Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Michael Quoc, CEO and founder of Dealspotr, a social couponing platform.
Ever since Pokemon Go and Snapchat popularized augmented reality for the masses, tech giants have been scheming ways to provide more of it to users.
Since the launch of Apple's ARKit just six months ago, over 13 million AR apps have been downloaded from the app store. Meanwhile, Facebook is currently working to add functionality to their AR-enabled in-app camera that takes the magic from facial to object recognition. In the future, Facebook will identify every object it sees on screen and animate it with special effects.
AR is just plain fun for users, but it also provides real benefits. Over 60% of consumers say AR can improve their daily lives, including how they shop. Brands responded by doubling their AR advertising spend year-over-year, reaching nearly $13 billion in 2017. Those dollars were well-spent.AR-enabled advertising campaigns far outperform their traditional advertising predecessors, boasting phenomenal results such as dwell times eight times longer than otherwise experienced and triple the click through rates of rich banner ads.
AR is catching on. The technology is predicted to attract 1 billion users by 2020. With its potential applications for social media and e-commerce, it's no surprise that a quarter of brands are currently trying to figure out how to incorporate AR into their marketing.
Here are 10 verticals already leading the way in AR tech.
Furniture: Ikea, Anthropologie and Lowe's
Ikea made a name for itself as one of the early adopters of AR app technology. The company worked with Apple's ARKit to create the Ikea Place app, which allows shoppers to virtually place Ikea furniture within their home, checking for fit in color, look, size and more. The app scales furniture size to an impressive 98% accuracy, giving consumers confidence that they're ordering something that will work, and saving them from the nightmare of actually visiting an Ikea store and breaking up with their significant other.
But Ikea isn't the only one bringing AR to the world of furniture shopping. Anthropologie introduced AR into their official app last year. Users can shop the brand's full furniture line, customizing by color and material.
Lowe's, too, lets users shop their furniture line with the Envisioned by Mine and the Measured by Lowe's apps, which turn a user's phone camera into a virtual measuring stick to measure the dimensions of floors, walls and other household items, making it easy for them to shop for more furniture online and in-store.
Paint is an industry that can greatly benefit from AR. Before this technology, a shopper's best option was taking home a tiny color swatch to hold up against a wall, or to begin painting and later realize they hated the color. Neither scenario was ideal.
AR apps have revolutionized the paint shopping experience by allowing customers to instantly envision their entire home with the new shade. Simply hold up a phone, scan the room, and see how the shade looks with the windows open and how it complements existing furniture.
This experience is available courtesy of UK-based paint brand Dulux. The Dulux Visualizer app transforms the walls in your home just by tapping a color. The app also includes camera functionality, so users can take photos and video directly in the app for easy sharing with friends and family, in case they want a second opinion.
Fit: Dressing Room by Gap
Companies like TopShop and Uniqlo have bought AR into the retail experience. Thanks to AR-enabled mirrors in dressing rooms, shoppers can switch the colors of the items they're wearing or try on related looks.
The Dressing Room by Gap app brings the dressing room to the shopper. After users provide details about their body dimensions, they can then virtually try on clothes in a simulated Gap store before adding them to their cart. While the app fails by using a mannequin instead of the actual user, it's smart — placing the shopper in a branded Gap dressing room and using terminology like "back on shelf" to help users feel like they're at Gap, connecting them with the brand.
Online marketplaces: Amikasa, TapPainter and Amazon
For brands who can't afford to build their own AR app, online marketplaces serve a purpose. The Amikasa app invites any furniture seller to upload 3D imagery of their product to be featured on the app.
Similarly, brand-agnostic app TapPainter lets users visualize paint colors from a variety of different brands, offering a helpful tool for interior decorators, homeowners and paint brands hoping to reach a larger set of shoppers. Users select shades from a color wheel or input a color code from a swatch.
The Amazon app also features AR technology. Shoppers can navigate to the AR View feature to browse thousands of products and envision them in their homes.
Shoes: Converse and Adidas
Online shoe sellers are increasing customer confidence with videos and product photos taken from multiple angles.
