The diamonds glitter in the subdued light, the precious metal also shines – the Cartier Tank watch and the Tiffany bracelets look pretty on my wrist. However, I didn’t have to go to a store to try them on. Instead, I was at home, in my bed, barefoot and in sweatpants. The virtual carrying experience was made possible by augmented reality (AR) from technology and social media company Snap, which is responsible for the Snapchat platform. This let me see what the jewelry would look like on my wrist.
The Cartier and Tiffany AR campaigns are the latest in a series of collaborations Snap is making with brands to encourage Gen Z (born roughly 1995-2010) to invest in luxury through virtual fittings. Cartier’s Tank watches start at $2,790, and the cheapest Tiffany Lock bracelet is $6,900.
Augmented Reality under the sign of luxury
Luxury brand Louis Vuitton has also just teamed up with artist Yayoi Kusama to create a filter for Snap. This wraps landmarks around the world in Kusama’s dot pattern trademark. Snap has already worked with Dior, Gucci and Prada using virtual try-on technology.
“Brands are using the Snapchat community, which is largely Gen Z, to make the world a little more interactive and fun,” said Geoffrey Perez, Head of Luxury at Snap.
The Cartier Tank watch experience uses an augmented reality filter to transport the user to the Alexandre III bridge in Paris. The virtual experience allows one to see four versions of the clock from different eras over the past 106 years, and then look around the bridge and watch other passers-by to get a sense of the times.
The sparkle in augmented reality
Tiffany uses the ray tracing technology known from video games, with which the light movements on AR objects are displayed more realistically. This allows the unique sparkle of metal and diamonds to be transferred to AR.
Ziyou Jiang, a graduate student at the University of Georgia, presented a talk on how AR is affecting Gen Z at an apparel conference last year. Jiang asked 134 people in this age group whether and how AR influences their purchasing decisions. She found that two things made them want to buy a product after seeing it in AR: interactivity and virtual experiences.
Cartier’s time travel experience is an example of interactivity. According to Jiang, Gen Z don’t necessarily want to see a product featured in an ad, but want to see how it fits into a larger story or movement. AR can do this in a unique way. The Tiffany fitting, on the other hand, shows how important a virtual experience is. “People want the product in AR to look like the real product in the store,” says Jiang. In the case of jewellery, this means making the glitter of the gemstones as realistic as possible.
According to Jiang’s results, a luxury product that can be experienced interactively and virtually with AR increases the willingness to buy. That doesn’t mean people will buy the product right away. Maybe they can’t afford it right now, or they want to share the picture with friends and family to get their opinion. But if the AR experience is memorable, Jiang said, Gen Z consumers will make a mental note to buy the product in the future.
The first luxury goods
A Snap spokesperson declined to divulge how many users of the Tiffany and Cartier Experiences actually purchased jewelry from the brands. However, Jiang can back up her work with actual buying trends. A January report by management consultancy Bain not only finds that the luxury market is growing robustly despite the economic slowdown, but also predicts that by 2030, Gen Z and Gen Alpha (born between 2010 and 2020) will account for a third of the luxury goods market become. Generation Z also buys their first luxury goods earlier than other generations, at age 15, a full five years ahead of Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1996.
This could explain why luxury brands are increasingly turning to AR experiences. Jiang says the pandemic has hit these brands hard because in-store visits and being able to interact with the products are important in getting the customer to buy. AR solves this problem and makes luxury more accessible. Even if you’re in jogging pants.