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October 24, 2023

4 Ways to Create Unforgettable Holiday Shopping Experiences


Australian retailers are under pressure to stand out and secure their piece of the holiday shopping pie as cost-of-living pressures continue to influence consumer spending habits. Recent research reveals that both in-store and online retail have seen a slowdown in spending across Australia.

As consumers become increasingly selective with where and when they spend their money, it’s up to retailers to find creative and engaging ways to entice them. The onus is on retailers to up the ante, making their offerings not only desirable but absolutely unforgettable — or risk being left behind.

Understanding the “strategic shopper”

Australia Post research reveals that the key to success this holiday season lies in understanding the “strategic shopper”:

  • Consumers are looking for added value in their purchases
  • Loyalty and engagement are vital to retaining and attracting customers
  • Online sales events are a boon for driving online shopping activity
  • Simple and free returns are not just a nicety, but a customer expectation

These insights, when combined with the capabilities of augmented reality (AR), geo-mapping, gamification and exciting reward systems, enable retailers to differentiate themselves in a crowded market and carve out their share of the holiday shopping bounty.

AR for the holiday shopping win

A recent report demonstrates that shopping is the number one reason Australian consumers use AR, with more than half (53%) affirming that it makes retail experiences easier, better and faster overall. What’s more, three in five (60%) consumers agree that AR helps them shop in new and exciting ways. 

For Australian retailers, the results of leveraging AR in their campaigns have been nothing short of impressive: 

  • 80% improved brand awareness by using AR filters, lenses and/or effects
  • 90% believe AR helps them to improve their brand engagement and appeal to younger audiences
  • 78% say AR helps to drive sales, acquire new customers and drive performance metrics
  • 82% agree that AR allows products or events to feel more accessible
  • 68% think that the number of returns a customer makes can be reduced by using AR in marketing campaigns

The power of immersive experiences

Immersive experiences, including AR, gaming, geo-mapping and rewards, have the power to revolutionise the holiday shopping experience. These technologies enable retailers to connect with consumers on a deeper level, making shopping more interactive, entertaining and rewarding. 

At a glance:

  • AR: AR is a technology that overlays digital information, such as images, videos or 3D models, onto the real world through a smartphone or specialised headset. By leveraging AR, retailers can create unique and engaging experiences, enhancing the way consumers interact with products and brands.
  • Gamification: Gaming elements incorporated into the holiday shopping experience can turn what used to be a mundane task into an exciting adventure. Gamification encourages shoppers to actively participate, earn rewards and compete, making the shopping journey less about spending and more about fun.
  • Rewards: Incorporating rewards into the mix adds an extra layer of motivation for shoppers. By offering exclusive discounts, early access to deals or loyalty points, retailers not only incentivise purchases but also foster a sense of excitement and satisfaction. This small act can turn shoppers into loyal customers who eagerly anticipate each holiday season.
  • Geo-mapping: By integrating geo-mapping into the gaming experience, retailers can attract foot traffic to their physical stores during holiday seasons, engage customers in interactive treasure hunts and offer enticing rewards like discounts or prizes as incentives for exploration.

4 ways to create unforgettable shopping experiences this holiday season 

There are numerous advantages to crafting immersive experiences through innovative technology. Now, let's explore how to do it well. Below are four dynamic strategies retailers can employ to distinguish themselves this holiday season, putting immersive experiences to work for them: 

  1. Make shopping fun and engaging with AR: With AR, the sky’s the limit for fun and engaging holiday shopping experiences. To offer an idea, retailers could develop AR experiences that tell a brand or product story. For instance, scanning a holiday-themed display could trigger an animated story that engages shoppers and immerses them in the brand's narrative.

    Retailers could also provide shoppers with the ability to use AR to decorate their homes virtually with holiday-themed items. This could include trying out different Christmas tree decorations, lighting options or even virtual fireplaces to set the holiday mood.
  2. Foster stronger loyalty and engagement with gamification: From loyalty programs to limited-time challenges, retailers can take their holiday marketing campaigns to new heights using gamification. Gamification not only enhances the relationship between brands and customers but also turns shopping into an entertaining and rewarding activity.