Converse takes it a step further with their Converse Sampler app, which lets users virtually try on shoes to see how they look on their feet. They can snap a photo to share on Facebook or text to friends, too — getting validation before they buy while promoting the app at the same time.
Shoe brands like Adidas are smartly using AR to enhance the customer experience post-purchase. Once consumers receive a shoe from their AR-enabled sneaker line, they can hold up the tongue to a webcam and a computer scans the embedded code. This process unlocks a virtual world with their sneaker as the AR controller. With AR, Adidas shoppers experience their sneakers in a new way that is delightful and cements loyalty to the brand.
AR for kids: Bic and Quiver
Speaking of customer loyalty, brands like Bic are using AR to instill it from an early age. For their Drawybook app, Bic partnered with children's book author Elissa Elwich to create interactive stories. The app functions like many other gamified storytelling iPhone apps, but it also invites the children to create their own art and story with special effects. Bringing the child into the creation process and inviting them to be an active participant makes the app stand out in the minds of parents.
With the Quiver coloring book app,kids print out coloring pages, and after they color them in, they can bring them to life using AR. The app makes money through in-app purchases on the AR experiences.
Customer experience: Burberry
Following Bic's example, brands like Burberry are using AR to build relationships with customers, rather than directly push product sales.
The high-end brand known for their tartans uses Apple's ARKit to create a social experience for their fans. Users can add special Burberry-inspired drawings, effects, borders, and more to their photos for sharing on social media, much like the filters and effects available on Snapchat and Instagram. The app helps customers stay connected with the brand and create a virtual lookbook, while tapping into the aspirational appeal of high fashion.
Local business: Magnolia Market
Magnolia Market is a home decor store based in Texas and run by the team behind HGTV's Fixer Upper. Their iOS app uses Apple's ARKit to allow shoppers to view their entire product line — from any angle. Unlike many of the AR apps on this list, the images are not static, so users can examine the product from above, below, or around the side.
"Thanks to AR, online shoppers will now have the answers to: How will this piece look in my home? How big is the item in real life? What does the inside look like, or the back?" said Stone Crandall, Magnolia's digital experience manager, acknowledging the unique value AR brings to the online shopping experience. "At the end of the day, nothing tops the in-store experience, but AR provides the capabilities for guests to make equally informed buying decisions from afar, at all hours of the day."
Beauty: Sephora and L'Oreal
Cosmetics and beauty brands are hopping on the AR train to much success. It makes sense: Seeing an eyeshadow applied to your face often looks vastly different from how it appears in the online product photo of the compact.
AR apps from Sephora, L'Oreal and others help users shop with confidence and virtually "test" beauty products at home via their smartphone.
Beyond usability, these apps grow customer loyalty because they make the online shopping experience fun, which is the part of the value of visiting in-store. Shoppers love testing out and trying new shades and products in-store, but there's something magical about being able to do the same thing at home and see your face change before your eyes — just like Snapchat filters.
Besides selling products, reducing returns and creating a fun branded experience (which are all great things), L'Oreal's chief digital officer says the AR apps provide unique value-adds for the cosmetics industry: "It's an immense source of data in terms of understanding what consumers like, what they like less in terms of colors, looks, textures. For our marketing and our labs, it's a great source of insight in terms of trends and it helps us deliver makeup collections."
Makeup brands can't see every item a person picks up, tests and discards in store. With an AR app, they can.
Food and beverage: Patron
Even the food and beverage industry is getting in on AR. The branded Patron Experience app, brings Patron's Mexican distillery to the phones of consumers, complete with a charming bartender.
While the app exists in a gamified experience today, the company plans to develop it into an e-commerce platform, according to Adrian Parker, vice president of marketing;"In the future, [imagine] you're in a VR or AR experience, a bartender has made you a cocktail based on your preferences and now you can click and that cocktail is being sent to you."
Back in 2010, luxury jewelry brand Boucheron invited shoppers to print out paper cutouts of their rings, wrap the paper around their finger and hold it up to their webcam to see it transformed into jewelry. AR has come a long way since then.
Find inspiration in the examples above. Get creative and consider: how can AR bring your brand's product catalog to life.