Instagram Shifts into Augmented Reality Heavyweight with Spark AR - Social Media Explorer
Instagram Shifts into Augmented Reality Heavyweight with Spark AR
Instagram Shifts into Augmented Reality Heavyweight with Spark AR

Spark AR is now unlocked for brands worldwide to create head-turning experiences for their audiences.

Instagram is on its way from existing as an aesthetically-pleasing way to catch up with friends, to transforming into a full-fledged augmented reality powerhouse. By unlocking Spark AR (formerly known as Camera Effects), which was closed for beta until recently, anyone now has the ability to create and share an augmented reality experience with their followers, no coding required.

This new feature is the latest in Facebook’s push to be a leader in e-commerce while driving growth through interactive content marketing. Facebook and Instagram have already integrated an arsenal of shopping incentives within their toolbox including Shopping Tags, Camera Effects, in-app checkout, shopping ads, Send Message call-to-action on Stories and more.

Facebook, who owns Instagram, is hedging its bets that the interactive Spark AR will propel additional revenue for brands and continued ad spend into Facebook Ads Manager. From reviewing the successful case studies and audience participation received during the beta testing period, it looks like AR is set to be a homerun for those who can execute it effectively. 

Spark AR Creates Unique Experiences Through Interactive Effects

After first introducing in-app checkout back in March and the worldwide launch of Spark AR, it’s clear that Instagram is ready to challenge the e-commerce industry, hard.

One of the experiences Instagram hopes to capitalize on is the “at home try on” capability, which can simulate a virtual dressing room or makeup counter. By allowing users to connect to products on a more personal level, the increase in purchase conversions in inevitable. For cosmetic and fashion brands such as Nars and Ray-Ban, this is a can’t-miss opportunity.

Nars and Ray-Ban: Two Brilliant AR Case Studies 

During the initial Spark AR beta testing phase, NARS Cosmetics brilliantly executed shopping ads where users can use their in-app camera to “try on” different colors and styles, seeing how each product looked against skin tone in real time. From there, customers can make a purchase directly by selecting the “Add to Bag” button.

Ray-Ban recently tested the “at home try on” feature by offering selected frames available in the product feed. Directed from shoppable posts, Instagram users can learn more about each pair including price, description, as well as previewing how they’ll look before purchase!

The process from initial product view to checkout is about as seamless as possible without ever being directed to third-party apps or websites. Although with my own testing, there are still a few bugs to work out, like clunky UX returning to the home feed after adding a product to your bag. But overall, the experience is a game changer for both marketers and consumers.

Especially leading into the Q4 holiday shopping season.

Best Practices to Use Spark AR Effects

Until now, Instagram’s native shopping effects were only available to a select number of brand partners, but now everyone can create and publish their own Spark effects and filters on Instagram Stories!

Spark Effects do not have to be limited to fashion accounts to be used effectively, there’s also a glowing opportunity for personal brands and publishers to get in on the action.

Filters for Stories

Media publishers, causes, or regular folks like the rest of us can design their own interactive effects via facial recognition filters .

As a Social Media Marketing nerd, I decided to try the Nars filter for myself, and I was not disappointed. 

To access:

  • Navigate to @narcissist account
  • Click the shopping tag (circled)
  • Browse products available for Augmented Reality try on.
  • Voila! View the cosmetics on yourself or take selfies to send to friends.
  • If you like any of them, simply add the product to your bag and purchase directly through Instagram.

Of course, the custom filters are not limited to e-commerce. Influencers and personal brands can create their own filters – like Taylor Swift for the release of her ME! Album.

As an added layer of social impact, charities and causes can get in on the interactive feature, too. Most notably, Rihanna shined bright like a diamond to promote the Diamond Ball and Clara Lionel Foundation. Her AR effect adds a sparkling diamond headpiece to your selfie or video.

If you already follow Rihanna on Instagram, this filter can easily be found in the “Following” tab of the filter library. 

This is a great example of how personal brands can use Augmented Reality filters to raise awareness for causes they work with or care about.

How to Access Custom Filters as a User

  1. Navigate to Stories as usual, and turn the camera facing you.
  2. Select the smiley face icon furthest to the right.
  3. Browse Instagram provided filters or scroll to the right to view “more effects” in a variety of categories ranging from “Causes” to “Animals” to custom filters created by accounts you already follow.

Other Strategy Ideas to Employ Augmented Reality

  • Developers can create 3D gamified experiences to play from smartphones
  • Product demonstrations that can be manipulated and inspected 
  • Partner with Influencers to create branded filters that relate to their target audience
  • Repurpose audience filter use for User-Generated Content
  • Use Spark AR to unlock coupons and scan products directly from smartphones

How Marketers Can Master Spark AR 

Are you ready to begin creating your own filters and effects? Luckily Instagram makes it easy to get started with a streamlined platform that includes a variety of helpful resources.

First, download the Spark AR Studio program to immediately begin building your own effects. Don’t fret, this program is designed to be used by any skill level. To learn the basics, the Spark AR studio provides real world examples help “spark” inspiration or even connect with other creators. 

Of course, to be a great marketer, you have to learn from the best. Join the free Spark AR Facebook community where other creators are eager to help answer your questions, provide feedback, or simply bounce ideas off one another. 

On that note, go ahead and follow the Spark AR Creators on Facebook and Instagram so you’ll be the first to see their posts. 

Once you’ve found the inspiration for your bright idea, review the documentation and guides how to build your own AR effects (including objects, gamification, texture, and facial recognition filters) and learn how to submit effects for publishing and a detailed explanation of Facebook’s approval process.

Ready to Launch Spark AR for Your Business?

Since more than 1 billion people have used AR effected on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Portal, there is absolutely a unique opportunity to carve space for your business with 1-on-1 interactive experiences.

Just remember that if you create effects that are promotional in nature, you must let Instagram know when its uploaded via Spark AR Hub. If you’re wondering what constitutes as “promotional” simply follow the criteria provided by Instagram below.

An effect is promotional if it includes a:

  • Brand name
  • Logo
  • Product name
  • Product image

Once your first effect is approved, you’re on your way to maximizing engagement and purchases by connecting emotional value that simply cannot be replicated by the traditional e-commerce experience.

 Happy designing!

Chelse Hensley is a Social Media strategist and consultant who specializes in e-commerce and customer experience. She’s also a fierce enthusiast for cappuccino and meme trends.

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