Amazon Opens East London Salon, Featuring Augmented Reality and “Point-and-Learn” Technology

Taking “try before you buy” to another dimension
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· 3 min read

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Amazon is opening a 1,500-square-foot, tech-first hair salon in East London.

We’ve started a new paragraph to give your brain time to process the above.

Amazon Salon is a rare in-person foray into the small but growing world of commerce-oriented augmented reality. The store takes try-before-you-buy to a new level, giving customers a demo or their hair in various virtual colors. They can preview a pink 'do before fully committing.

  • Product selection runs on “point-and-learn” technology. If you like that accessory on the display shelf, scan the QR code, tap buy, then voilà, the product is delivered to your house.
  • The salon will open to employees first and to the general public “in the coming weeks.”

But...why? A working theory

Amazon leans on brick-and-mortar stores to test cashierless technology, computer vision, and smart shopping carts. Why not AR too?

It’s already layered in one key digital channel—Amazon’s mobile app. On newer iPhones and Androids, “View in Your Room” lets shoppers virtually sample products via AR. Graphics are rendered to scale, giving customers a sense of how a couch would look in their living room.

Unlike other Amazon retail efforts, Salon does not have a multi-store destiny. The London store is instead simply an “experiential venue” to test and showcase new technology.

AR x commerce, fad or future?

As of October, only 1% of US adults had tapped AR to help make a purchase. Retailers could do more to boost their features’ usability and discoverability. And since the technology likely increases purchase intent, it’s not going away. To that end, presenting exhibits A thru D:

  1. AR filters are popular on platforms that aspire to be social commerce hubs. Snap just acquired an AI company that matches customers with clothing sizes.
  2. Big-name beauty brands have added AR try-on experiences to their online presence, enabled by Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube, and more.
  3. Apple and Google are heavily investing in their respective ARKit and ARCore software development kits. As mobile depth-sensing and motion-tracking gets better, virtually trying on shoes or eyeliner will feel more high-fidelity.
  4. This week, Ikea rolled out a new AR app.

Bottom line: Amazon Salon pairs AR with a service that can't be delivered online, and swaps the traditional store for an inventory-light, experience-driven product.

Amazon likely hopes to observe how consumers interact with the technology IRL. That could help it roll up more AR features into its e-commerce offerings or, even more speculatively, build technology it could sell to others.

+ While we’re here: Amazon’s palm-reading machines will soon roll out to seven more Seattle Whole Foods locations. —RD

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