AR: the Present and the Future of Retail Loyalty Programs

Innovative immersive technologies have long been proven to be effective in business. E-commerce company Shopify released data that interactions with products having AR content showed a 94% higher conversion rate than products without AR.

Augmented (AR) and virtual (VR) reality technologies have been used by both local and world-famous brands for many years. Even show business’s stars use AR at their concerts.

But in this article, we decided to dig into a particularly noteworthy and very promising segment of the implementation of AR / VR technology — innovative retail loyalty programs.

My name is Andrey Tymoshenko, I am the founder and owner of Live Animations. Our team has been creating projects in the field of AR / VR / MR / WebAR for over 7 years.

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About AR / VR Loyalty Programs

In this article, I would like to elaborate on innovative loyalty programs in food retail, where the implementation of augmented and virtual reality technologies is becoming a new trend and is increasingly replacing more traditional solutions. All below-described loyalty programs are aimed at bringing gamification to the shopping process, and therefore their mechanics almost always are based on the toys, games, or both at once. They turn a simple shopping trip into an exciting, long-lasting enjoyable adventure. Their target audience is families with children, although it should be said that such programs sometimes target an older audience as well. Still, that’s a story for another day.

In any case, the teams that created and implemented them have gone a difficult path, and every time there is a challenge: new ideas and their implementation.

In most cases, these programs are initiated by retailers themselves, but sometimes FMCG brands or marketing agencies participate as well.

Innovative loyalty programs often have the following goals:

● strengthening the emotional bonds between the retail brand and customers;

● increasing sales of partner’s products within the marketing campaign;

● making a profit from the sale of toys or other special items;

● increasing basket size of shoppers;

● increasing purchase frequency.

Case Overview

The Loyalty Program Created by Kinder and UK Retailer Tesco — Jump into Africa.

The program was launched to promote a new range of African wildlife toys hidden in chocolate eggs.

To immerse themselves into an unforgettable AR experience, customers had to scan the QR code attached to the price tags of the promotional items and point the smartphone camera at the space between the shopping aisles in the supermarket. After this, a magic portal appeared right between the supermarket stalls. After passing through it, the customer entered the virtual African savannah and met animated versions of friendly toys waiting for him. Also, an information window appeared above each animal featuring amazing facts about it.

The company claims that this case was a success. A strategically competent approach is responsible for such a result. Here are the ingredients of success:

Minimum number of taps: all is needed is to start the camera;
There is no need to buy a product to experience the loyalty program — this greatly increases brand trust and loyalty, and, as a result, stimulates the desire to buy;
QR codes are located next to the price tags — that means if the customer wants to buy the product, it is within his arm’s reach;
The ‘trip’ to and from Africa is organized so that the risk of user’s disorientation or injury is reduced to almost zero, and protects the next-shelf items from damage.

2. Singing Farm Loyalty Program for BILLA Retail Created by Ugears and Live Animations.

The combination of two full-fledged, independent from each other and at the same time interconnected games — the mechanical board game and the mobile app game — makes this loyalty program so special.

Wooden self-assembly toys — farm animals, buildings, agricultural equipment and the farmer himself — were the main characters of the first game. The customers could purchase them at a special price for a certain amount of money spent in the supermarket.

A self-assembly mechanical platform was retailed separately. A collection of toys (25 characters) placed on this platform featured a working model of a farm. Moreover, all these were made of natural, eco-friendly plywood.

Once the customers bought the first toy, they could start playing in the digital space.

They needed just to download a free app and with its help scan the assembled toy. The app recognizes the character and transfers it to the AR game. In it, it was necessary to take care of the animals, equipment and buildings, to conduct a household, while earning virtual currency.

An additional app’s feature was a music mixer. In it, using the sounds of the collected characters, users could create their own music tracks.

The main goal of this program is to increase parents’ loyalty through a sense of gratitude for caring for the development of their children. After all, the program’s features aimed exactly at this:

● self-assembly toys stimulate the development of fine motor skills;

● the game teaches responsibility through running your own household;

● the music mixer develops musical skills and creativity.

Naturally, the younger generation was thrilled with the games. And, what is important, this feeling had good monetization.

3. Innovative Loyalty Programs at NOVUS.

Together with the Space Loyalty marketing agency, this retail company has run two loyalty programs with a one-year break.

The first one — “Dinosaurs. The era of 3D” — combined elements of both augmented and virtual reality.

For a certain amount of money spent in the supermarket, the customers received a sachet with a card featuring one of the dinosaurs from the collection. Each of the dinosaurs came to life when the camera of a mobile device running a free augmented reality app was pointed at it, and the 3D features of the dinosaurs were different. Some were just tridimensional versions of the images, while others were 3D animations. In addition, the app brought to life floor stickers located in the chain’s supermarkets, stoppers, boards and promotional newspapers. Additionally, it was possible to buy an album for storing cards. The app could bring it to life too. And those who had collected the whole collection of dinosaurs and uploaded their images to the mobile app received a grand prize — the ability to see a scene in virtual reality featuring the times when these giant creatures were the masters of the Earth.

