How to Use Augmented Reality to Take Product Visualization to the Next Level

April 28, 2023
How to Use Augmented Reality to Take Product Visualization to the Next Level

You love your products. But how do you help your target market fall in love with your products before they ever get their hands on them?

Product visualization is the key to demand generation, but you can do so much better than just product photography — even if it’s of amazing quality. Augmented reality and 3D experiences can take your product visualization to the next level and beyond.

Even better, your customers crave more immersive experiences from brands like yours. Research from Invesp, the conversion rate experts, found 77% of customers say they want augmented reality experiences to help them sort through product colors and style differences.

Augmented reality is a growing trend, but many brands are still waiting to get on board. That means you have an opportunity to make a splash and lead the way in your market and maximize the ROI now.

In this guide, we’ll cover augmented reality technology basics and then dive into:

  • Differences between augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality
  • Why you don’t need AR apps to deliver experiences to users
  • Benefits of augmented reality for your brand

Plus, all throughout, we’ll sprinkle in some AR examples to get your brainstorming started.

Let’s dive in.

An example of augmented reality using a mobile phone. the image dsiplays a 3D sofa that is projected into the user's room.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Augmented Reality is a 3D experience that keeps users grounded with one foot in their real world environment while showing them a new experience entirely curated by you. An AR experience overlays your brand or product content with your buyer’s world so they can engage with you wherever they are.

AR technologies aren’t limited to creating and overlaying 3D and computer generated images. You can also layer in sound and videos for a more immersive experience.

Who is augmented reality for? We love this technology because we believe AR is for everyone. You can use AR to transform experiences like:

  • E-commerce shopping
  • In-store retail marketing
  • Product launches
  • Experiential marketing events and tours
  • Industry expos and conferences

AR is a serious sales and marketing tool because it’s easier than ever to deploy to any buyer. Unlike virtual reality (VR) through a wearable device, we can deploy AR experiences to any customer group, as long as they have a smartphone or tablet and an internet connection.

Augmented Reality lets your customers try your products on for size and feel in the context of their own space.

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality vs. Extended Reality vs. Mixed Reality vs. Spatial Computing

Because augmented reality is still a relatively new term, we often hear AR conflated with other virtual environments.

For a more detailed explanation, check out our blog post that takes a deeper dive into the common technical and commercial definitions of these technologies.

Here’s a quick overview of these technologies:

  • Augmented Reality: AR adds digital layers into the user’s real-world environment. In this augmented world, your users can manipulate the objects you give them as if they exist in the real world. Because AR is not 100% immersive, it works well with mobile devices, not just headsets.
  • Virtual Reality: VR takes your customers out of their world and into the virtual environment you designed for them, similar to being inside a video game environment or being transported somewhere unrelated to your real-world physical location.
  • Extended Reality: is an umbrella term for AR, MR, and VR
  • Mixed Reality: Mixed Reality is an extension of AR with deeper contextual interaction between the digital and physical.
  • Spatial Computing: Is a much broader term that refers to computing data from the real world. It includes the above immersive terms, but also isn't limited to immersing a user - there are plenty of additional uses such as AI.

Do Your Customers Need Special Hardware for Augmented Reality?

While you don’t need a specific AR device to access an experience, your customers do need some hardware components.

The good news: AR technology perfectly suits mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. Augmented reality technology is lighter than virtual reality, which means there’s no need for specific augmented reality systems, like headsets. You can develop augmented reality experiences for the web or AR apps. If you market to a group of early AR adopters or you’re running an experiential marketing campaign, you can go further and design unique experiences for augmented reality devices, like AR/MR/VR headsets.

Ultimately, your customers don’t even need to buy AR devices or download special augmented reality apps — or any AR app at all. We’ll talk you through how you deploy appless AR (or web-based AR) for a mobile environment right now.

Web-based AR: Why You Don’t Need Augmented Reality Apps

QR code for WebAR
Scan the QR code with your mobile device to see Web-based AR in action

After the AR device question, the next most common question we hear is: do we need dedicated augmented reality apps to create experiences?

While augmented reality apps are growing in popularity and there are some great AR applications out there (like the IKEA Place app, Pokemon Go, and Shopify AR), you aren’t tied into developing an app. This is great news if your mobile application isn’t your primary sales channel or if you have more complex needs for your AR experiences.

Web-based AR is a technology that allows you to deploy amazing AR without the need to resource dedicated AR apps. Web-based AR allows your users to access your experience directly from their phone or tablet using the camera and web browser they already have.

The Benefits of Web-based AR

The chief reason to use this type of augmented reality is that it will enable users from all demographics to access your experiences because it means you can deploy anywhere on the web.

  • Web-based AR is democratic, so you can reach anyone in your target markets, no matter how they shop.
  • It’s easier to build complementary AR experiences for multiple channels.
  • There’s no need to build an app, which means you can deploy AR experiences in weeks without engaging app developers.

Here’s an example of why Web-based AR can be so powerful:

LEGO Friends WebAR Carousel Experience by Ocavu
LEGO Friends WebAR Carousel Experience

Let’s say you’re a toy brand launching a new product. Your target market is children and, of course, the parents of those children. An AR experience needs to be easily accessible to busy parents and impatient children, which means you don’t necessarily want to deploy via an AR app.

With Web-based AR, you can deploy experiences from a QR code and avoid the need to download an app.

LEGO’s recent Friends launch is a great example of how quickly you can launch a great campaign that would be so much more difficult with an application.

