Is Augmented Reality Over-Hyped?

Not sure if I've reached that age where I question things and ask "is it just me" -- but tell me, look at Lacoste's big augmented reality launch today and let me know, is it just me?

Is there any point of using an in-store AR app to let shoppers virtually try on shoes that are actually just a couple of feet away? Could you not just encourage shoppers to try on the shoes that are on the rack and see what they're like in real life? It's not as if reaching over, picking up a pair of trainers and putting them on is some exercise in athleticism that's beyond the average shopper. 

Sure, it looks fun. But will it sell any more trainers? And virtual shoes won't tell you how they fit or feel, only how they look against a very funky, background graphic that bears no resemblance to the surroundings they will be seen against if purchased.

If Lacoste were Adidas and ran the risk of being out of stock of a new product, then you could imagine disappointed shoppers could at least try on a virtual pair and order or reserve them for home delivery at a later stage. But I doubt these trainers will attract the same kind of attention as a new Adidas launch.

It's not that I'm against AR in any way. The Ikea use stands out as a phenomenal exercise in finding the technology's sales and marketing sweet spot. Place the Swedish company's brochure on the floor where you want to see if a new table or sofa would look good and, hey presto!, it appears to scale. Anyone who has ordered a sofa that turned out to be way too big for a room will know only too well how useful this feature could be. 

Trying on clothes and shoes remotely could possibly work and will no doubt give an online shopper a better idea of what items would look like and so could well improve sales and reduce the cost of returns. But trying on something virtually that's right next to you? Is it just me -- honestly, is it?

They have played the social card in saying that virtually shoes can be tried on and then shared with friends -- but again, is it just me -- could I not just take a picture and ask social peers what they think?

So, not only do I suspect the technology might not be particularly useful and so fits in the hype bracket, I also wonder whether it will be supported with free WiFi. It never ceases to amaze me how many brands try to get you to do something on an app in an area where they have no WiFi freely available.

So what could Lacoste have done? Maybe placed the trainers in a Vine or some other piece of content where you might have fun as you running on the track, or jumping across fences and rooflines in a movie chase scene? Maybe a feature that allows three or four options to be instantly tried on and then sent as a single image to social peers saying "which ones?" would be useful. Or even placing different coloured shorts or trousers and socks against each shoe so you could tell if they would go with black jeans as well as blue might be useful?

I'm not sure, really, but I'm pretty convinced this will be looked back on as AR being used for the sake of AR. 

If you've got a real customer need to fulfill -- will the sofa fit? -- then AR is wonderful. If you're saving people a trip to the shops to see what an item looks like -- such as trying on De Beers diamond necklaces remotely -- then AR is a great marketing and sales tool.

Put it in a setting where you're not assured of free WiFi and it simply lets you do exactly what you can already do in real life, then it just smacks of a gimmick?

Then again, it could just be me. Is it?


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2 comments about "Is Augmented Reality Over-Hyped?".
  1. Steven Osborne from Osborne pike , July 22, 2014 at 9:16 a.m.
    Sean, I totally agree with your point that 'The Ikea use stands out as a phenomenal exercise in finding the technology's sales and marketing sweet spot'. There are other examples out there, but far too few, because they mostly over-estimate the utility of the experience being offered (à la Lacoste, to your point). We are focusing on packaging-based experiences and therefore a different sweet spot than IKEA's. The challenge is twofold: A really WOW experience that just has to be shared requires a serious investment. With 'toe in the water' budgets, the snackable promotional stuff that we have mostly seen to date hasn't fully exploited the technology; but the real floodgate opener would be a universal browser for the internet of things, and I'd be willing to bet that's not as far away as the Gartner Hype cycle is currently predicting... For more on this see my article here: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140701094248-1044993-ready-for-the-next-digital-channel-your-packaging?
  2. matt key from engine creative , July 24, 2014 at 11:39 a.m.
    The LCST Lacoste app allows you to purchase without being in-store and the AR there to enhance the in-store experience. We have 3D scanned the complete product range you can try on at the flick of your thumb to narrow down your choice, it really is convenient and actually saves a lot of time. The trigger will also be included on future collateral that you can take home and try at your convenience. Also, the branded AR experience typically delivers greater dwell times than single app AR advertising platforms such as blippar and aurasma with a lot greater scope to execute truly creative content that pushes the technology to provide real usefulness with the addition benefit of building your own brand and user base as opposed to someone else's.