- Amazon released an app that lets customers use their smartphone cameras to scan QR codes on shipping boxes and unlock an augmented reality experience. The app, called Amazon Augmented Reality in Apple's App Store and Amazon AR Player in Google Play, is described as a "fun way to reuse your Amazon boxes until you're ready to drop them in the recycling bin."
- A variety of experiences and activities are linked to different boxes, as shown in photos and a video in the app stores. One box, for example, instructs people to draw a jack-o-lantern face on a pumpkin shape printed on the side. After scanning a QR code, a 3D image of the user's jack-o-lantern digitally emerges from the box. Users can then decorate the jack-o-lantern with digital clothing and accessories and change its color. Flipping the camera to a selfie view will overlay the pumpkin on a user's face.
- Mobile users can customize their AR pumpkins by changing the color or adding overlays like top hats, flower crowns and wings, suggesting how shoppers can engage with festive Amazon experiences beyond purchasing products. Other boxes can be turned into things like a tiny blue AR car.
Amazon's quiet release of its AR app suggests the e-commerce giant may be testing the technology before possibly rolling it out with greater fanfare during the holiday shopping season. The immersive experiences can entertain customers with festive activities and keep them in the Amazon ecosystem for longer amounts of time. The scannable box experiment may set the stage for future applications of AR technology, such as immersive animations that offer deals, discounts and promotions for Amazon's growing line of services and private-label products. Such interactivity would better transform the retailer's packaging into an engaging brand experience.
Amazon has gradually added more AR features for shoppers in the past few years, including the recent addition of a feature to its "room decorator" tool that lets people virtually style a space with furniture items from Amazon and its third-party sellers. The tool is available on mobile and desktop devices, helping shoppers view product recommendations and add items to a shopping cart without leaving the AR experience.
In 2018, Amazon updated its app for Android devices to with an "AR view" that let users visualize the look and fit of home furnishing products, several months after adding the feature to its iOS app. The company also tested shoppable stickers that let app users place digital stickers of home furnishings over a living space instead of more realistic renditions of the items, TechCrunch reported.
Product showcasing by retailers has been considered one of the most promising applications for AR technology, though the pandemic has dampened investment in AR activations by brick-and-mortar retailers, according to International Data Corp. The researcher in July said AR still shows promise in the long term as retailers expand digital sales efforts to connect with shoppers who are avoiding stores and may use AR tools to virtually sample products in a contactless setting.
The new AR-activated packaging arrives as Amazon unofficially kicks off this year's holiday shopping season with its annual Prime Day shopping event that began Tuesday. The company launched Prime Day in 2015 to drum up business during the summer lull, but this year the pandemic led to a surge in e-commerce activity that tested the limits of supply chains everywhere. If past trends are any indication, Prime Day promises to break company sales records as many shoppers avoid stores and look to get an early start on their holiday gift buying.