June 05, 2024
June 05, 2024

Driving Sustainability Through Augmented Reality

Learn how augmented reality acts as a catalyst for sustainable change and the consumer insights driving it.

The Power of Augmented Reality Revolutionizes Sustainability and Profitability

In today's dynamic marketplace, the convergence of technology and sustainability has opened doors to innovative ways of addressing environmental challenges while simultaneously boosting business performance. One such tool is Augmented Reality (AR) and while it’s not entirely new, it’s growing out of its nascency and is emerging as a potent tool for advancing sustainability efforts and enhancing profitability. New research has unveiled where AR intersects with sustainability to create a win-win scenario for people, profit, and the planet.

The Widespread Adoption of AR and Its Intersection with Sustainability

The rise of AR technology has been nothing short of remarkable. From retail to entertainment, and even the automotive industry, AR is rapidly overhauling the way we interact with brands, products and services, with a projected value of $1.2 trillion by 2030¹. Retail is one vertical where previous  studies have clearly demonstrated that consumers embrace AR features that enhance their shopping experiences, from trying on virtual outfits to viewing customized product configurations, as more than two-thirds of AR shoppers say they intend to purchase products after using AR¹. In fact, AR has not only transformed online shopping but has also bolstered consumer confidence, with 80% of shoppers reporting they feel more confident in their purchase as a result of using AR¹. As AR usage continues to grow, brands need to harness its potential to drive higher-order effects, including sustainable practices that benefit consumers, brands, and the environment.

AR's Impact on Sustainability

To dig deeper into the synergy between AR and sustainability, we partnered with market research consultancy Alter Agents to understand how diverse sectors, including entertainment, quick-service restaurants, apparel, automotive, and personal care have opportunities to enhance their sustainability efforts with AR.

The overarching goal was to explore how AR could serve as a catalyst for sustainability efforts that resonate with consumers and yield tangible benefits for brands.

To achieve this, we explored various examples of how AR can provide sustainability benefits compared to traditional marketing like informative video ads on TV or social media.

We conducted a rigorous two-phased study including expert and stakeholder interviews, as well as a robust, online quantitative survey with 7500 participants from across France, India, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Example AR Concepts Researched

The findings were resounding:

Impact on People: The integration of sustainability benefits within AR, such as virtual sizing guides and reduced returns, demonstrated that consumers are drawn to AR's potential to streamline their shopping experiences and contribute to sustainability.

AR experiences will attract consumers across categories

Consumers across various industries displayed a strong inclination toward AR experiences leading to higher brand favorability relative to general marketing tactics.

Ultimately helping to elevate brand favorability

Impact on Profit: AR experiences fostered enhanced consumer confidence, thereby increasing purchase intent and willingness to pay more. This heightened consumer engagement translates into a growth opportunity in global revenue for brands that embrace AR for sustainability initiatives.

AR sustainability experiences drive willingness to pay

Impact on the Planet: Beyond traditional AR applications, consumers are ready to leverage AR to reduce their carbon footprint.

Consumers are ready to use AR to reduce their carbon footprint

The study revealed that consumers also perceive AR experiences as an opportunity to minimize carbon emissions and material waste, underscoring their understanding of AR and  how it can reduce their impact.

In fact, an additional groundbreaking study by Circular Ecology sought to quantify the actual reduction of carbon emissions by using AR for shopping. It reveals that if online shopping is powered by AR, it results in up to 46% carbon emissions² reductions.

Four Critical Elements Will Amplify AR Sustainability Efforts and Drive Profitability

The research identified four pivotal elements that brands must prioritize to leverage AR for sustainable growth:

Technology: High-quality AR increases consumer confidence, reduces returns, and lets people understand a product or service through immersive experiences, which holds the key to replacing carbon-intensive activities. Brands should focus on harnessing AR to simulate experiences that previously required significant emissions, such as travel or physical product try-ons, reducing the environmental impact.

Advocacy: To fully integrate AR sustainability initiatives into their core business strategies, brands must champion sustainability within their organizations. Demonstrating the power of AR in being able to drive profits, all the while practicing sustainability, will drive adoption of AR within the organization and create an environmentally-conscious culture.

Education: Elevating consumers' awareness of how they can adopt more sustainable living practices, such as utilizing AR to reduce waste with virtual makeup try on or reducing carbon emissions from buying the right clothing item the first time they order, is paramount. Brands should actively educate their audience about how AR can contribute to sustainable living and transparently showcase the benefits it delivers.

Transparency: To cultivate trust and authenticity, it's imperative for companies to openly communicate their intentions for AR practices. Instead of resorting to the hollow words of 'greenwashing', brands should prioritize development and distribution of AR solutions that genuinely benefit both people and the planet.  By being forthright about their intentions, methods, and outcomes, brands can not only demonstrate their commitment to sustainability but also ensure that their AR initiatives align with their broader mission of environmental responsibility.

Augmented Reality is now going beyond enriching consumer experiences; it is an agent of positive change that can reshape how we approach sustainability and profitability. The symbiotic relationship between AR and sustainability presents a unique opportunity for brands to contribute to a healthier planet, drive consumer loyalty, and in effect boost their bottom line. By embracing cutting-edge AR technology, advocating for sustainability, educating consumers, and practicing transparency, brands can lead the charge toward a future where sustainability and profit go hand in hand.

1 2022 Alter Agents study commissioned by Snap Inc. and Publicis Media.
2 2023 Circular Ecology study commissioned by Snap Inc. Carbon footprint comparison of online shopping vs. AR shopping was modeled for a scenario where 1x t-shirt is purchased and kept via AR vs. a scenario where 2x t-shirts are purchased with 1x t-shirt returned via online shopping. Modeling is in alignment with ISO 14067 standards and assumes a restock rate of 50%, returned waste rate of 50%, and excludes the item cradle-to-gate, product use and product end-of-life stages.
3 2023 Alter Agents AR for Sustainability study commissioned by Snap Inc.