Tech in Action: Starbucks uses AR to extend its holiday reach

A Snapchat execution adds the brand's holiday message to the tree in Toronto's Eaton Centre.



Toronto’s CF Eaton Centre is home to the biggest Christmas tree in the country, with shoppers frequently taking a break during their holiday shopping for a photo in front of it. Using AR, Starbucks is bringing its messaging into this heavy-traffic holiday focal point.

On the second and third floors of the mall, which the tree extends into, Starbucks has placed several Snap codes, which allow users to unlock a special filter in the app. Once they use it to scan the decal again, it’ll trigger a 3D AR experience, where a holiday train runs along a track around the tree.

Starbucks branding and its annual holiday cups run alongside the tracks, while festive phrases like “Coffee All The Way” and “Merry Coffee” appear in the area. The messages mirror those that Starbucks utilized on this year’s holiday cups and other seasonal merchandise, which are fixtures on social media in the lead-up to the holiday season.

The activation was created using Snapchat’s AR Marker tech, which allows brands to add customized augmented reality experiences to real-world, physical spaces.

StarbucksAR_v3-1In the U.S., Starbucks worked with Facebook to create an AR filter on the platform and Instagram, which was triggered by one of the coffee chain’s holiday cups (pictured, left). The Eaton Centre-Snapchat activation, however, works regardless of whether or not a shopper has stopped in for a boost at Starbucks, extending its holiday message into an additional environment.