Retail Tech Leaders: Inphantry

The average office worker is able to focus on the task in front of them for just 11 minutes before becoming distracted, for students this drops to just 120 seconds.

Over the past decade we have become a distracted world, with attention spans rivalling that of a goldfish. But in an age where there is an infinite resource of entertainment, from games, to social media, to memes, to cat videos at our fingertips at all times, is it really any wonder?

Despite the as yet undiscovered impact this is set to have on our collective mental wellbeing, this is already proving to be a headscratcher for the retail industry: how do you grab shoppers attention in a world of distractions?

Co-founder of digital experience agency Inphantry Derek Tran believes that in order to overcome the distractions of the physical world, you need to go beyond it.

“AR adds a layer of depth, detail, and information that would otherwise be communicated in more conventional, less immersive ways,” he told Charged.

“It gives the retailer the chance to stand out amongst their competitors, but it must be well executed.”

As the company behind Puma’s recent wildly popular LQD CELL Origin AR project, which allowed users to scan Puma’s new pair of shoes with their smartphone to open up a range of virtual filters, 3D models and games, Inphantry is well versed in how to execute immersive digital campaigns effectively.

Just as with the launch of Nike’s self-lacing trainers earlier this year, Puma’s LQDCELL range captured the imagination of consumers, whipping up excitement across social media with promises of futuristic tech you can wear today.

Inphantry’s other co-founder and creative director Kevin Lee said that “(Puma) knew they needed a way to showcase the new LQDCELL sneaker tech and their colorways were inspired by technology that we’re all familiar with today, such as AR, VR, and drones.

“If it’s just tech for the sake of tech, it’s going to feel like a gimmick. Today’s consumers can smell that right away and they won’t be inclined to take notice”

“They came to us to see if we could incorporate actual tech into their sneaker tech, and everything really took off from there.

“We spent a lot of time researching the demographic of young sneakerheads that we were targeting so we knew how to engage them, but more importantly, we’ve created something that is missing in the athletic / lifestyle fashion world. We’ve built a tool that allows the user to be creative with their purchase and express themselves in entirely new ways through AR technology.”

Puma is just one of a growing list of big brands and retailers who have enlisted the help of Inphantry to produce attention grabbing, unique digital experiences like no other, including TK Maxx, Air Jordan, The Boston Globe and Ebay.

But what role does this technology play in the world of retail, does it simply serve as a modern evolution of the neon sign, or can it be function as something more meaningful?

Though virtual reality (VR) was largely expected to revolutionise the way we interacted with digital media when it was introduced commercially in the mid 2010’s, its adoption has failed to live up to the hype so far.

Conversely its little brother AR, expected by many to act as nothing more than playful gimmicks, has been far more widely adopted thanks to its accessibility and versatility. While VR requires a powerful computer, an expensive headset and most often a static wired connection, AR simply needs a smartphone.

Aside from innovative marketing features, AR offers a solution to a problem which has led to the demise of swathes of retailers over the past three years: space.


Tran explained: “We’ve all seen how powerful AR can be, specifically in the retail sector because it’s extending the experience beyond the store walls. With the native capabilities of today’s smartphones, retailers and brands can allow consumers to “try on” products in their home or virtually anywhere.

“But as we’ve seen with LQDCELL and other brand experiences, AR also offers new ways to market and raise brand awareness. So we’ve seen adoption in the fashion, beauty and home goods industries, but we can imagine all kinds of applications for it.”

Despite its clear effectiveness as a marketing tool, Tran argues that AR alone won’t cut it for today’s savvy consumers.

“It has to be a meaningful experience that engages the user and helps tell the brand’s story. If it’s just tech for the sake of tech, it’s going to feel like a gimmick. Today’s consumers can smell that right away and they won’t be inclined to take notice.”

As smartphones and their cameras get progressively more powerful, the potential capabilities of AR expand in parallel.

Though the retail industry is beginning to appreciate the technology’s potential, it will be down to companies like Inphantry to ensure determine whether it will ultimately be thought of as a marketing gimmick, as many have predicted, or as a meaningful immersive way to engage shoppers with your brand.

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