Brands selling their products through department stores face a number of challenges today, from standing out in the clutter to effectively telling their story to competing with brands selling online. In an attempt to drive people to stores and build buzz on the sales floor, London-based shoe brand Auxiliary is betting on augmented reality.
Beginning this week, Auxiliary is partnering with global creative agency Stink Studios and London-based Selfridges to bring augmented reality onto its Oxford Street sales floor through Oct. 15. The brand is promoting the experience through its website and via its own social channels, mainly Instagram. Through the experience, shoppers can use their phones to unlock a special augmented reality filter, which runs about 40-seconds, showcasing the latest collection with 360-degree views of the shoes along with messaging about the products.
“[Department stores] are busy, stressful, noisy environments, but this experience is personal,” said Matthew Taylor, founder and creative director of Auxiliary.
On the brand’s display table in Selfridge’s, Stink Studios placed a QR code that customers scan through their phone camera. Because the experience is powered by Facebook’s Spark AR technology, anyone with a Facebook or Instagram app installed on their smartphone can easily access the filter. Once the shopper scans the QR code, they’re prompted to open a Facebook app and taken to the camera within the app. There, the AR filter pops up.
“As soon as you just start to move away from the table, the sensor at the table acts as a marker. That fires up the experience, and from there you are immersed in this three-dimensional, expansive space that you know doesn’t exist, but it feels like it exists — all while surrounded by mundane department store furniture,” said Taylor.
As a young brand, founded in 2017, Auxiliary felt using AR could get people to learn more about the product, and hopefully boost sales at the same time. The brand declined to share specifics on its revenue.
While Taylor said customers are engaging with the experience in Selfridges, it remains to be seen whether the experience will drive sales or serve more as a stunt for the company.
“The biggest challenge brands will face is finding real problems to solve with AR. It’s always easy to get excited by technology and create something ‘cool,’ but that lacks utility to the consumer,” said Evy Wilkins, vp of marketing at influencer marketing platform Traackr.
Regardless of what the end results will be for the brand’s sales, the use case signifies potential for the use of AR in fashion and retail, Wilkins said. Using Facebook’s tools to create this AR experience in just two months also demonstrates how accessible this technology is going to be to brands and creators alike.
“For a long time, AR content has been very difficult to create, as it requires large investments for even basic implementations. Facebook’s Spark AR platform is putting this immersive technology into the hands of creators and brands. The applications [here] are endless: try-at-home, preview store experiences, increase engagement with products in stores,” said Wilkins.
Taylor said it was helpful that Stink Studios was already part of Facebook’s Spark AR partner network. The agency was already pretty familiar with how it all works and could deliver a finished product in a relatively short amount of time. The network includes creative agencies, freelancers, producers and more who are all skilled with technology like AR. Ideally, the community shares ideas with one another and provides feedback to Facebook to improve the AR tools for more creators, brands and agencies to use in the future.
Additionally, by using Spark AR, the brand almost guarantees that most shoppers who want to access the AR filter can, without downloading a new app.
“When an external app download is required, you lose people’s attention,” said Taylor.
To date, over 1 billion people have engaged with Spark AR platform, Facebook said at its recent F8 conference. In August, the company took the AR platform out of beta-testing on Instagram and offered to a small group of developers and creators, making it available to all developers and creators.