Marketing assets

Google improves AR search tools to help busy holiday shoppers

Diving Brief:

  • Google showed off a number of new augmented reality search features at an event in New York on Wednesday night. Technology has been positioned as a way to improve holiday shopping as consumers plan their gifts more online.
  • A photo library helps people match foundation to their skin tone. The AR capability draws on shots of 148 models spanning a range of ages, genders, face shapes and ethnicities and allows users to apply 2,000 shades from different brands.
  • An AR trial for sneakers is also being rolled out, allowing shoppers to play with a 3D rendering of specific shoe models superimposed in real space. Saucony, Vans and Merrell are the first partners, but Google said any company with 3D assets of their products can participate.

Overview of the dive:

Google is making AR-based search a higher priority during a holiday season that is expected to see a shift in browsing and spending habits. Physical retail has rebounded this year while e-commerce growth has slowed, but many people are still intensively researching products online before buying them. Meanwhile, consumers could be more selective with the number of gifts they buy as inflationary pressures weigh on wallets, making personalization more important for brands.

“Nothing replaces the feeling of visiting your favorite store,” said Danielle Buckley, director of product management at Google, in a blog post detailing holiday news. “But for the days when you can’t get there, these features can help you have that experience.”

Google’s virtual tools aim to give people a better idea of ​​what a product looks like beyond the static image and text, aligning with the tech giant’s broader attempt to reinvent its search engine. search to be more oriented around mobile phone visuals and cameras. For example, someone who submits a query “Buy blue Vans sneakers” will now see a 3D visualization of the shoe that they can rotate and zoom with the tap of a finger. Pressing a “View in my space” prompt places the model in a live environment where it can be examined using a 360 degree view.

Google previewed the capability at its Search On event in September, building on a similar tool focused on the home goods category that went live last spring. Pushing the AR shoe product at scale during the busy holiday period shows how Google is trying to bring its search network closer to online retail, driving traffic to customers like Saucony, Vans and Merrell in the sales window key. A diversification of research formats is accompanied by more young consumers switch to competing platforms like TikTok when searching for merchandise.

Google is working to make 3D modeling easier than it has been in the past, which could attract more merchants to the concept. The company is training machine learning to be able to assemble interactive virtual assets from just a few images instead of relying on hundreds of photos. Google cited research that suggests consumers are using 3D imagery 50% more than still photography, which may reflect that this experience is newer.

Beyond sneakers, Google is making bigger moves in the cosmetics vertical, leveraging augmented reality to recognize needs for inclusivity. The company found that 60% of consumers surveyed skipped buying a beauty product online because they didn’t feel confident about choosing the color, a roadblock for the industry as it made the leap to e-commerce. About 41% of people returned an item because it was the wrong shade.

The new photo library is positioned to fill these gaps, allowing people requesting foundation to choose from a range of designs that match their skin tone and see before and after photos of applied makeup. They can then choose from a list of retailers to complete their purchase.