Augmented reality will change commerce forever – and 2019 is just the beginning

To the average consumer, augmented reality means little more than face filters – for now. But ask a futurist such as Kat Callow and you’ll see that AR is Big Tech’s next big thing. Those who have been paying attention will recognise that Snap, Amazon, Facebook and Google are all fighting it out to become first in the new frontier. But why now?

“There’s always got to be a ‘why’ with everything we do in tech development. When we lose the ‘why’ for all three key areas of that, that’s when something doesn’t reach mass adoption because it hasn’t been useful to the key players.”


Kat Callow


As a society, we’re becoming steadily more visual. So as text search dies out, we’re seeing an incremental increase in both voice search and visual search. But it is the latter which is currently experiencing its heyday. Because of how users are communicating, social media platforms are focusing more and more on their camera effects. But, as augmented reality climbs higher on the agenda for Silicon Valley, it is not just for communication but for commerce that Kat says these capabilities will really begin to shine. And there will be ramifications for brands, platforms and users.

Short of replacing bricks-and-mortar entirely, for brands, AR search provides the option to offer product demos and trials online, cutting real estate cost and enabling data capture crucial for targeting. For platforms, the interest lies in their commercial offering; immersive techniques such as these keep people engaged on the platform, whilst transforming a previously entertainment and gaming-focused technology into something brands will pay for opens up new and lucrative revenue streams. And for the users, Kat says it all comes down to convenience.

“The only metric that matters is convenience. If it’s more convenient nowadays the younger generations will go for it. If they can end-to-end, within their preferred platform of choice, view a product, read its reviews, demo it, trial it, buy it and have an Uber bring it to them all within the space of 20 minutes, they’re going to opt to shop now on that platform whenever they want.”


Social Minds


In the week before we spoke to Kat Callow, previously of HMD Global and Unilever, we saw Snap Inc. partner with Amazon. Snap brought AR-led shopping to the back-facing camera within Snapchat, enabling users to scan other people’s outfits and match it to Amazon’s entire product catalogue, where they are then directed to purchase. It was a shock move – and a smart one. So is Snapchat winning the race?

“It’s a very smart move, but it’s not to say that the other players can’t come up with equally smart strategies. It’s completely possible that Facebook will start to reverse engineer a business partnership. So they would go to large e-tailers such as ASOS and, rather than having them go through camera and onto platform as Snap will with Amazon, they’ll have them go from e-tailer onto platform.

“They could easily integrate; embed the camera functionality to trial on e-tailer platform and that would grow their camera use exponentially. They’d have traffic going directly into theirs rather than traffic coming out.”

This week, as we release Episode 010 of Social Minds, Kat’s predictions began to come to fruition. Facebook announced it was rebranding its Camera Effects app to Spark AR, complete with new logo and polished brand identity, which seems oddly distanced from Facebook’s own.



“What [Facebook] need to watch out for is the adoption and scale of this; it’s an easy place where they could drive more users. They could certainly do more branding around the camera logo itself… if they’ve done enough to drive the logo of the camera, the user will know that there’s AR behind an offline touchpoint and know to scan using the camera.”

Spark AR is distanced from Facebook for one simple yet game-changing reason – it’s not just for Facebook. While Snap has been loud and proud about its new offering with Amazon, Facebook has quietly been using its own native camera as a testing bed, preparing to bring AR-led shopping to the most visual platform within Facebook’s family of apps. Along with Spark AR’s rebranding, Facebook announced that it has opened beta for Instagram camera effects – something the developer community has been awaiting with bated breath, and something which will change the face of social commerce when it launches.

As we turn the corner towards AR’s mass adoption, Kat says this is brands’ last chance to be first. She advises brands to do as Facebook has done, and take the opportunity to test and trial AR tech using Spark AR’s currently free camera effects for Facebook, before it becomes a pay-for-service and before it launches on Instagram.


Kat Callow


“I’d encourage marketers and brands to start. Done is better than perfect. Give it a go. If nothing else on the social channels it stands as a new format and, as shiny and new as it is to us as marketers and agencies, it’s also shiny and new to consumers so the sentiment tends to be very high when you release an effect.”

And what of Google’s game-plan, the future of AR’s less successful cousin VR, and the ramifications that automated shopping capabilities will have for influencer marketing? To learn exactly how AR will factor into the future of social media, shopping and society, tune in to Episode 010 of Social Minds below. For those with an interest to stay ahead of the curve for 2019 and beyond, this episode is a must-watch.



This was taken from Social Minds, the UK’s first dedicated social media marketing podcast, brought to you by Social Chain. With each new episode, we cut through the BS to deliver you hard-hitting truths and unforgiving industry insights – exposing the shocking realities of how social media is affecting us in the here and now. To earn your thought-leader status, subscribe now.

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