The company claims a high level of customer involvement in the program. Moreover, not only children but also adults were active participants.

A year later, this tandem ran another innovative program — “Fantastyki in the Magic Forest”. Its mechanics were similar to the first program — customers could buy an interactive book about the adventures of Fantastyki coming to life in augmented reality; for a certain amount spent in the supermarket they also received sachets with the images coming to life in AR. The goal of the program was to return all Fantastyki characters to their home in the forest.

4. Zverokub — Innovative Animal Care from Varus Supermarket Chain and TCC Digital Marketing Agency.

This supermarket chain, together with the global agency TCC, decided to give a new innovative life to the popular in the 90s idea of ​​Tamagotchi— a toy that simulates having a real pet. Only this time, the animal did not live in a gadget, but in a mobile AR app.

During the Zverokub campaign, the shoppers for a certain amount spent in the supermarket could get a set of cards and stickers for a symbolic price. After collecting five stickers in the campaign’s booklet, customers could buy the Zverokub game set at a special price. The set consisted of a stuffed animal toy and a special cube. Further, it was necessary to install a free app on a mobile device and scan a cube in it. After that, a virtual avatar of the animal appeared on the cube and the game began. The animal could be fed, trained, and beautified. And, of course, there was the ability to take photos. The user could take a photo with his virtual pet and share it on social networks. The app also provided special features, which required the activation of the special booster cards; they could be found in sets of other cards and stickers. The important part was that the activity of the pet depended on the attention that the user paid to it. This taught children to be responsible for those they have tamed.

5. Auchan Christmas Dreams

This project was implemented by the group unit of the large AUCHAN chain in cooperation with Live Animations.

This loyalty program was run on the Christmas and New Year’s eve holidays. All children believe in miracles and expect them, especially during the winter holidays. And one of such miracles happened in AUCHAN. For a certain amount of money spent in the retail network, customers could buy Christmas ornaments in opaque packaging at a special price. These ornaments were round, flat and, what is especially important, given that the target audience was small children, unbreakable. One of their sides featured one of the dreamers, a fairy-tale character designed exclusively for this loyalty program. On the other side, the character’s biggest dream was written. After scanning the ornaments in the free app, their characters came to life and started dancing. Moreover, it was possible to bring to life several toys at the same time, and the user could choose not only the music for these funny dances but also the special effects for each character. It was possible to take a picture or shoot a video of these performances and share them on social media.

Of course, there was also a grand prize — one “golden” ornament among ordinary ones in each of the cities where the campaign was held. And those lucky ones who had found it got a limousine ride with Santa and his magical Elves.

6. JOYKIS — Augmented Reality Teaches to Take Care of the Environment.

This loyalty program is unique primarily because of the fact that the organizers were able to unite several regional retailers in it. It included Fora, Tavria V, Rukavychka, Avrora, Rost, Delikat, Semia, Zerkalny, Taistra, Fayno Market and Economy.

For a certain amount of money spent in the above-mentioned supermarkets, the customers were offered cards with JOYKIS heroes (when buying goods from the partners within the loyalty program, they could get additional cards). The cards were double-sided: the one side featured a colored hero, and the other one — his black and white coloring. The participants had to first color the hero and only then bring him to life in augmented reality using the free app. The heroes were coming to life in the exact colors they were colored with by the children.

All collected cards (24 unique characters) could be collected in a special album retailed in the same stores.

In the app itself, the customers could play with the characters, and the games taught children to respect nature, use its resources wisely and waste sorting.

For each successfully completed task, the participants were awarded points, and at the end of the program, its organizers promised to plant as many trees as the young participants had collected.

7. AR Emoji in German Supermarket Chain Aldi

Aldi supermarket chain together with Boost marketing company created a loyalty program and a special AR app

This program aimed to engage the widest possible audience of all genders and all age groups. Therefore, the Boost company decided to evolve the emotions theme that works for all people.

For every 15€ spent shoppers received one of 24 emoji toys for free.

Additionally, a collector box for storing emoji figurines was created and retailed in the same stores.

On top of that, the toys could be scanned and added to a free AR app with the possibility to collect all characters digitally and play games with them.

In addition, the participants had to find all hidden markers in the stores. Once scanned the characters revealed cool sounds & movements.

There was also the ability to scan the floor stickers: after being scanned, the amazing life-sized emoji were revealed in AR, and shoppers could take a photo with them which then could be shared on social media.

8. AR Battle with Evil in ATB Arena

The ATB retail chain regularly runs successful and innovative AR loyalty programs. ATB Arena is one of them, created together with the Art Nation Loyalty agency. The shoppers could collect a set of 34 playing cards with images of superheroes. The card could be bought at a promotional price after a certain amount of money was spent.

