How Retailers Are Using AR Technology to Build Buzz and Brand Awareness

Pepsi AR technology campaign | Shopify Retail blog

Retailers are using augmented reality (AR) in a variety of ways: creating a better the customer experience, enhancing the in-store experience, and extending their geographic reach, to name a few. One additional benefit to AR is that it can help you build buzz and awareness about your retail brand.

Whether you use AR technology in marketing and advertising campaigns or you use it to garner lots of press attention, it’s a proven method to expand your brand’s reach.

To help retailers understand how to use AR technology to accomplish their goals, we chatted with Ara Parikh, product marketing manager at 360°/VR/AR advertising agency OmniVirt, for her expertise on how retailers can best leverage AR for brand awareness.

How to Build Buzz and Brand Awareness with AR Technology

As more retailers are harnessing the power of AR, it’s becoming more important than ever to remain focused and strategy-oriented in your own approach.

You won’t see the results you’re looking for if you’re just choosing to use the technology,” says Parikh. “You have to have a reason to use the technology.

If your goal is to drive more sales, your metrics may be more straightforward. But brand awareness requires a more holistic approach and different KPIs.

“If the whole purpose of driving awareness, you have to have an actual campaign goal,” says Parikh. “Is it about increasing brand recall? Is it about driving strong lower funnel performance? The answers to those questions should impact what the AR actually is.”

And while AR technology may be fun, Parikh also advises not to neglect the utility aspect.

“Make sure that the AR experience is not solely entertainment-driven but has some form of utility and is providing real value,” she says. “You’re competing with content that’s everywhere and ubiquitous; you can’t just use AR for the sake of it. You really need to consider the value it provides to your customers.”

If AR is too clunky or doesn’t enhance the customer experience, no one will use it — and no one will talk about it. Plus, utility-focused AR retail experiences are still “sexy” enough to draw attention and build buzz.

Marketing and Advertising Campaigns

AR can enhance your marketing and advertising campaigns, driving deeper engagement, social media chatter, and press coverage. And one of the most common ways to integrate AR into marketing and advertising is through connecting the digital and physical worlds.

What that means is making the average poster, print ad, or in-store signage a more tech-forward element of your campaign.

AR really encourages interaction. With the 3D poster or object, you’re not just looking at the object, you’re actually interacting with it.

Pepsi is one global retail brand that has used AR to drive brand awareness through marketing campaigns. To promote their Pepsi Max drink, they put ads in a London bus stop. But instead of your typical poster ad, it was powered by AR. The YouTube video alone has had more than 8 million views and earned coverage from Forbes and The Verge.

“Using this 3D format is much richer because it really encourages interaction and engagement,” says Parikh. “That’s a huge way to build that buzz and awareness because it encourages users to actively interact with the brand.”

We’ve discussed this additional example before: Outdoor gear brand Moosejaw used AR technology in their printed catalogs. Users would download the brand’s Sweat & Wet mobile app, which would then reveal X-ray images of the catalog models. It drove a quarter of a million downloads and a 37% increase in sales and press coverage by Mashable, CNET, and The Huffington Post.

Brand Partnerships

Brand partnerships are one way to reach new audiences, and AR serves as a perfect platform upon which to build new partnerships. This puts you in front of new audiences and, depending on the partnership, can garner the attention of the press.

One common way we see brands using partnerships and AR to drive awareness is through Snapchat. Snapchat filters are powered by AR, and brands can pay to advertise on the social media app through their own sponsored filters. Starbucks commonly partners with Snapchat to sponsor filters that drive awareness.

FURTHER READING: Want to know more about using Snapchat to drive brand awareness and engagement? Check out these 4 retailers who are killing it on Snapchat.

Volvo partnered with Microsoft HoloLens to use AR to digitally design their products. Engadget, CNET, The Verge, and many other publications covered the partnership between two global brands.

The entertainment industry is a key potential partner for retailers looking to build buzz through AR and collaborations.

“All the major film studios are trying to use AR,” Parikh says. “You don’t even need AR to make the content compelling — the story is compelling on its own.”

Walmart is one retailer that has found partners in the entertainment industry that are willing to experiment with AR. Walmart Canada collaborated with television network Nickelodeon and introduced AR into the in-store experience to promote the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV show. Walmart has also partnered with The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man movies in its in-store AR initiatives.

Sometimes, these kinds of one-off partnerships can turn into larger collaborations. Or in the case of cosmetics retail brand L'Oréal, it can mean an acquisition. Their recent purchase of AR company ModiFace has had the retail and tech industries abuzz. Modiface has worked with many global retail brands, including MAC, Estee Lauder, and Sephora.


Leaders in innovation consistently draw press coverage and consumer interest. By demonstrating innovation and forward-thinking, you can build awareness for your brand. Footwear brand Airwalk recently used AR technology to create an entire virtual pop-up shop.

The Airwalk Invisible Pop Up Store from GoldRun on Vimeo.

Mashable, Business Insider, TechCrunch, and several other major publications wrote about the pop-up, which also resulted in $5 million in earned media.

FURTHER READING: Learn more about media relations in our article on the art of reputation management for retailers.

Starbucks used a brick-and-mortar space in China to facilitate an AR experience for customers — and drive brand awareness. Customers could use their phones to scan in-store elements that would unlock both gamification and utility-driven features.

“There was an element of shareability, which drives awareness,” says Parikh.

Moving Forward With Your Brand Awareness Efforts

AR has been around in the retail industry for a lot longer than you might think, and brands of all sizes are dipping their toes into the proverbial AR pool. When it comes to using the technology to drive brand awareness, remember that it’s still important to put the customer first. Whether you use it in ad campaigns, to create new brand partnerships, or to establish yourself as an innovator, AR can build brand awareness when implemented strategically.

In what ways do you plan to use AR technology to drive brand awareness for your retail store?