LEGO used QR codes on their new Friends Universe packaging so their target audience could unbox their new toys virtually in the store. And because they didn’t use a dedicated app, LEGO could deploy quickly and know that they would reach more of their market, both in terms of their target audience and their global markets.

4 Augmented Reality Benefits You Don’t Want to Miss

Like augmented reality technology itself, the benefits of AR amplify the customer or user experience to 10x the benefits of all the rest of your marketing activities.

Here are the four benefits we see our customers measure:

1. Track new kinds of data for the first time

We know from significant third-party research that AR has a lot of benefits for your typical KPIs, like increasing conversion rates, improving page dwell time, and reducing product return rates. But what we often skip over are the new data sets that AR experience adds to your arsenal to help you better understand your customer and improve those metrics even further.

With a more tactile, immersive experience comes an opportunity to see what customers love (or hate) about your products. You can see where they spend the most time, what digital visual elements they engage with most, and what products they engage with most. You can set up your entire AR experience just to capture these metrics.

Once you have all this new data, you can then segment it by demographics like age and location and feed these back into your systems. All of a sudden, you have more ammunition for your marketing campaigns, like PPC and social ads. You can even compare them against your other channel metrics, like email open rates and click-throughs.

Add in shareable and trackable content, like AR filters, and you’ve got a new treasure trove of data that your customers willfully give you because you offered them something in return.

2. Boost conversion rates

There’s a lot of talk about how AR and 3D experiences can boost conversion rates. And while the evidence is strong, you might wonder why brands are getting such great results.

Researchers have started diving into the human experience with AR. A scientific study published in Impact Factor in 2022 dove into this problem and found that when you’re deployed AR experiences outside of a store, the experience improves “self-projection,” which is what bridges a customers connection between your product as something to buy and something they want to own.

With a stickier experience, you’re bound to boost conversion rates. But by how much?

The amount depends on the source, but all the statistics look good:

3. Translate your brand and product experience across channels

Connecting the experience you’ve carefully curated on your primary channel with the experience offered by other channels, whether they’re stockists, your e-commerce site, or a new brick-and-mortar retail experience, isn’t easy.

However, adding AR technology experience can help you bridge the gaps by keeping access to your product consistent. The research we noted above about “self-projection” helps here, but not entirely.

Using AR across your channels to deliver creative brand marketing bridges that gap further.

4. Deepen brand relationships to improve loyalty

Measuring brand loyalty is notoriously difficult, and depending on your niche, your customer group is likely fickle.

However, if you want to ask for loyalty, then you need a stronger brand relationship. And if you want to drive stickiness with your customers, there are few better ways to do that than AR. According to a study from Zenith, user experiences featuring AR are 70% more memorable than an experience without AR, which helps you stay top of mind and drives demand and excitement for your product.

With AR, you get a helping hand for developing close-knit brand relationships, giving you a chance to allow your product, channels, and customer service to carry you over the finish line.

3 Ways Your Brand Can Use AR Today

You’ve probably already heard of AR try-ons and virtual showrooms but those experiences are just the start of what’s possible. With AR technology, the only limits to your experience are your brand’s creativity.

1. Deploy AR with your 3D product configurator

Augmented reality makes an excellent addition to your product visualization. You can help them go a step further and add AR to your 3D Configurator so they can see their custom products in their space or on themselves to weigh up their options and confirm they’ve made the right choice.

With AR shopping, you can add virtual try-ons and other types of overlays to your arsenal and measure the impact.

Adding AR to a product configurator works particularly well with products where the buyer needs to be sure and where returns are impossible, like:

  • Make-up and beauty products
  • Prescription glasses and sunglasses
  • Furniture

But it’s also a valuable tool for reducing products that are often returned like:

  • Apparel, shoes, and accessories
  • Home accessories
  • Cars and aftermarket parts
2. Add QR codes to your product packaging
A still image from an AR experience featuring a box containing ITK skincare products
ITK’s AR experiences include animated tap interactions to educate users on their products

Is there more to the story than what you can fit into a product description? Continue the journey by adding AR experiences to your packaging through a simple QR code.

You can use those AR experiences to:

  • Deliver a personalized brand experience
  • Provide additional instructions or explanations
  • Create branded keepsakes for customers to share

Our client, Maesa, used QR codes on both external and product packaging to bridge the gap between the buyer experience in-store and product experience at home. They not only use their AR experiences to educate customers on the product and the concept of clean beauty, but they created keepsakes for more engagement.

3. Extend your product launch event to virtual worlds

You’re bringing a new product to market. Without huge amounts of social proof, you need an experience that will generate demand. But how do you do that when the market hasn’t experienced your product before?

AR brings your product to life, so it should be a natural part of your product launch strategy.

You can use AR to drive demand in the weeks and months leading up to your launch, giving you the data and confidence you need to target the right customers and make your launch a success.

Why is augmented reality so valuable for product launches? Interactivity is a big part of its value proposition, but scalability is even more important. You can launch experiences for different markets with relative ease, tweaking details in the experience as needed. Plus, with Web-based AR, you can deliver it as part of in-store campaigns, online campaigns (including ads), and even guerrilla campaigns.

Are You Ready for AR?

Customers want augmented reality, and you can be part of the first few waves of brands delivering them a more engaging brand and product experience. The benefits of AR combined with the ease of deployment with tools like Web-based AR also mean it’s never been easier to get started.

With Ocavu, brands can create, manage, and deploy 3D and AR experiences across platforms — with everything you need in one place. Learn more about how Ocavu helps customers deploy amazing AR experiences.