Once the heroes were scanned in a free mobile app the battle against evil could begin. The app featured a full-fledged mobile game with over 500 levels.

The program was very popular among the chain’s shoppers. This encouraged the management to continue the program and create ATB Arena.2, which included 26 additional cards with characters and new features for players in the app. Now they could fight not only with artificial intelligence but also with each other.

9. Pyaterochka Supermarket Chain and Yode Group Agency

Trolls: Big Tour Loyalty Program

Within this loyalty program, the customers for a certain amount spent in the supermarket received cards with the image of the characters of the like-named animated movie that was released at that time. Traditionally, a special album for storing the collection and a board game were designed for this loyalty program and retailed in the chain.

Once the cards were scanned in a free mobile app, the user got access to several versions of the famous hits.

The app featured karaoke, video recording of the performances, and various AR-filters of trolls with the ability to save these videos and share them on social networks.

In addition, the users could challenge their friends to a karaoke competition, where the winner received prizes.

10. Lego Loyalty Program at Pyaterochka

This is the next loyalty program with the same partners.

The goal of the program was to stimulate purchases with a loyalty card. For each specified amount of money spent using the loyalty card, one “sticker” was automatically awarded on the loyalty card. The total balance was displayed in the personal account on the retail website and in the user’s mobile app.

The accumulated “stickers” could be exchanged for one or more Lego sets. Moreover, the app allowed sharing “stickers” with friends.

The functionality of the augmented reality app allowed users to create their own Lego characters and upgrade both the character itself and his Lego universe.

The interesting part is that the app was integrated into the retail CRM system and game points for purchases were automatically credited to a specific player. In addition, points could be earned by successfully completing game missions.

10. The Super Insects Campaign

AR loyalty program for New Zealand supermarket brand, Countdown. It was jointly implemented by the Craze company that develops customised loyalty promotions for international retailers and augmented reality platform and creative studio Zappar.

The developers and the client pursued several goals:

1. to increase the number of checkouts;

2. to increase basket size of shoppers;

3. to build Countdown’s market share;

4. and to inspire the next generation with the importance of biodiversity.

The mechanics of the program were quite traditional, although they included interesting solutions. The customers were rewarded for spending $30 on their shopping with a series of 72 collectable Insect Cards with brief information about them and 36 Puzzle Cards. Scanning the cards with the special free app revealed 3D insects that could be placed in the real world with the help of augmented reality and collected in a digital album. In addition, the user could play interactive games and quizzes.

A special album to store a collection of physical cards was retailed in the chain’s supermarkets.

Certain in-app content could only be unlocked by scanning posters around participating store locations, helping to bring footfall into brick-and-mortar retail at a time when online shopping was dominating the industry.

In general, this was an entertaining and educational program.

For example, there were 10 special cards in the collection. After scanning them, the customers brought the insects to life in 3D to learn about their appearance and how they move around the world.

Users could learn even more facts about the insects via an interactive bug hunt, where an interactive animation in augmented reality showed them where the insects like to hide.

Another important entertainment component in the Super Insects Campaign was the Insect Race — an augmented reality game where many-legged “athletes” had to compete in speed.

The app also featured face-tracked AR filters. Young participants of the program could take selfies with cute “virtual” insects on their faces and share them on social media.

The results of the program were more than impressive. This campaign achieved:

1,490,000 visitors of the app homepage;
3,147,000 scanned cards;
730,000 face filters used;
407,000 plays on the quiz;
at least 12% of the total card number was scanned and put into the digital album;
over 50,000 unique users across the campaign period;
transactions above the $30 grew by 4.5% compared over the same period last year

11. Fairy tale at ATB: the First VR-based Loyalty Program.

NTI Loyalty agency has developed this loyalty program for the ATB retail chain. The Live Animations team took over the entire technical part as developers.

In this program, the customers for a certain amount of money spent in the supermarket could buy a self-assembled cardboard headset (CardBoard) at a special price. Each headset had a QR code with a link to the free app. After downloading and launching it, and with a smartphone inserted in the assembled headset, the customer could enjoy an exciting VR game featuring eight levels. The third and next levels could be unlocked only after collecting a certain amount of crystals or by entering a magic rune. Users could find runes in the special book (Ukr. Чарголос). The book retailed in the same chain.

The app features the avatar of the lead singer of band Kazka (the world-famous music artist) that flies through a magical forest destroying garbage and fighting fires.

The program aimed to raise environmental and recycling awareness among young people.

ATB retail has successfully run the first VR-based loyalty program. The figures have not been disclosed but the launch of an extended version of the program in the chain’s stores throughout Ukraine proves the success of the project.

In this overview, I dug into AR / VR-based retail loyalty programs. But there is another big type of loyalty programs based on AR books. And my next overview will be devoted to them.

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#AR #innovation #augmentedreality #retaile #loyaltyprograms #marketing

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AR: the Present and the Future of Retail Loyalty Programs was originally published in AR/VR Journey: Augmented & Virtual Reality Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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