Local ShoppingGoogle enhances AR search tools to help harried holiday shoppers

Google enhances AR search tools to help harried holiday shoppers

Dive Brief:

  • Google showcased a number of new augmented reality search features at an event in New York City Wednesday evening. The tech was positioned as a way to enhance holiday shopping as consumers do more of their gift planning online.
  • A photo library helps people match makeup foundation to their skin tone. The AR capability draws on shots of 148 models encompassing a range of ages, genders, face shapes and ethnicities and lets users apply 2,000 shades from various brands.
  • Also rolling out is an AR try-on for sneakers that lets shoppers fiddle with a 3D rendering of specific shoe models overlaid in real space. Saucony, Vans and Merrell are early partners, but Google said that any company with 3D assets of their products can participate.  

Dive Insight:

Google is making AR-powered search a bigger priority during a holiday season that’s expected to see altered browsing and spending habits. Brick-and-mortar retail has rebounded this year while e-commerce growth has slowed, but many people still intensively research products online before they buy. Meanwhile, consumers could be choosier with the number of gifts they purchase as inflationary pressures weigh on wallets, making personalization more important for brands. 

“There’s no replacing the feeling of visiting your favorite store,” said Danielle Buckley, director of product management at Google, in a blog post detailing the holiday news. “But for the days you just can’t make it there, these features can help bring that experience to you.”

Google’s virtual tools are aimed at giving people a better sense of what a product looks like beyond static image and text, aligning with the tech giant’s broader attempt to reinvent its search engine to be more oriented around visuals and mobile phone cameras. For instance, someone who submits a “Shop blue Vans sneakers” query will now see a 3D visualization of the shoe they can spin and zoom in on at the tap of a finger. Pushing a “View in my space” prompt places the model in a real-world setting where it can be examined using a 360-degree view. 

Google previewed the capability at its Search On event in September, building off of a similar tool focused on the home goods category that went live last spring. Pushing the AR shoe product wide during the busy holiday period speaks to how Google is trying to wed its search backbone closer to online retail, driving traffic to customers like Saucony, Vans and Merrell in the key sales window. A diversification of formats on search comes as more young consumers turn to rival platforms like TikTok when looking for goods

Google is working to make 3D modeling simpler than it’s 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 versus relying on hundreds of photos. Google cited research that suggests consumers engage with 3D imagery 50% more than static photography, potentially reflective of that experience being more novel. 

Beyond sneakers, Google is making bigger overtures to the cosmetics vertical, leveraging AR to recognize inclusivity needs. The firm found that 60% of surveyed consumers have skipped purchasing a beauty product online because they don’t feel confident in the color choice, a barrier for the industry as it makes the jump to e-commerce. About 41% of people have returned an item because it was the wrong shade. 

The new photo library is positioned to address these gaps, letting people who query for a foundation to select from a range of models that match their skin tone and see before-and-after shots of the makeup applied. They can then pick from a list of retailers to complete their purchase.   

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