At this year’s AR Pioneers event, we were very lucky to be joined by one of our AR partners, Rikard Wikander (Global Head of Customer Experience, Kidswear at H&M) to find out more about how H&M Kids are leading the charge with experiential AR experiences in-store.
During the session, Rikard and Zappar CEO Caspar Thykier covered everything from how the H&M and Zappar partnership started, to the projects we’ve developed and launched over the last 18 months, as well as what’s coming up soon. Rikard also had some incredible insights into the key things brands need to be aware of when implementing AR experiences to enhance the customer experience.
You can watch the full session here.
It's not all about the transaction, win your customer’s hearts
What became really clear after hearing Rikard talk about the different places he’s worked at across the globe, is that while there are always going to be points of cultural difference, customers share very similar desires when it comes to brand connection. You “need to have the customer’s heart” in order to be successful in any kind of retail marketing. The key is providing an AR experience (or any experience really) that is easy, accessible but most importantly inspiring.
“…as the world is changing and the digital part of the business really grows and grows it becomes more and more, as important as the transactional side of it.”
What AR experiences offer are not only moments of surprise and delight but a way to connect the customer’s new more digital-focused mindsets with real-world shopping experiences. Inspiring the customer is all about building connections and forming relationships.
“forming the connection with the customer and making sure they want to come into our store because our store is the place where you remember having been to.”
The example Rikard and Caspar used, was of course, the Disney Treehouse, when customers bring their kids into the store and experience a full-size treehouse with memorable AR enhancements, “is something that you will remember and your kids will remember, you would want to come back and that’s important for us.”
For Rikard, adding AR experiences in stores is about creating customer lifetime value and not necessarily always needing to pair it with a commercial offering.
“…to make sure that we are actually being very genuine about it. Wanting to create an experience, not transactions all the time. I think, of course, we are doing business, so we want to create those transactions down the line, but they don't have to happen at the same time.”
Take a lesson from smaller businesses, be agile
Rikard has to keep his finger on the pulse of the industry and very often travels to different stores looking for inspiration and watch-outs. What he’s found in terms of customer experience and forming those connections we spoke about before, is that larger companies are still doing this in a traditional way, which is not always the most exciting or inspiring way. It's small brands that tend to be able to adapt and are faster at adopting new ways of doing things, like AR experiences.
“Small brands that may be faster in adapting and, we really try to take away those things that small brands do and try to do something with them.”
In order for a large organization to be as nimble as H&M, Rikard shared that everyone being able to take ownership and responsibility was key, as there is less need for a complicated sign off process meaning more agility. He also recommended forming a task force of people who really believe in AR, preferably with specialist skills so that a strategy can be formed that feeds into the wider business goals.
“I would say that one of my learnings is that we could have brought some more special skills departments like business tech in our company on board a bit earlier.”
This task force of evangelists is key when businesses are looking to scale up their AR experiences quickly. As Rikard pointed out, that’s the challenge…
“… that's when the challenge comes, right? So making a test, one or two or three stores, is something easy to do in terms of decision making. It's a lot of decisions to make, but it doesn't require a lot of people to be on board.
But once you want to scale up and we are talking about 4,000, 5,000 stores, then it starts to be important that all the stakeholders are in the loop and "that they also feel a part of the project and do not feel like they get something dumped on their desk to implement, but actually to be, to be a part of it and to feel the same ownership like everyone else.”
And this is where our next point comes into play…
Internal education is key
To successfully launch any AR campaign there are two key education pieces you need to do.
The first is internal, ranging from the stakeholders mentioned in our last point to the retail staff at the point of activation. For Rikard when it comes to stakeholders the question is “Are we getting everybody on board that can help to maximize the impact of this experience that we want to create?”
The key to the momentum of the Disney Treehouse project was having regular meetings, to keep the enthusiasm for the project bubbling and keep progress top of mind, and having key stakeholders be a part of that is very important. Also coming back to the earlier point of having that small agile team who can enact projects and a small scale to start with, Rikard explains the necessity of having something to show your stakeholders.
“Augmented reality is still not easy to explain to a stakeholder who's never seen it. And that, definitely is one of those things where you almost need the finished product to be able to show it and get buy-in and, and create excitement for it in, let's say, in our case, in the markets that we want to implement it and that we want to take the next investment.”
Next is the “...real challenge of how you get the sales teams and sales staff and that the people you know are in the stores aware that this technology and this activation exists, and also aware of the power of it too.”
It is all about making sure the right information reaches these team members which in a company the size of H&M is a challenge and for Rikard “there is no simple solution to really reaching out” it requires time to create the right brief and give people an open forum to ask questions and educate themselves.
This, however, is a key education piece as they are the ones that have direct contact with your customers and the AR experience and who can use it to build that connection with customers “Because there's one thing we know about AR is it's a great conversation starter and it is one of those things that the minute someone does have their phone out and is pointing at something, there is that sort of moth to in flame effect of, what's happening there.”
The launch is only the beginning
Along with educating your staff and stakeholder on the AR experience itself is the wider more important piece on what comes next, what is the longer term camera strategy.
“How do we make sure, everybody on board knows that the launch is not the finish line. It's the starting point of something and … to really focus on how we create this impact for customers?”
How you then continue to use your customer’s camera lens to continue to provide value to their shopping experience, for Rikard right now that’s a focus on more engaging sustainability messaging, something very dear to his and the brand’s heart.
What seems clear is that leveraging AR experiences within your retail strategy can be very effective, especially when it comes to customer experience. Provided you do the work around agility and education as well as keeping your objectives clear and your customer in mind. In this blog, we have merely scratched the surface of the insights provided by Rikard at AR Pioneers this year. If you would like to catch the full talk, including a more in-depth look at the Disney Treehouse AR experience as well as other more sustainability-focused AR campaigns you can find it here.
Senior Brand & Marketing Manager, Zappar