August 20, 2019
By Hannah Huston

As the end of 2017 approaches, the annual Holiday shopping spree is drawing to a close. For years now, online shopping has increased in popularity due to convenience and lack of jostling crowds. This switch from traditional shopping methods has been great for online retailers, such as Amazon and Jet!, but has made it difficult for brick-and-mortar shops to compete. Physical shops have lost sales for years to online retailers, but this year they turned to new technology to try and entice shoppers out of their cozy homes and back into the malls. This technology isn't just great for physical stores, but can also be implemented at events. Event planners take note!

How are they doing this? Augmented reality (AR). AR has been a hot topic for years and we predicted AR as a tech trend to look out for in 2017. It looks like AR is expected to take off in 2018 and the new forms of adoption show that AR isn't "just for fun" (think: Pokémon Go and Snapchat filters).

Virtual Try-On

When used in-store, augmented reality can enhance the customer experience in a way that online retailers can't replicate. For example, this holiday season Swarovski launched an augmented way to try on their classic sparkling accessories at a New York pop-up shop. They did this via an app that accurately reflected the real-life sparkle of the pieces. The draw of using AR in a jewelry shop is obvious – with fewer employees you are able to serve more customers and there is a lower risk of potential theft or damage. After using the AR to “try on” the pieces, the customer can make an informed choice about what physical pieces they want to see. Initially tested in their NY pop-up shop, Swarovski released the AR experience to all of their stores on December 11th, giving more people the excuse to go shopping!


Swarovski isn’t the only retailer getting in on technology. In fact, many mall chains across the US are implementing new technologies in store. For example, back in August the Simon Malls chain released a concierge chatbot to answer questions from shoppers. They recently released a second, holiday specific, chatbot called the “Santa Messenger Bot”. This bot was designed with holiday shoppers in mind and suggests gifts based on the recipient's interests. Additionally, Simon Malls released “Santa’s Helpers”, an augmented reality mobile game shoppers can play while at the mall. If shoppers can help Santa finish his tasks, they're entered into a raffle. Centennial Malls is also getting in on the AR fun. Using the Centennial AR app, shoppers can bring holiday friends to life by pointing their phones at posters.  The different implementation of AR is fun for shoppers of all ages.

Event Planner Takeaways

Although it's difficult to compete with the ease of online shopping, augmented reality is giving brick-and-mortar shops a competitive edge. So, what can event profs learn from holiday shopping trends? Technology is your friend and can be used to increase engagement. Traditional malls are still struggling with the upsurge in online shopping, but newly implemented technology has enticed shoppers to step away from their computers and visit real stores.

Using a similar method at an event could get attendees talking and keep them engaged as they walk around. Technology is such an ingrained part of our lives that a lack of fun tech at events, or at least a cool Snapchat filter, induces an eye roll. Nowadays, even freeways have their own Snapchat filters! Technology is no longer an event perk - it's expected. Use technology to stand out, not to fit in.


As an event planner, we understand you have too much to do in too little time. AR might not be possible for you yet, but implementing just a bit of technology is a great first step. Start small and work your way up. Your attendees will appreciate the effort and technology will give your event a nice refresh. A great place to start is with a mobile event app. Not only will an app help your attendees stay organized and in-the-know, it will save you time and money in the long run. Take a page from the book of brick-and-mortar retailers and give the gift of technology at your next event.

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