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Credit by Tommy Palladino

Count Puma as the latest brand to pump up the customer experience in its stores with augmented reality, as the brand recently celebrated the opening of its flagship New York City store and the launch of its new basketball line with a web-based AR activation.

By scanning QR codes at two in-store displays via the mobile web app, shoppers can interact with Puma's mascot and get directions to the basketball section of the store.

The experience continues with the shoes themselves. The seven styles in the basketball line-up each include hangtags that trigger a unique AR content

"Our newest flagship store is truly alive with innovation," said Russ Kahn, senior vice president of retail, Puma North America, in a statement. "Upon entering our store, customers receive richer, dynamic engagement with both our Puma brand and our individual products."

Conceived by creative agency Alternative Genius, the experience is built with Zappar's new web-based AR capabilities, which the company introduced in Zapworks Studio 6.

"With shoppers increasingly likely to use their smartphones while browsing in a store, augmented reality optimizes this growing channel by giving Puma new ways to interact with customers -- strengthening relationships and increasing the propensity to purchase," said Max Dawes, managing director at Zappar, in a statement provided to Next Reality. "WebAR enhances the experience further by removing the friction of downloading an app and allowing for the instant distribution of this exciting AR content to every device via the web browser on shopper's smartphones."

The QR codes were created by Zappar's connected devices partner Evrythng. When scanned, the QR codes record user data so that Puma can measure shopper behavior.

"Puma is on the cutting edge, leading the way in retail innovation with dynamic, digital in-store consumer experiences," said Niall Murphy, CEO and co-founder of Evrythng. "By digitizing every product in the NYC flagship store, Puma is enriching the direct-to-consumer relationship and delighting its customers. At the same time, Puma now has a scalable platform to gather real-time data intelligence to inform business strategies."

A focus on basketball, including a partnership with the NBA and a push to sign pro basketball players to endorsement deals is key to Puma's recent resurgence. And, like its competitors in the sneaker business, the brand has its eye on AR as well.

After launching the LQD Cell Origin AR, an AR-centric shoe line, in April, Puma joins its peers Nike and Adidas by experimenting with AR in brick-and-mortar stores.

The experience also represents a big win for Zappar's newly-minted web AR platform. But the sector is now a crowded one, with startups 8th Wall and Vertebraelanding high-profile ad clients, while the rebooted Blippar has also returned with its own web-based platform. Moreover, Apple and Google also have their own native toolkits, AR Quick Look and Scene Viewer, available for iOS and Android, both of which take a bit of the wind out of the sails of third-party web AR solutions.

However, Zappar's easy-to-use platform, paired with the data collected by partner Evrythng, may serve to help the company differentiate itself in the increasingly competitive AR space.

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