    Starbucks' "Starbucks for Life" campaign is a prime example of how gamification can be used to drive customer engagement and sales during the holiday season. In this campaign, Starbucks customers were encouraged to participate by making purchases and collecting game pieces through their Starbucks Rewards accounts.

    These game pieces were virtual and could be collected by making specific purchases or engaging with the brand in various ways. Customers could then use these game pieces to fill out game boards for a chance to win prizes, including free coffee for a week, a month or even Starbucks for life.
  3. Driving online shopping through rewards: Whether it's to celebrate milestones or offer exclusive discounts, there may be no better time to reward shoppers than during an economic downturn. Amazon Prime serves as an excellent example of how to boost online shopping activity using rewards."

    The eCommerce powerhouse offers its Prime members a range of exclusive benefits during the holiday season from free shipping to exclusive deals and discounts. Taking it a step further, when members use their special Prime Visa card to shop, it opens them up to receiving even more discounts and cash-back rewards.
  4. “Try before you buy”: Similar to mobile AR try-on experiences, virtual fitting rooms work wonders for retailers, allowing shoppers to try on items without physically touching them. At the same time, they also provide retailers a way to offer items that might not currently be in stock. Surging in popularity, the global virtual fitting room market is expected to reach AU$31.93 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 24.1 per cent from 2023 to 2030.

Retailers like Ralph Lauren and Adidas have added virtual fitting rooms to their most popular physical stores, providing customers with new shopping options – all while increasing conversion and reducing returns in the process.

The Australian brand getting immersive experiences right

Billson’s is a specialty beverage brand and one of Australia's oldest breweries. Founded in 1865, Billson’s Brewery is located in Beechworth, Victoria, where people can visit its tasting room for drinks, meals and entertainment. The brand’s range of cordials, sodas and spirits are stocked in retail stores across the country.

Billson’s was looking for an experience that would engage customers beyond the traditional digital and social channels. The innovative retailer wanted to capitalise on the travellers coming to Beechworth for the Easter holidays by launching a new, limited-edition golden honeycomb cordial in an innovative way and while there, get them back into Billson’s brewery.

The innovative solution

Leveraging the large number of people travelling to Beechworth for the April holidays, XRii’s AR scavenger hunt drove people to historical sites around Beechworth to explore the region and join the hunt for Billson’s beverages. Once all the AR cordials were collected, customers were rewarded with a free bottle of their limited edition cordial flavour that they could redeem at the brewery. Signage in local businesses, as well as promotion on Billson’s highly engaged social media channels, spread the word about the activation and encouraged people to take part in the experience.

Ideation was a collaborative process between Billson’s and XRii, and the custom app was designed, developed and deployed by the XRii team. “The whole XRii team were amazing from ideation through to the development of the app. The way we were able to utilise their technology to bring even more fun and connection to the brand was really special to help us really connect with our consumers,” said Billson’s Marketing Manager Molly Wescott. 

Impressive results

The results of the campaign were nothing short of impressive. The XRii experience accomplished both goals of engaging people in-venue and distributing their limited edition cordial. Ultimately, it increased revenue spent in-store over the holidays and attracted new audiences to the brewery. 

The brand new Billson’s app, powered by XRii, also reached the top charts in the Apple app store settling into slot #42 in the Shopping category. The experience was so well-received that it was extended to span over the Anzac Day long weekend, making the campaign live for a total of three weeks.

Results at a glance: 

  • 2,629 app downloads
  • 91% of downloads converted to sign-up
  • 696 users redeemed the reward and collected their limited-edition bottles
  • Ranked #42 on the Apple App Store

Transforming the holiday shopping experience 

In the midst of cost-of-living pressures and a slowdown in consumer spending, Australian retailers face a critical moment to seize the opportunity presented by innovative technology. The imperative is clear: Act now to transform the holiday shopping experience into something unforgettable. 

By harnessing the power of AR, gamification, geo-mapping and enticing reward systems, retailers will not only meet the demands of the strategic shopper but also revolutionise the way consumers engage with their brands. The time to captivate and secure a piece of the holiday shopping pie is here. And those who embrace these immersive experiences will undoubtedly stand out in a competitive market.

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