In China, Armani has become the first global luxury brand to employ AR on a mass scale via a WeChat Mini Program. Through a partnership that draws on L’Oréal’s ModiFace technology, Armani’s cosmetic customers can use their WeChat app to virtually try on makeup at home and make immediate purchases. Alibaba has also heavily invested in AR for its beauty consumers on the Tmall e-commerce portal, giving brands like Tom Ford Beauty and MAC the tools to help online shoppers virtually test out makeup products in their online flagship stores. Offline, Swarovski brought its AR try-on experience to Chinese customers in its Chengdu store in spring 2019, following its London debut. Shoppers entering the boutique encounter multiple mirror-like interactive screens that let them virtually wear crystal-encrusted jewelry, in a similar vein to Sephora’s AR- powered makeup counters. In June 2019, Shenzhen-based tech startup Coolhobo demonstrated just how the future of AR-powered retail could look. Its winning concept for Google and JD.com’s China AR competition showed how customers at Walmart’s bricks- and-mortar store could use AR navigation to pick up everything on their shopping lists by following floating arrows that point the way to each item. Along the way, they encounter product information and friends’ recommendations in real time, and interact with brands via fun, immersive games. Coolhobo founder and CEO Loïc Kobes tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence that investment, research and development that takes new AR to the next level would mean “giving the camera the ability to understand our physical world, like a 3D GPS, accurate within centimeters.” The camera, he explains, would know what it was looking at, just as humans do. “That will massively impact retail, especially physical stores.” Why it's interesting: Right now, most retailers are experimenting with AR in one-off projects, but with the rollout of 5G, AR shopping experiences could reach uncharted levels of immersion, giving new depth and meaning to the merging of the online shopping experience with IRL. Singh told Vogue her predictions: “In the long-term future of AR glasses—and later contact lenses—our eye view will become our screen. Digital information and objects will often be indistinguishable from physical objects, and a new layer of digital fashion will emerge where items won’t need to be manufactured physically, but will be ‘worn’ in this AR realm virtually.” Natuzzi showroom RETAIL THE FUTURE 100 149
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