Over three years ago, I wrote an article in JustLuxe on augmented reality as a way of engaging the emerging buying power of Millennials. Defined as those born in the 1980s, between 42 and 50 million Millenials who came of age with the new century, are truly wired—far more so than Boomers (many now at retirement age), or Gen Xers, ages 30-45. Millennials have grown up linked by BlackBerries, Androids, iPhones, computers, iPods, iPads and texting. Many luxury brands have engaged this wired mindset through the use of augmented reality.
It is a process already in existence that combines two diverse dynamics: the perception of personal exclusivity and a multi-dimensional, personal sensory experience. Augmented Reality, or AR, is a method for using a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, like sound or graphics. It presents unique opportunities in terms of virtual fashion shows, digital flagship stores, 3D advertising campaigns, augmented reality iPhone applications, iPad magazines, Facebook live-streams and Twitter-based customer service. These are just a few examples of the long list of digital innovations that luxury brands pioneered in 2011. And the field is growing.
Augmented Reality is taking digital marketing strategies to a more sensory, immediate, attuned level—perfect for Millennials, and others on either side of the generational divide. AR enables consumers to virtually try on jewelry, watches, clothing and handbags. What this process does is allow greater interactivity in the selling/buying process, creating an emotional connection between product needs and consumer desires. Now, major beauty retailers will soon be offering customers a new way to test out makeup with the 3D Augmented-Reality Makeup and Anti-Aging Mirror. The makeup mirror was developed by ModiFace over the past two years.
The mirror itself captures an image and superimposes a product shade onto the consumers face. The technology—which can be used in a standalone kiosk or via a mobile device—allows users to see their face in real-time as they select different shades of eye shadow or lipstick and move to view the product’s effect from different angles.
The CEO of ModiFace said that it has already tried out the AR mirror in-store with various retailers, finding that it can boost traffic for beauty counters by up to 120 percent and substantially increase in-store conversions. Sephora, one of the first beauty retailers to use this technology, launched an augmented reality mirror in its Milan store that can simulate cosmetics on a user's face in both real-time and 3D.
Using technology from virtual makeover provider ModiFace, the mirror tracks the location of a user's facial features and applies eye shadow colors directly via a video feed from a camera. Through using the mirror, shoppers are able to try out different shades of cosmetics by tapping a palette on the screen and also view eye shadows from different angles as they move their heads from side to side.
“We believe ModiFace's 3D Augmented Reality Mirror will be a breakthrough technology for our customers as they virtually try out different eye shadow shades quickly and easily,” said Antonio Ferreira de Almeida, general manager, Sephora Italy. The move follows a number of similar initiatives by beauty retailers looking to capitalize on augmented reality technology.
There has been some serious thought as to the future of AR applications. The consensus is that they will probably become more personalized, and one of the latest innovations deals with the sense of smell. Not only can you see the virtual coffee, you can smell it also. It may have been slow to catch on, but AR many become the substantial, scalable methodology for luxury brand messaging.