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Using Augmented Reality Filters to Drive E-Commerce Sales Through Virtual Try-Ons

Augmented reality (AR) has rapidly transformed from a buzzword into a mainstream marketing tool over the past few years. As AR filters become easily accessible through platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, more brands are looking to leverage this technology to engage customers and boost online sales. One of the most compelling uses of AR filters is to enable virtual try-ons of products like clothing, cosmetics, and accessories. By letting customers virtually “try on” items before purchasing, brands can help overcome many of the challenges of online shopping.

In this article, we’ll explore how AR filters work and discuss some examples of brands that are successfully using this technology for virtual try-ons. We’ll also analyze the key benefits of virtual try-ons for both customers and brands. Finally, we’ll look at best practices for creating and promoting virtual try-on experiences to maximize their impact on online conversions and sales.

How Do AR Filters Enable Virtual Try-Ons?

At their most basic level, AR filters use computer vision and machine learning to track an object or body part—like a face, clothing item, or accessory—and digitally overlay graphics on top of it in real-time. The overlay adapts to changes in position, lighting conditions, and other factors to maintain a realistic look.

For virtual try-ons, users simply access the filter through an app or website, select the product they want to try, and point their phone’s camera at themselves or a mannequin. The filter then superimposes that product—like a pair of sunglasses, lipstick shade, or article of clothing—onto the user’s face or body.

Some key capabilities enabled by AR filters that enhance the virtual try-on experience include:

Different product variations: Users can easily swap between color, size, style, or material options without having to physically change items.

Multiple poses and angles: AR tracks motion, allowing users to see how a product looks from various angles by simply turning their head or moving their body.

Dimensions and fit: Filters can take measurements and body profiling into account to better represent how an item might actually fit and conform to a user’s physique.

Lighting adjustments: Some filters mimic changes in ambient light to show how products appear under different conditions like direct sun or evening glow.

Top Brands Leveraging AR Filters for Virtual Try-Ons

Several top beauty, fashion, and accessory brands are successfully using AR filters to drive online sales through virtual try-ons. Here are a few notable examples:

Sephora: The Virtual Artist app lets users virtually try on countless makeup products in realistic ways on any skin tone.

Burberry: The Burberry Virtual Boutique allows customers to conduct personalized virtual fittings of its luxury apparel collections and accessories.

Nike: AR workouts powered by its virtual Nike Train app let customers visualize outfit options as they exercise in real-time.

Warby Parker: The popular eyewear brand was a pioneer with its highly engaging virtual home try-on tool that helped drive online conversions.

The Benefits of Virtual Try-Ons for Customers and Brands

There are compelling upsides to using AR filters for virtual try-ons for both customers and the brands looking to sell to them online. Here are some of the key advantages:

For Customers:

  • Increased shopping confidence without risk of incorrect sizing or color
  • Convenience of “trying on” items anytime, anywhere without visiting stores
  • Ability to virtually visualize hard-to-envision items like glasses and evaluate fit/style
  • Save time by filtering through more options from the comfort of home

For Brands:

  • Higher online conversion rates and reduced returns as customers make informed purchases
  • Interactive features keep customers engaged on websites and mobile apps
  • First-time customers can sample new product categories or expensive items risk-free
  • Valuable data insights into what styles and products customers gravitate towards virtually
  • Better inventory and supply chain management with fewer returned or mis-shipped items

Does AR Help Sales? Evidence from Sephora

One example that clearly demonstrates the positive sales impact of AR filters is Sephora’s Virtual Artist app. The app launched in 2017 and quickly gained popularity. Sephora reported a 4x increase in online sales from 2016 to 2022. The success proves that when done right, virtual try-ons convert curious browsers into buyers.

Best Practices for Promoting Virtual Try-Ons

With evidence that AR filters boost sales when used for virtual try-ons, how can brands leverage this technology most effectively? Here are some recommendations based on successful case studies:

Prioritize catalog coverage. Ensure core SKUs across popular categories are try-on enabled to maximize reach among active customers.

Optimize discoverability. Prominently feature filters on product pages, account profiles, and within targeted social/email campaigns.

Collect quantitative feedback. Ask customers what they tried virtually and tie responses to tracking actual purchases.

Incentivize sharing. Reward social sharing by unlocking exclusive filters, badges, or discounts to nourish word-of-mouth.

Integrate with POS. Sync virtual interactions with backend systems to improve customer histories, recommendations, and abandoned cart recovery rates.

Craft helpful tutorials. Guide novice AR users with how-to instructions on virtually trying items for accurate evaluations.

Develop signature experiences. Stand out by elevating filters into memorable, sharable brand stories rather than generic overlays.

Continually refine the experience based on metrics and user feedback to constantly improve conversion funnel performance over time.

Challenges and Considerations for AR Adoption

While virtual try-ons open new opportunities, some challenges remain for scaling this technology:

Resources: Developing high-quality AR experiences requires specialized skills and can incur moderate to high costs depending on complexity and integrations required.

Adoption curves: Younger audiences are most likely to engage with AR initially. Educating older demographics on the value may require extra effort and time investment.

Device dependence: AR primarily works on newer smartphone models. Brands must consider lower penetration rates of compatible devices especially in developing global markets.

Technical difficulties: Issues like poor tracking capabilities, bugs, glitches, and lagging performance can degrade the user experience and diminish trust in the technology.

Privacy concerns: Collecting biometric or other personally identifiable information through AR raises compliance responsibilities around data use policies.

Competition for attention: AR provides value but brands must craft unique experiences worthwhile of users spending extra app time engaged versus passive e-commerce browsing.

Realism limitations: While improving, current AR may not achieve pixel-perfect representations viable as a total replacement for in-store fittings by all shoppers in the foreseeable future.

Conclusion

When seamlessly integrated into existing online touchpoints, AR filters prove highly capable of converting casual website visitors into repeat purchasers through virtual try-ons. Major brands continue proving their commercial viability online and on social media every day.

Still a nascent opportunity, AR adoption faces challenges but also remains one of the most promising technologies for driving e-commerce sales growth sustainably into the future. Those brands empower customers with risk-free virtual transactions through easy-to-use AR filters stand to significantly gain competitive advantages as expectations for interactive retail experiences rapidly evolve industry-wide.

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