AR Series

Do You Really Need to Build an AR app?

By Tangiblee
September 1, 2021

If you’re thinking of creating an augmented reality (AR) shopping experience, one question you may have is whether you need a custom app. According to some estimates, the global AR market is expected to grow from $6.12B in 2021 to $97.76B in 2028.

For this reason, AR has the potential to be a valuable investment for creating an engaging, loved, and immersive digital shopping experience. But launching new tech is also a time-consuming undertaking with plenty of wiggle room for error.

Should you build a custom AR app or use a simpler, off the shelf Web AR solution?

Are you looking for complete artistic freedom?

If you’re looking to create a fully customized experience (to align with a one-off campaign or promotion), it makes sense to build your own app. 

An example here to check out is Burberry, which used AR tech in the Summer of 2021 to launch its new Olympia line of handbags.

“The pop-up will feature the Elpis statue which can be brought to life through an immersive and interactive AR experience,” explains an announcement from Burberry.

“Accessible via a dedicated QR code, visitors will be able to place an animated digital version of the statue in their surroundings and watch as it comes to life and walks towards them, leaving a trail of motion sequence statues behind it.”

The cornerstone of this app is the creative experience, developed for the purpose of inspiring the imagination. It’s not about getting shoppers to purchase the product, per se, but rather to develop a positive association with the Burberry brand.

But you need the resources to do it right. If you do have these resources, an AR app is the way to go. If you don’t, the tough reality is that you may need to nix the idea.

What about feature controls?

When you build a custom AR app, you gain access to a software development kit (SDK) that gives you control over a customer’s hardware environment — such as a smartphone camera.

With this level of control, app developers can deliver extremely high quality and tailored experience and gain an increased level of predictability over the shopper’s browsing experience. With a custom app, you can more readily QA bugs on different devices, run your own usability testing, and create a predictable experience.

Keep in mind that this level of control means that you need to oversee literally every detail. It’s up to you to troubleshoot problems, ensure hardware compatibility, and prevent security issues.

It’s 100% on you to make sure that everything works seamlessly. So if your CTO, product teams, and executives are ready to make that judgment call — go for building something custom. If you’re not ready for this level of responsibility, the best approach is to use a SaaS-based WebAR solution that is configurable to your brand experience.

Does your app create a clear path to revenue?

Ultimately, your branding spend needs to contribute to your profit margins. So if you’re building an app like the one Burberry just launched, what’s the plan for monetization?

In Tangiblee’s experience, the revenue and traffic coming in from an app tend to be negligible — especially when shoppers need to download that app in order to use it.

You may find that an AR app has the potential to be a distraction to monetization — and that the brand-building benefits may not be worth it.

In this situation, the alternative to building a custom app would be to use a WebAR solution that integrates with your existing marketing and technology stack. The goal is to keep shoppers in your checkout flow rather than allowing them to be distracted. A WebAR solution can help you stay on a clear path to revenue.

Do you need to be up and running quickly?

Building your own app requires development teams in addition to months of planning, building, and testing time. You’ll also likely need to create custom art and potentially product photos as well.

If you’re on a time-sensitive deadline that requires a simple launch, building your own app will not be the shortest path to getting up and running with new tech. In this scenario, plug-and-play technology is the better option. 

With a WebAR solution, you can get up and running with a few lines of code (and very minimal customization) using your existing technology stack and product photo library.

If you want a simple approach to AR, without the complexities involved with building your own app, WebAR is the way to go.

What’s best for your user experience?

Before deciding to build an app or use a WebAR solution, it’s important to think through the experiences of your shoppers. How will they be using AR as part of their purchase processes? You can have the best app in the world, but if it isn’t easy (or enjoyable) to use, people aren’t going to engage with it.

The first user experience question that’s important to ask is whether the app needs to be accessible offline. In this case, you’ll need to build a custom app that’s downloadable. But keep in mind, when shoppers are offline, they’re not able to make purchases.

So do you really need a downloadable app?

For most eCommerce experiences, probably not. The better option is to use WebAR that shoppers can use with a few clicks, taps, and swipes. You’ll likely see higher usage rates with WebAR since people won’t need to install extra software.

Do you have wiggle room (and developer time) to make mistakes?

This decision comes down to budget, human power, and resources.

App development requires iteration, testing, and problem-solving. Not to mention, when you’re building software from the ground up, there are inevitable bugs that come up.

If you don’t have time to deal with these bottlenecks, use a SaaS-based WebAR platform instead of building your own app. A reputable vendor will have teams of engineers working behind the scenes to create a smooth, reliable, scalable, and secure solution.

Get it done (and get it right) with less effort and overhead.

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