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How STM Goods is using AR to lift sales

Australian tech accessories brand, STM Goods, has become one of a handful of local retailers using augmented reality (AR) to drive sales.

STM in January released an AR app at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that combines the convenience of e-commerce with the sensory experience of a bricks-and-mortar store.

By downloading the app and pointing their smartphone camera at a ‘trigger’ image, consumers can access a range of AR experiences to virtually try on laptop bags and backpacks, see materials and stitching in detail and even look inside products to see how much they hold.

STM co-founder Ethan Nyholm told Internet Retailing the business has seen a 30 per cent uplift in online sales since launching the app.

“The idea is that customers will engage with AR, then engage with the product, then buy the product. It creates an experience that leads to a sale,” he said.

STM spent around six months building the app using Apple’s ARkit, which Ikea and Redbubble also used to develop AR features in their mobile apps last year. So far, the uplift in sales has not offset the cost of building the app, according to Nyholm.

“I reckon we’ll cross that barrier sometime before the end of the year,” he said, noting that the app was not a one-off investment.

STM will continue investing in building AR functionality and experiences as it launches new products.

“It was a strategic decision to invest in AR. Our company has always been about innovation in terms of product, product design, functionality – this is just an extension of that,” Nyholm said.

A global brand

Nyholm and co-founder Adina Jacobs started STM Goods in 1998 after identifying a gap in the market for more versatile laptop bags.

“I bought a laptop for uni but couldn’t find anything to carry it in except for those black briefcases. We came up with concept of making backpack with a sleeve in it,” he said.

STM now sells a range of bags, cases and other accessories for laptops, tablets and smartphones online through its own website and marketplaces like Amazon, as well as in-store through retail partners like Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi and Apple.

According to Nyholm, the breakdown is about 20 per cent direct-to-consumer and 80 per cent retail.

“We have a global presence in Australia, the US, Asia and Europe. As the internet has become more prevalent, online sales are becoming more and more significant,” he said.

A tool for store staff

While most AR apps are primarily designed to enhance the customer experience for online shoppers, Nyholm also sees an opportunity for STM’s retail partners to use the app to improve the customer experience in-store.

“If you go into a store and want to find out more information about a product, you really have to rely on the staff,” he said.

“At the moment, the number of sales staff in stores is on the decline. The amount of information they need to retain to help someone is nuts. [The app] helps them talk about the product and guide customers through the product intelligently.”

This could also help drive AR adoption by individual consumers, which Nyholm admits is still quite low.

“It’s very much the early adopters [using the app],” he said.

“From our perspective, changing people’s behaviour is difficult. If we can have an influence on sales people and store managers and change their behaviour, hopefully it will start changing other people’s behaviour.”

According to Nyholm, the app has been downloaded globally around 1,500 times so far. Eventually, he wants to embed AR features directly into the website, so consumers can access these experiences without downloading an app at all.

“In future, there won’t be any still images of products on the website. You’ll be able to interact with them using AR to turn the product around, change colour, try it on and dive inside,” he said.

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