Meredith Corporation has been committed to service journalism for 118 years. Meredith uses multiple distribution platforms—including broadcast television, print, digital and video—to provide consumers with content they desire and to deliver the messages of its advertising and marketing partners.
Meredith's National Media Group reaches over 190 million unduplicated American consumers every month, including nearly 95 percent of U.S. women. Meredith is the No. 1 magazine operator in the U.S. and owner of the largest premium content digital network for American consumers. The company publishes some of the most popular magazines in the U.S., including InStyle, PEOPLE, PEOPLE en Español, Better Homes & Gardens, REAL SIMPLE, SHAPE, and FOOD & WINE. A pioneer in digital media, Meredith sought a way to bridge the gap between print and digital.“We're always searching for new ways to use technology to engage readers, especially on our print side,” says Peachy-Jean Retizos, Senior Manager, Innovation, at Meredith Corporation. “With smartphones we realized that QR Codes could be used as a bridge to carry our print readers into an AR [augmented reality] experience of virtual try-ons. The key was finding the right AR technology partner, because we needed to ensure a rich, life-like experience for our readers.”
Launch Pad: Meredith uses smart codes in its print magazines to launch readers into augmented reality virtual try-ons.
Meredith found its ideal technology partner with Perfect Corp. and the Perfect Corp. AR platform. Perfect Corp. combines powerful artificial intelligence (AI) with its industry-leading AR to provide stunningly lifelike results that delight customers. Meredith chose Perfect Corp. after evaluating other AR solutions.
“We met with other companies as part of our due dilligence, but the quality of Perfect Corp.’s technology is just unparalled,” Retizos says. “And when offering readers an AR virtual try-on experience, quality is everything. The high quality of Perfect Corp.’s AR means that our readers want to come back and do it again and again and again.
Meredith brought plenty of innovation to the table in its use of QR codes, which it refers to as smart codes. The company embeds smart codes in articles featuring beauty tips, as well as in content from its ad partners.
Whether launching from an article or an ad, the experience is the same. Readers are invited to try on the look, or to shop the look. Scanning the smart code with their smartphone, the reader is taken to the product’s site, and asked for permission to use their camera. Upon agreeing, the virtual try-on immediately loads—delighting the reader with a rich AR experience that allows them to see how products look on themselves.Using Perfect Corp. technology, Meredith gives readers the chance to try new hair colors, lipsticks, eye shadows, blush, and other beauty products—either individually, or in combination, depending upon the article subject or ad partner offering.
Retizos is delighted with the way Perfect Corp.’s AR technology has created the bridge she envisioned for providing a smart code gateway from print to a full AR experience. She notes that Perfect Corp.’s ability to seamlessly integrate through use of smart codes provides readers with an unbroken transition—no need to ask them to download a separate application which can become a roadblock.
“We have definitely opened a gateway connecting print and tech for our readers,” Retizos says. “And this allows us to tell a more holistic story. Whatever story we're telling, we now have the ability to get our print readers to experience it through the smart code and Perfect Corp. AR. It's great.”The gateway is especially relevant during the pandemic, as Meredith sees an uptick in print sales and subscriptions. “People, more than ever, value the pleasure of paging through a physical magazine,” Retizos says. “With our smart codes and Perfect Corp. AR, we can give them the best of both worlds.”
The due diligence Meredith Corporation put into choosing Perfect Corp. as its AR technology partner proved its value with the quality experience readers are enjoying.
“Everyone loves it, especially our millennial and Gen Z audience, which has already embraced the concept of AR through use of filters and other experiences,” Retizos says. “Perfect Corp. has helped us achieve our goal of offering our print readers new ways to consume content and to launch into new experiences with AR.”
Reader feedback has been great—with editorial teams seeing a special desire for AR-powered virtual try-ons for hair color—considered the most difficult AR to achieve.
“With the pandemic, hair color is the biggest request we get, as people stuck at home want to try new colors,” Retizos says. “I continually get ‘wowed!’ by how realistic the Perfect Corp. AR is. It detects your hairline and also moves with you—which is something that other AR apps I’ve seen can’t do. With others, the AR is like a mask. But with Perfect Corp., you can move your head and see your hair from different angles, which is exactly what our readers want to do.”
Meredith Corporation, curious to gauge the impact of offering AR experiences, conducted a study of AR’s impact with its InStyle magazine.“When we pulled the metrics, we found that reader engagement for our AR offerings were three times greater than our non-AR digital ads,” Retizos says. “Seeing this higher engagement demonstrated that our readers enjoyed the opportunity to immerse themselves in a high-quality virtual try-on experience.”
Meredith Cor poration performed a test to gauge the power of its print media to drive traffic to a site that was also being promoted digitally from its web site.
“We had an augmented reality feature on our site that we promoted with on-site ads, and that we also promoted within InStyle using smart codes,” Retizos says. “We were surprised to see that 50% of the traffic to the site came from our print readers using the smart code. This further validated the success of our offering readers the chance to easily jump into an AR experience.”
Meredith Corporation’s ad partners are finding big value in the company’s bridging the world of print to digital with incredible AR virtual try-on experiences for the readers they want to reach.
“Our use of smart codes and AR virtual try-ons definitely resonates with our ad partners,” Retizos says. “Their ears perk up because this opens so many opportunities for them to engage with their customers in such a personal way. And we’re able to provide that shoppable functionality, so their customers can go directly from trying something on with AR to making a purchase.”
Ad partners also value the rich metrics that Meredith can give them based on the data that the platform captures from each virtual try-on.“Our ad partners are impressed that we can give them numbers,” Retizos says. “We can provide tangible information: How many people tried it on, what was the conversion rate. We’re still in the early stages, but I can see this becoming something of an R&D tool for our ad partners—trying out different shades, new offerings, and seeing what most captures the attention of our readers as they virtually try things on. Working with Perfect Corp., we get to provide our ad partners with an extremely valuable feedback loop that’s coming straight from their own customers.”
The COVID pandemic has underscored the immense safety benefits of using augmented reality, instead of placing your finger in a sample jar that countless others have used, or applying demo lipstick. AR has also provided a sense of fun and exploration for consumers who are working from home and isolated in other ways from family and friends. Retizos notes that AR makes it far easier to experiment with hair color, for example. Trying a new color in real life can take months to grow out—or concerted cleanings—to remove, while AR allows a consumer to work their way through the rainbow—and beyond—at whatever pace they like, on their way to finding a color they might actually like to make part of their life. “This pandemic world has very much exponentially sped up consumers becoming educated on the power and joy of augmented reality,” Retizos says. “AR is touchless, contactless, lifelike, and fun. All you need is a smartphone to explore a world of possibilities. We see this eagerness to try the new through our readers using our smart codes.”