Creative Works Martech Brand Marketing

Augmented reality is taking center stage in brand marketing

By Tom Emrich, Director of product management



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January 31, 2023 | 6 min read

Augmented reality (AR) isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It's coming for brand marketing next, according to Tom Emrich of Niantic.

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Expect AR to be the driving force behind innovation in brand marketing in 2023 / Keagan Henman via Unsplash

In 2022, research from McKinsey showed that the metaverse has the potential to generate up to $5tn in value by 2030. This value creation has attracted brands from across the business landscape, with many dipping their toes into the metaverse for the first time last year.

2022 was defined by these metaverse explorations. Brands innovated, learned, and iterated, all with hopes of unlocking the tremendous business value the metaverse promises.

Gazing into the future, I expect that 2023 will be remembered as the year brands realized that the metaverse will enhance our real-world experience. The driving force behind that progress will be augmented reality (AR).

No app required: browser-based AR as the go-to for brand content

Web-based AR, or WebAR, will see a significant increase in adoption in 2023. The simple, compelling promise of WebAR is that it allows consumers to access AR content via their browser, from anywhere in the world, with no app required.

Whether you’re on Android, iOS, or a future headset, all you'll need is web access to engage with the infinite possible experiences brands can bring to life through this technology.

Why does this matter for brands? For one thing, it affords marketers massive reach. When anyone with a smartphone can access an experience, brands unlock a massive pool of consumers. And consumers are hungry for AR experiences, with at least 54% of mobile AR users engaging weekly, and at least 75% monthly.

Second, WebAR allows for easier access to AR experiences. One of the main points of friction preventing consumers from enjoying AR – the need to download an app – is completely removed. Downloading a new app is a major drawback for consumers, but switching to browser-based technology streamlines the experience.

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AR drives increased ROI across the purchasing funnel

As consumers demand more immersive experiences, brands will embrace the full potential of WebAR to extend the life of campaigns and create richer, more meaningful relationships with customers. This year, AR will become a bigger part of the e-commerce experience, driving dwell time, click-through rate, sales and more while matching heightened consumer expectations for shopping experiences.

With global retail e-commerce sales expected to pass $8tn by 2026, WebAR helps brands unlock the full potential of this boom. For online shoppers, it collapses the purchasing funnel without taking anything away from the customer journey. Consumers move from awareness to intent to purchase, all within one experience that can be accessed without an app and seamlessly integrated into existing e-commerce channels.

For example, Saatchi Art launched a WebAR feature on its website called ‘View My Room’ which allowed art buyers to view over one million pieces virtually. This feature lets buyers see how the artwork looked in advance – a key element in purchase consideration – and resulted in an average 17% increase in spending.

Retail brands will lead the charge on AR commerce

This year, expect retail brands to use WebAR to make the bricks-and-mortar experience more digital and the e-commerce experience more physical, all while driving ROI and continuing to delight consumers.

We’re already seeing adoption in e-commerce, with AR enabling customers to see how different clothes look on them, or see how different items would fit into their living rooms. Adding this more physical and personalized element to e-commerce gives customers more information, increases sales, and reduces return rates, leading to a more satisfying experience. In 2023, this will become more commonplace and part of every consumer’s expectations when they enter their customer journey.

Equally, AR can augment bricks-and-mortar locations to keep the shopping experience fresh. Brands can use AR to enhance their in-store experience, and to drive foot traffic with location-based WebAR experiences. These engaging, personalized experiences give consumers a new reason to shop in-store, leading to more business. Retail brands can even gamify the shopping experiences via activations like in-store scavenger hunts which encourage consumers to spend more time shopping and discovering new items.

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