Tech in Action: A boardwalk becomes an AR storefront

Havaianas tried to drive brand awareness by sending beachgoers to products inspired by patterns scanned on a mural.


A beachside boardwalk is a common place for surf shops to sell sandals and other beachwear. One global brand of flip flops recently stood out from the pack of less-stylish offerings by turning part of the famous boardwalk on Venice Beach in Los Angeles into an AR-enabled storefront earlier this month.

ha5Havaianas is a brand of flip-flop sandals founded in Brazil, which has differentiated itself with a focus on vibrant colours and eye-catching designs. Working with U.S. agency TBD and artist Buff Monster – himself known for vibrant designs in his art – a section of the boardwalk was turned into a mural, showing common beach-side sites like ice cream cones, sand and surfboards.

But the mural also served as an AR-powered digital storefront utilizing Google Vision AI to turn the mural into scan-able fashion inspiration. By scanning a portion of the mural with a mobile device, users would be sent to an online store featuring a pair of sandals that matched the colour or even the print of the section they scanned. They could also be directed to additional content, such as style and fashion tips that incorporated the sandals.

Globally, Havaianas sells 252 million pairs of sandals annually, but awareness for the brand and Spain-based parent company Alpargatas is low in the U.S. A big part of the campaign is to change that, Fernanda Romano, executive director of digital channels for Alpargatas, said in a press release. But incorporating a range of different colours, prints and styles, as well as a direct link to style content, also contributed to a broader brand goal of being seen as footwear suitable beyond the beach as well.