Instagram’s priority on augmented reality seems to be bearing fruit.
The photo- and video-sharing company opened up its Spark AR Studio camera-effects platform on the network last year, and the results so far look impressive.
One in four people who see that virtual try-on is available from partner brands — including Warby Parker and Nars Cosmetics — give it a spin, the company told WWD.
“We found that 24 percent of people who viewed products with this AR try-on feature actually used AR to try it on,” said Matt Roberts, product manager for Spark AR.
For Instagram, the numbers look like validation for its approach. “Our basic belief [when we started] was, if we can successfully use AR to help people experience products in a virtual way before buying them, it makes them more confident in buying stuff,” he explained. “It makes them able to select products that are more personalized for their specific needs.”
Indeed, AR has been proving itself in retail for years now. Spark AR tools work across Facebook’s family of apps, and the parent company has long used AR in its ads. “We Makeup, for example, has been very happy with the results. They saw an almost 28 percent lift in purchases from the AR ad, compared to their conventional advertising,” Roberts said.
For now, Spark’s use in Instagram is not for ads, but for brands’ organic posts, particularly in sectors like eyewear and beauty. And that sheds light on the list of Instagram’s Spark AR partners.
In October, the company revealed that Ray-Ban, Warby Parker, MAC Cosmetics and Nars signed on to deploy AR within Insta’s walls. Luxury eyewear company Oliver Peoples and beauty brand NYX Professional Makeup joined the fray in December, Roberts told WWD.
Allowing remote consumers to try on products is only half the battle. The other part is ushering them into a transaction. That’s where Instagram Checkout steps in.
Yann Joffredo, global brand president of NYX Professional Makeup, walked through the experience. “First, the consumer sees a NYX Professional Makeup Instagram post and clicks on the bag icon or taps stickers to be directed to a checkout experience,” she explained. From there, the user sees a product detail page and option to try it on.
“The virtual try-on is a key feature for our brand that helps make the entire experience more consumer-centric,” said Joffredo. “By clicking the ‘Try It On’ button, the consumer can browse all shades directly using the Instagram camera to discover which one looks best on them.” The consumer can then add the item to a digital shopping bag and check out.
The beauty company deployed Spark AR effects on Dec. 13 to cover 250 products. But the brand made its full catalogue available on Instagram Checkout, which encompasses more than 1,000 products. Its goal is to make AR available for the entire portfolio soon.
The reason for the enthusiasm looks clear: “It is a seamless brand experience without ever leaving Instagram,” Joffredo said.
And that may be the key.
Companies like Warby Parker and NYX already pursue augmented reality on their own. But to grow new customers, it may mean grabbing shoppers’ attention and pulling them into different apps or makeup counters, which is challenging.
Instagram believes the better approach is to bring virtual try-on to the places people already frequent — and it’s hard to argue that consumers don’t flood Instagram’s channels. The platform boasts more than 500 million daily users.
According to Roberts, Instagram is working on a pilot with Ray-Ban, Warby Parker and MAC for virtual try-on within Instagram Shopping itself. And the company, which promises ongoing investment into its AR push, isn’t going to stop at glasses and makeup.
“There are obviously so many products that could benefit from AR and thinking about which verticals would be the next best fit…there’s lots of different kinds of capabilities, we could be building with AR. I could be working on more realistic fabric, I could be thinking about hair, I could be thinking about jewelry and accessories,” said Roberts.
“I could be thinking about all these different things that we need to make computers understand and track and turn into as moving experiences — as we’ve done for things like beauty and hair,” he said.