Four brands are presently taking a new approach to augmented reality (AR) experiences, integrating them with the Facebook Messenger messaging app. In May, Facebook revealed that it had launched AR experiences on its Messenger platform in closed beta for retailers such as Nike and Sephora, as well as ASUS and Kia. With these experiences, retailers and brands can leverage messaging to help shoppers visualize a product and get instant feedback about purchases, customizations and more — without ever needing to set foot in a store.
The future of Facebook Messenger as a means of communicating with retail consumers looks bright. As of May 1, there were more than 300,000 active bots on Messenger, and more than 8 billion messages are exchanged between people and businesses each month — a number that is 4X the number of messages exchanged just since last year.
When a shopper interacts with a retailer in Messenger, the merchant can prompt them to open the camera, which will then be pre-loaded with filters or AR effects specific to the brand. Depending on the experience, people can then take a photo or record a video that incorporates AR into the photo/video. People can then save the photo/video, share it in a group or 1:1 conversation in Messenger, or add it to their Story.
Nike used AR effects in Messenger to release the Kyrie 4 Red Carpets, and the limited-edition sneakers sold out in less than an hour. Shoppers unlocked Nike’s AR experience using a secret codewith a string of four emojis — a basketball, fire, clapper and skeleton key. Upon entering the experience, the new shoe was revealed. Shoppers could then purchase the shoe in Messenger.
Sephora allowed shoppers to try on six different looks incorporating three products (eyes, cheeks and lips) each, and then purchase products directly in Messenger.
“With the new Sephora Virtual Artist feature in our Sephora bot, our clients can virtually try on makeup, purchase the products and book a makeover, all within Messenger,” said Bridget Dolan, SVP of Omni Experiences and Innovation for SEPHORA in commentary provided to Retail TouchPoints. “We’re thrilled to be one of the first brands to use AR on the Messenger Platform, revolutionizing the Sephora shopping experience with our clients where they are, when they need us, in the most natural conversational way.”
The integration serves as a new way to drive brand affinity, generate leads, nurture their customers, or even drive purchases, according to Heath Black, Product Manager for Facebook Messenger in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Brands have been asking for this capability for some time as a way to help their customers visualize and experience their products in their physical environment — whether they are on their couch or on the go,” Black said. “And visual messaging has already proven itself to be a powerful way for people to connect with each other. In 2017 alone, people shared over 500 billion emojis (nearly 1.7 billion every day) and 18 billion GIFs.”
While the AR-powered experience remains in the beta program, retailers can sign up for the Messenger waitlist to be notified when the platform is more broadly available.