Puma is kicking up its digital game with its first pair of AR-enhanced sneakers. Here’s how the strategy could give Puma a running start in the future of retail.

The LQD Cell Origin Air sneakers pair with an augmented reality app that allows users to scan the shoes to access photo and video filters and special effects, such as having fire shoot from their heels, that they can then share on social media. There’s also an AI-powered lookbook of sneaker and street fashion, based on images that were generated as the AI learned to recognize the sneaker in different backgrounds. But the real kick? The app’s mobile game, “LQDASH,” which allows users to run for the chance to win a pair of the shoes for free.

So how did Puma decide to push an AR-enhanced app into the picture of its marketing strategy?

In the race to be the next hot trend, it may have realized that when it comes to millennials, sharing is caring. Plugging an app-powered and gamified AR experience to its audience allows Puma to tap into  younger, digitally-native consumers looking for another way to flaunt their lifestyle. This social sharing can also speed up publicity for Puma, as user-generated content often lies at the root of viral marketing.

Similarly, while product customization was once hailed as the future of retail, it’s seeing declining adoption. Only 22% of activewear brands offer some type of product customization, a decline from last year, according to Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Activewear. That said, it’s very likely that Puma’s new shoes could herald a new future for footwear—augmented reality. The brand’s new app actually lacks a commerce feature, which could discourage users from buying the shoes. Alternately, it could motivate them to give the shoes and the AR experience a try, no strings attached.

If enough consumers decide to share their experience with Puma’s new product on social platforms, the brand could capitalize on its already progressing digital presence. Thanks to collaborations with social media-savvy celebs like Selena Gomez (2018’s most popular woman on Instagram), Puma was among the most mentioned brands on Instagram. That said, the company might consider using its impressive list of ambassadors, which also include Rihanna and and Kylie Jenner, to project the AR trend even further into the sneaker spotlight.

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