Boosting Sales Using AR Effects for Social Media

Augmented Reality first came to social media through Snapchat. The ability to take selfies with added virtual pet ears together with Pokemon Go became the pioneering applications of using AR on smartphones. And even though the biggest companies are constantly working on AR glasses, it looks like the mobile camera will remain the primary AR medium for a long time ahead.

Currently, there are many AR apps and games available for Android and iOS, including communicators and social media platforms. But only three of them – Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat (and soon, TikTok) – make it possible for any brand to publish their own AR effect for promotional and sales’ boosting purposes.

AR effects can engage an existing group of followers, help to gain new ones and encourage purchase without the need to download any additional app. There are a few main reasons why brands decide to use social media AR effects rather than developing a standalone application are:

  • wide range of distribution methods,
  • relatively low costs,
  • fast development (up to 2 weeks),
  • and flexible ways of promotion.

Of course, those advantages come with some technological limitations. AR effects have to be light-weighted so they can work even on slower smartphones and their functionalities are focused on the upper body parts, especially face. For example, there is no option to try on shoes or to measure the real dimensions of the room yet.

💡 Remember

AR effects are also referred to as filters, masks or lenses (especially in reference to Snapchat). They can work on both front and rear cameras. Effects using the front camera usually modify the look of the user (most often their face) and those using the rear camera augment our surroundings, eg. putting a 3D object, e.g. a car on a flat surface.


Snapchat AR effects are called lenses, and Lens Studio is a dedicated software to develop them. When it comes to Instagram and Facebook, AR effects are developed in the same software called Spark AR Studio.

Current AR functionalities (April, 2020) Instagram Facebook Snapchat
Face masks, filters and effects Yes Yes Yes
Make-up, hats and sunglasses try-ons Yes Yes Yes
Triggering effects with face gestures Yes Yes Limited
AR games using face gestures as controllers Yes Yes Limited
Segmentation (adding custom, animated backgrounds to your photos) Yes Yes Limited
Putting 3D objects on horizontal surfaces Yes Yes Yes
Putting objects on vertical surfaces No Yes Yes
Target tracking – triggering effects with brand’s logo or other image Yes Yes Yes
Portals to virtual 3D rooms Yes Yes Yes
Dedicated QR codes Soon Soon Snapcodes
Pet tracking – making effects for cats and dogs No No Yes
Body tracking Limited Limited Limited
Geotargeting (publishing effects for specific regions) No Yes Yes


How AR can boost sales?

Despite the fact that social media AR effects work within the cameras of specific apps, they are extremely flexible when it comes to their distribution. Besides methods typical for each of the platforms, we can utilize any other form of advertising directed at click-throughs. Every AR effect has its own link which opens a proper social media app and activates the effect inside its camera. This allows you to incorporate AR effects into a marketing campaign in many various ways, from sponsored newsfeed posts, Instagram Stories, QR codes and influencer activations, all the way to Messenger chatbots, Google Ads or redirections from landing pages.

💡 Remember

After the development and a positive content review of the AR effect, a brand remains its sole owner. The effect remains active for as long as the owner wants, without any maintenance costs.


The main advantage of using AR effects in marketing is the innovative character of the technology and the unprecedented level of a direct interaction between the user and a product or a brand. Addictive AR games, entertaining AR contests and other fun effects happen to be the perfect tool to surprise and engage fans, to raise brand awareness or to present a new product.

It’s a good strategy to use innovative promotional formats such as AR on special occasions like holidays, premieres, festivals or sporting events. To give an example, for the 2018 World Cup, Samsung organized a contest using a Messenger chatbot. One of the challenges was to bounce a ball with your head as many times as you can in a Facebook AR game, where the controller was your actual head!

Advantages of using AR in marketing

  • innovativeness,
  • direct interaction with the product or a brand hero,
  • high level of engagement without distractions or banner blindness,
  • a perfect way to gather personalized user-generated content
  • time spent with AR effect is usually much longer than with most other formats.

Read more: 10 Purposes of Using AR Effects in Social Media Marketing

AR effects can be used by virtually anyone as a part of a marketing campaign. There are some industries, though, that can also use them as a practical sales tool. They are, indeed, already being used by cosmetic and fashion industries to offer virtual try-ons of make-up, hats and glasses. Sephora, Yves Saint Laurent or Fenty Beauty are just a few examples of many brands that used AR effects to give their followers a chance to try-on their products.

Read more: Why Luxury Brands Love Instagram AR?

A well-thought-out sales boosting campaign including AR try-on will be concerned with providing the users with a simple way to be redirected from the effect to an online store or to share their new look with friends and online followers. For now, both Instagram and Snapchat don’t allow redirections outside of the effect, so the best available option is to use a Messenger chatbot for AR effect distribution and further product recommendation or Facebook AR ads – a relatively new format that enables brands to place a button over the camera view when their effect is active.

How to launch a campaign using an AR effect?

Even so the software for developing AR effects is free, contacting one of the professional creative studios is the best way to obtain a high-quality, artful AR effect that will relate to the rest of the campaign or the brand’s personality in a clever way. Most of them work together with the client every step of the way, from coming up with the perfect idea and preparing a mockup, up to creating animations and 3D assets, developing an effect and supporting the client with the publication and distribution.

There are a few things to consider when organizing an AR campaign. The first one is a proper choice of a platform. The hottest one is, of course, Instagram. It is the most popular photo and video-sharing social network, it has an active community of creators, and AR effects are simply one of the most quickly growing trends there. Many interesting AR campaigns find their way to Snapchat, but only on the markets where the platform is still as popular as it was globally a few years ago. Facebook AR effects are a good choice when we want to redirect users to our website or an e-store or we don’t have an audience on Instagram or Snapchat. A chance for organic growth is almost nonexistent there, though.

Another very important task is to describe a goal of the campaign. AR effects are most often used to engage, bring fun and raise awareness, but it’s definitely worth looking at how they could serve as a practical tool and a sales aid. A decision to transfer a part of the budget to develop and promote an AR effect can be compensated later by a much wider reach and higher level of effectiveness of the whole campaign.

One of the crucial aspects of launching an AR effect is effective distribution and coherence of the effect with the rest of the promotional campaign. To fully explore the potential of AR marketing, plan your steps carefully, but don’t hesitate to brainstorm and be creative. It should be obvious that the most engaging effects are those that relate to the content that followers are already familiar with.

When publishing an AR effect, it’s important to:

  • choose the most suitable social network,
  • escribe the goal of a campaign,
  • plan the effect’s distribution,
  • include it into a wider campaign,
  • make sure it doesn’t violate rules of the platform.

Summing up

AR effects are getting more and more popular, but they are still considered one of the most innovative and engaging forms of promotion. They offer fun and personalized experiences based on a direct connection with the brand. Cosmetic and fashion brands are those that should immediately launch their own Instagram AR effect, but on Lenslist there are thousands of examples of promotional effects created for many other industries. The success of your AR campaign will be determined by a few simple factors: extraordinary idea, familiar subject, well-thought-out distribution and coherence with your brand’s identity.

This is a translation of the article that appeared in a Polish magazine “Social Media Manager”.