STM Brands unleashes ‘interactive’ experiences with AR push

Digital marketing strategy goes beyond typical 2D on-screen experience and into immersive augmented reality

STM Brand's Ethan Nyholm
STM Brand's Ethan Nyholm

STM Brands is using integrated augmented reality (AR), including interactive 3D graphics, animation and video, in a bid to deliver a new shopping experience that boosts customer engagement and brand awareness.

Hatched in 1998, STM Brands creates accessories for tablets, laptops and phones. The AR experience aims to give consumers an entirely new way to explore the company’s backpacks and mobile phone cases, according to STM Brands co-founder, Ethan Nyholm. 

The 3D experience lets consumers ‘try on’ the items virtually, ‘see through’ the gear thanks to an x-ray feature, and see a deconstructed full view of every pocket and angle and learn about the materials.

Nyholm said the move towards AR helps the company stay competitive against the likes of Amazon and differentiates the company from some of the other smaller fish in the sea in the retail space.

“We understand a lot of the world is shifting online and for us it is really important that people get the opportunity to touch and feel the product,” Nyholm told CMO. “Often when it is sitting on a shelf or in an online environment, that experience of touching the product, and engaging with the product, is lacking.

“The reason behind it was to try and create a different type of experience for an in-store execution. This is really focused on in-store as opposed to online. We wanted to try and separate ourselves from the crowd.”

Nyholm said the rollout of AR is yet another marketing tool in the company’s arsenal that aims to change consumer behaviour and mindset, while boosting brand awareness.  From a marketing strategy perspective, AR helps people understand exactly what makes the ‘product tick’.

“It is often hard for people to understand why this product is more expensive or what makes it unique - AR really helps them with that aspect,” he continued. “It is a different way to present ourselves. . . This gives consumers a reason to pick it up, a reason to look at it and a reason for people to take notice.”

Nyholm said the use of the AR technology also revs up the company’s efforts on the brand awareness front, enabling STM Brands to “guide and control the message” out to consumers in a more consistent way.

“It shows that we are all about pushing the boundaries not only from a product design, but also in terms of how we communicate with buyers [people who are selling the bag] and end users,” he said.

“The AR allows you to guide that message in a lot more consistent way because you are showing them things that you want to show them. You are allowing that person to experience the bag in the way they want to experience. It is a really neat conversion of those two things.”

The AR component of its marketing strategy took six months. Nyholm said other companies - particularly the smaller players - aren’t quick out of the gates to use this non-traditional type of marketing tool. He recognised, however, that big retail players like Ikea and Converse are already into the AR action.

“No one has tried to execute this in store where store staff and potential buyers can engage with it and help them with the buying decision,” he claimed. “People have said, ‘finally you’ve found a use for AR that is beyond Pokemon Go.”

Nyholm said STM will continue to roll out AR and try to develop a more solid methodology in delivering those experiences.

Other retail companies, meanwhile, are latching onto AR technology as part of their marketing efforts. As reported in CMO, global marketplace for independent artists, Redbubble, released an AR-enabled shopping experience app last year giving customers the opportunity to see products come to life in their own homes as part of a ‘try before you buy’ experience. 

 Through the app, users can place virtual pillows on couches and chairs, move them around to see how they interact with lighting, zoom in to see fabric textures, compare colours and relate the product size to surrounding objects. The AR app also offers customers an opportunity to virtually try on T-shirts for the right fit and colour, test out what stickers look good on a laptop and try out prints and artworks on walls.

Additionally, Loreal’s Makeup Genius, Pepsi’s ‘blippable’ product labels, Ebay’s new virtual store in partnership with Myer show how brands are adopting AR as a significant part of their marketing mix.

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