Augmented Reality in Marketing: 8 Current Examples

From L’Oréal to Meta and Snapchat – augmented reality has found its way into marketing. We explore some examples.

Augmented reality solutions are taking marketing to a new level.
Important note: This article was first published in June 2018 and updated and expanded in August 2023 (Image: © Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock).

Augmented reality marketing is booming

Augmented reality (AR) has received a considerable boost in marketing in recent years. According to the Statista Advertising & Media Outlook, global sales generated from augmented reality advertising have grown from a relatively modest 530 million euros in 2017 to an impressive 3.13 billion euros in 2022. The analysts expect this figure to grow even further to reach 5.73 billion euros in 2027. So there’s no better time than now to explore how VR/AR applications can be integrated into a company’s marketing mix. There have now been countless examples of successful campaigns.

0,53 billion euros
in sales was generated by AR advertising in 2017.
3,13 billion euros
in sales was recorded in 2022.
5,73 billion euros
in sales is predicted for 2027.

Augmented reality vs. virtual reality

To explain the terms: while the users of virtual reality (VR) are completely immersed in an artificial world, augmented reality takes the existing environment and enhances it with digital information and elements. This small yet crucial difference is reflected quite strikingly in the corresponding figures. With that in mind, marketers shouldn’t lump VR and AR marketing together because VR marketing promises only a fraction of the sales generated by AR marketing. More specifically, analysts at Statista expect VR marketing to still be a niche segment in 2027, with global sales predicted to merely reach 150,000 million euros.

To use augmented reality applications today, customers generally pick up their smartphone or tablet, and the AR software then complements the live image from the built-in camera. Apple and Google have both shown that modern mobile devices no longer need special hardware to create AR experiences in amazing quality.

But how can the technology be leveraged for marketing purposes? We’ve put together some augmented reality marketing examples from four business areas to inspire brands and companies from a wide range of industries.

AR in online shopping

As successful as shopping via the Internet has become, there are many products that cannot be adequately described and presented even with elaborately produced photos and videos. Augmented reality can really help out here.

Augmented reality solutions are taking marketing to a new level.
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IKEA’s 3D room planner, IKEA Kreativ, is a great example of this, since it allows customers to try out digital versions of the Swedish furniture directly in their own home. All they have to do is select products from the catalog and use their finger to move them into the desired position. This means they can judge whether the armchair they have their eye on really fits in the chosen corner of their living room and if a floor lamp would look good next to it.

With Augmented Reality, Dulux lets rooms and colors come to life.
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Another example is provided by the paint specialist Dulux. Its Visualizer App lets you make the walls in your home any color you want. After all, everyone knows how different a color can look once it covers an entire wall.

With the Virtual Makeup Simulator, L’Oréal’s customers can try on lipsticks and more.
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Third, L’Oréal’s Virtual Makeup Try-On tool makes it easy and convenient for potential buyers to try out beauty products. By turning their smartphone into a digital makeup mirror, it realistically simulates which makeup suits them best.

All three AR applications not only help customers select products, but they also have a playful side. By bringing gamification elements and augmented reality marketing together, the brands are combining two hot trends that offer great potential for attracting customers, boosting their engagement, and strengthening their loyalty over the long term.

AR for in-store retail

AR can also be helpful and improve the shopping experience in traditional in-store retail.

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Memomi for example, is a high-tech mirror with almost magical abilities. It lets customers combine and try on garments without having to wait for a free dressing room. The mirror can also dynamically adjust the colors of the fabrics. This way, lots of styles and variants can be tried out within a short space of time – even if they are not available in the store.

This “magic mirror” is also a good example of the progress made in recent years: in addition to augmented reality, the company behind it also uses artificial intelligence to deliver optimal results and has already won over brands including Sephora, Giorgio Armani, and Dior.

AR on Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms

AR filters that create funny and surprising effects in selfies and other photos are ideal for marketing. Characters from movies, brand mascots, or the products themselves could be depicted here, but the golden rule is that they should be entertaining and fun.

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Snapchat has said that, on average, more than 75 percent of its users try out its effect filters – called lenses – on a daily basis. Another plus point: users consciously interact with the platform’s ads, often even proactively. They then also share the results without being prompted.

Other examples include Netflix, which was one of the early adopters in 2017 when it created a scary, interactive AR environment for fans as a way of promoting the second season of its Stranger Things series. For the box-office hit “Barbie”, Warner Bros. Pictures recently launched an advertising campaign using “Barbie Lens”, which lets users virtually slip into outfits inspired by the movie. The selfie filter of fast food chain Taco Bell also became a success model after being used 224 million times in just one day. According to various estimates, the company spent 500,000 to 750,000 U.S. dollars on this feature. Compared to a commercial in America’s Super Bowl media event, this is twice the reach at one tenth of the price.

Snapchat is generally regarded as the frontrunner when it comes to combining AR and social media. However, Meta is hot on its heels and is developing augmented reality solutions for marketers with its Spark AR Studio. Google is also working hard on developing and integrating AR features, for example in its Google Maps navigation solution.

AR for print and outdoor advertising

And last but not least, augmented reality can also be used to enhance analog advertising in newspapers and magazines as well as posters. Examples of this have been around for many years, but the AR technology has now become more widespread. As an example, AR developer Arilyn collaborated with food producer Arla on a campaign to teach the younger generation about the importance of recycling in a fun way. This worked by simply scanning a milk carton, which then launched an AR game for children. That kind of marketing strategy is essentially a variation of the QR code principle, with the difference that customers are not simply directed to a website. Instead, it allows printed and digital ads to be directly linked and combined.

Augmented reality belongs in your marketing mix

The fact that Snapchat, Apple, Google, and Meta are pushing the AR topic in this way has significantly accelerated developments in recent years, and special headsets and glasses are giving augmented reality a further boost. Next spring will be one to watch: How will Apple’s Vision Pro be received by consumers and business customers, and what impact will the glasses have on AR marketing for B2C and B2B? Only time will tell. One thing is sure, though: despite increasingly innovative – and increasingly expensive – technologies, the big appeal of AR marketing will continue to be just how straightforward the experience is on smartphones, since most people always have theirs with them. Companies that use augmented reality for their marketing will benefit from customers interacting with their product and proactively sharing content. AR campaigns offer marketers excellent opportunities to unleash their creativity and leverage the technology’s innovative potential in order to boost their brand.