that lets users unlock additional content by completing different dance moves. The Bacardi Snapchat Lens is powered by AR 3D Full Body-Tracking technology, which scans user’s joints and recognises when they have carried out specific tasks. When the user carries out a dance move from the song “Conga”, which Bacardi has released in collaboration with Meek Mill, Leslie Grace and Boi-1da, more layers of the song are unlocked, creating an immersive and responsive experience.

Click here to read more


H&M AR pop-up book

To celebrate its new collection with Irish designer Simone Rocha, H&M has create an AR-powered pop-up book featuring a range of models and celebrities. As the brand was unable to host a physical launch party for the collection because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it worked with artist Wei Wei to create an immersive experience that brings the collection to life in people’s homes. As readers flip through the book and each pop-up scene jumps out of the pages, they are instructed to scan QR codes with their smartphones to unlock augmented reality features. This creates a mixed reality experience where AR versions of models and celebrities wearing clothes from the collection appear to dance around the set provided by the physical pop-up book.

Click here to read more


Ikea Escape the Clutter

Ikea has launched a shoppable augmented reality game on Snapchat that underlines the ability of its products to reduce clutter in customers’ homes.

Users can play Escape the Clutter by launching the filter in Snapchat and then aiming their smartphone at a flat surface where the augmented reality game can appear. The set of the game is a messy bedroom with clutter-reducing Ikea products hovering above it. Players must drag and drop each Ikea product into a suitable place in the bedroom, which will become tidier as a result. At the end of the game players can click on everything within the bedroom, including the bed and wardrobe, to find out more info, customise them, and click through to purchase the items on the Ikea ecommerce site.

Click here to read more


4) Optimised virtual try-on

Nike’s AR avatars

Nike has started using augmented reality holographic avatars to allow online shoppers to see how well its clothes fit them. While browsing products from Nike’s Need it Now “Worldwide” collection on the Finish Line ecommerce website, customers can click the Nike Virtual View option in the product details to see the item modelled by an avatar matching their body shape. Customers scan a QR code to launch the experience on their phone before choosing their size to watch the avatar move around in a life-like way.

Click here to read more


Chanel Lipscanner

Channel has launched Lipscanner, a mobile app that enables users to scan an image to find a matching lipstick colour. The lipstick can then be virtually tried on and purchased, all within the app.

The user can scan an image or real-world object and the app will identify the Chanel lipstick shade that most closely matches it. The app’s augmented reality Try On feature then allows the user to see themselves wearing the lipstick. They can share or save photos of themselves virtually trying on the lipstick, and then purchase it directly through the app.

Click here to read more


If you’re interested in talking to us in more detail about any of the themes discussed in this article, or the challenges you’re facing as a business, we’re here to help. Get in touch with rachel@gdruk.com

News & insights straight to your inbox!