Casper Thykier, co-founder and CEO at Zappar, creative studio and AR platform, explores how technology can be used to adapt to societal changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It’s safe to say that COVID-19 has changed our lives. Like many other companies, the Zappar team is now working remotely and coordinating activities from our home’s four walls. Talking to teams over Slack, managing plans disrupted by the coronavirus, and adapting to a new climate have all been new challenges for us and the team. Our home lives have blended with our work so closely and intimately that families are careful about making sure the lines do not cross. 

In these new times, we are all adapting. But this too shall pass, and we will do everything we can to support our key workers out there doing all they can to help the spread of the virus. As society shifts, technology can help. If the situation highlights anything, it’s the fact that technology underpins everything we do. Technology helps to connect all homes across the world and ensures we stick to one another. Whether it’s calls with colleagues or catch-ups with friends, we are reliant on the technological framework of our society. We can shape the technology to our needs. The outcome of these benefits can last for many years afterwards. 

One undeniable truth about COVID-19 is that is has likely changed our consumer buying habits forever. We were already seeing a long and gradual move towards m-commerce in general and the current pandemic has accelerated that trend. That’s not to say that retail is dead but when it comes to more functional requirements for groceries, electronics and white goods for instance it’s hard to see that the shift to online will recede once lockdown has eased and we are in the new normal.

That opens up new opportunities for brands in thinking about how they approach this new at-home occasion. We’re already seeing AR applications for product visualisations and virtual try-ons. The other new media channel available to brands of course is product packaging itself. In fact, it’s a huge untapped opportunity. Billions of dollars are spent perfecting the passive print that adorns our cupboard shelves and for the most part they remain silent or fit to burst with information squeezed into their limited format size whilst accommodating all the legal and language requirements and other messaging. 

With AR, product packaging is transformed into an always-on digital discovery channel with new ways to delve into the product story, it’s provenance, ingredients, sustainability credentials and recyclability, whilst also offering news ways to cross-sell, upsell and offer repurchase incentives D2C. This information can be personalised, made contextually relevant and updated throughout the product’s life-cycle offering ‘how to’ tips and guides for use and trouble-shooting at the exact moment of assistance. Whilst all the while produced near real-time data on how your product is being used, when and by whom to inform your overall product, marketing and media strategy. In an instant your pack becomes your store front, promotional canvas and product showcase through AR, delivering a direct conversation with your consumers through the device that matters most to them in their lives. 

The consequences of COVID-19 will end, as temporary barriers erected during new normality. But the ramifications of these restrictions will echo for years afterward. Sometimes it isn’t about the technology that’s already out there; it’s using what you have to try something new. As people are stuck at home, companies are getting creative about how best to approach consumers who can’t walk down to their local high street. All these new developments may shrink in size, but they will never disappear.