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#NRF2019: AR and VR is “the icing on the cake”

A little bottle of seasoning sitting on a spice rack may seem innocuous, but each spice has a story to tell about its journey from harvest to bottling. And it is this story that 129-year-old spice brand McCormick & Company is trying to tell through its mobile app ‘Flavor Maker’.

The app provides recipe inspiration and a virtual spice rack where customers can log the spices they already own to avoid doubling up when out at the grocery store.

The app also features augmented reality (AR) and the brand is currently working on a virtual reality (VR) experience where customers scan a spice bottle and choose to view a VR video on how the spice was harvested, live cooking demonstrations from around the world, information on local farmers, as well as details on the bottling process.

“The sexy stuff is going to help people download the app, but making them come back to use it is the baseline utility,” said McCormick & Company’s director of creative and digital strategy, Alia Kemet, who described its AR and VR technology efforts as “the icing on the cake”.

Kemet was speaking on a panel discussing the uses of AR and VR at NRF 2019 in NYC this week. Alongside her sat Matt Jones, senor director of online and mobile at The Home Depot, who shared with delegates the retailer’s AR app which helps customers visualise furniture they are considering buying in their own homes. According to Jones, The Home Depot saw a 70% lift in conversion after using the AR feature, which he said wasn’t a big cost to the retailer to deploy. In fact, Jones said a number of the AR features the retailer’s developers created were done so at the weekend in their spare time.

“Retailers need to get grounded in the research and learn where customers are experiencing friction and having challenges across your shopping funnel, study that closely and figure out ways to apply the technology to solve those things,” he said.

“The fascinating thing about the phone is it’s always in our pocket, when we’re shopping, in our car, or at work – it becomes the instrument that helps drive an interconnected experience.”

Meanwhile, a third panellist, Eduardo Yamashita, managing partner and COO, Group GS&MD – Gouvea de Souza, described how the Brazilian shopping centre operator created an AR application for a Black Friday campaign. Customers were encouraged to “capture” coupons around the mall, in a similar way to Pokemon Go. The campaign resulted in 115,000 coupons captured with 5,000 of those being redeemed with retailers.

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