3 Retail Apps Taking Advantage of Augmented Reality

Read Time: 5 - 10 min

Augmented reality became a hot concept two summers ago with the astronomical rise of Pokemon Go. And while AR has an obvious place when it comes to gaming apps, one of the more interesting use cases of the technology is for retail apps.

Let's take a look at 3 retail apps capitalizing on augmented reality:


1. Sephora 

sephora 3d

Sephora added live 3D facial recognition to its pre-existing Virtual Artist feature on mobile, after the developer ModiFace saw on a survey of non-modiface and non-Sephora apps that a 22 percent drop in conversion rates occurred when the virtual products did not line up or appear correctly on the user’s face.

The previous augmented reality feature -- Virtual Artists -- allowed users to upload a still selfie to virtually try on various products that can be purchased from Sephora, but the new update allows users to view themselves moving in real-time with the digital makeup, with more effective technology.

Part of the importance of that is keeping up with the Joneses -- more retail brands are now using advanced AR, so the idea of simply uploading a selfie is getting outdated. Part of it is also the tie to user experience. Without the real-time movement, getting to the right product can involve more clicks. Per research, one simple click has a conversion rate of 84 percent, but four clicks only see a rate of 10 percent.

2. Ray-Ban

ray ban try on 

We’ve all been on a road trip and needed some sunglasses, gone into a gas station/service center, found the rack, and tried on a few while glancing in that little mirror with our friends. There are entire scenes of movies about that moment. It’s seminal.

Well, now you can do that with AR on a phone. The Ray-Ban app allows you to:

  • Virtually try on your preferred Ray-Bans from sun and optical collections
  • Share them with friends and get their feedback
  • Purchase your favorite Ray-Bans

The intermingling of the AR tech and the social component is a big win for Ray-Ban here, as we all know getting a second opinion from friends before a fashion purchase is key. 

3. Zara 

zara ar

From Teen Vogue:

On their Instagram, they showed off the new technology in a short step-by-step video. Basically, after downloading the app to your phone, you can point the camera at everything from a mannequin to an empty Zara store window, to the screen on your e-commerce purchase and the clothing will come to life on a model for several seconds. From there, you can click to shop the look and related items. In a press release from the brand, they added that “the app features a tool for sharing the experience on social media, encouraging users to take and submit photos of the holograms, establishing a virtual connection that appears remarkably real.”

Again, note the social component -- it’s not just about the experience of seeing if something will fit or look great on you. It’s about making sure your friends know and can weigh in. The social component is actually just as important as the AR tech itself in many of these contexts.

One thing that should be noted here is the communication between mobile/app marketing and in-store operations. On that Instagram post where Zara debuted the tech, here’s one comment from a user:

We just visited your store on 5th Avenue - the store staff INCLUDING the manager had no idea what we were talking about 😡 we were so excited to try your feature but now we are disappointed in your customer experience!

Make sure the two sides are talking to each other, or else the flashiest and greatest AR in the world won’t mean much if it doesn’t seem to work in-store and no one knows how to help.

What else have you seen in retail and AR on mobile? Comment below.


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