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WebAR: Reinventing the Customer Journey
Originally publishing in Charged: Retail Tech News 8th March, 2019

By Amelia Kallman, Futurist

As our lives become increasingly digital, many have been left waiting for retailers and brands to catch up. Now WebAR is offering a solution.

With the rapid emergence of the New Realities – augmented, virtual and mixed realities – many haven’t stopped to ask, ‘What solution does this technology provide that I didn’t have before?’ To some degree it can be argued that the New Realities are just the natural latest incarnation of screens, ones that can make you feel more immersed. But by definition the physical world we live in is already immersive, so is that really a solution to a problem?

Through the latest developments in WebAR however, killer use cases are emerging, solving the problems brands and retailers have been struggling with for years, and promising to change the future of the customer journey.

Essentially, WebAR allows anyone with a mobile phone to experience augmented reality (AR) instantly without the hassle of downloading anything, which has proven one of the biggest hurdles for AR adoption in the past. Instead it can be triggered by going to a website, or scanning a QR code or marker. In the future we can expect for even this process to accelerate and eventually become extinct.

“Things have just gotten fun again. For a long time we’ve seen brands struggling to stay relevant and engage people on the high street, and WebAR is a way that brands can come to the customer, not the other way around”

By utilising the one piece of tech everyone is sure to have on their bodies at all times, brands can start to deliver more personalised and memorable experiences that entertain and delight. The Spider-Man franchise has recently capitalised on this innovation as a means to promote the latest film. By going to intothespiderverse-ar.com fans can interact with Spiderman himself. He leaps around, can be strategically placed in a physical space, and users can take photos with the 3D image to share.

In stores shoppers can be prompted to go on a scavenger hunt to discover a 3D digital world that brings the retail experience to life. By ‘collecting’ certain assets they can unlock prizes and advantages, and even be directed straight to making payments on their phone.
Immersive technology company, Inition, have figured out how to integrate WebAR with WeChat Pay, the instant payment system used by over 1 billion people, which is now accepted in places like Heathrow airport. This ability to link physical environments and ecommerce is significant, as it not only solves a problem, it also accelerates and enhances the customer experience in ways we haven’t seen before.

“Things have just gotten fun again. For a long time we’ve seen brands struggling to stay relevant and engage people on the high street, and WebAR is a way that brands can come to the customer, not the other way around,” says Vince McAtamney, Business Development Director at Inition.

Besides the obvious benefits like a playful, seamless and frictionless customer journey, brands may find that in the long run it is the emotional currency built through these interactions that retain brand loyalty. By gamifying the customer journey with something like a WebAR scavenger hunt, brands provide users with motivation to interact not just with items, but also with other people. From competing to see who can win a discount code first, to producing Instagram worthy moments that get shared for all to see, the sparking of an emotional reaction is what endears. Creating memorable experiences often lead to people wanting a memento, reminding them of that moment, and with instant payment features that emotional instinct isn’t interrupted or lost.

While headset based technologies still have cost associated barriers, WebAR is a technology of the people. Inclusive of everyone, brands have the opportunity to reach new audiences and change retail as we know it. Now the only question is, how creative can you be?