Chewy taps AR for immersive Halloween pet costume experience

Pet love spiked big time when the pandemic brought mandates to stay at home and hunker down, with U.S. residents not only spending more time and attention with current pets but expanding the household pet ranks.

So, it’s no surprise that interest in pet Halloween costumes this year is high, with one in five pet owners intending to dress up feline and canine best friends, according to a National Retail Federation study.

Given the pet interest growth, and the fact most Halloween lovers will be back to real-life trick or treating, as well as attending and hosting Halloween festivities such as costume parades (and of course pet costume contests), Chewy saw a tremendous opportunity to help pet owners as well boost its own customer engagement and connection with its pet-loving consumers.

The online pet retailer created a unique Halloween experience — the Fur-tual Boutique — to help customers determine just the right costume for their furry friends and tapped augmented reality technology to make it happen.

The experience offers full-body try-on capability for pets — an experience Chewy.com believes is the first available.

“Pet parents are increasingly involving their pets in traditions, and Halloween is a prime example of that, from dressing pets up to enjoying seasonal treats to watching scary movies together. We hope to provide pet parents with a memorable, fun experience that helps their search to find the best Halloween costume for their dogs and cats,” Orlena Yeung, VP of brand marketing at Chewy, told Retail Customer Experience in an email interview.

A costume try-on experience
The Fur-tual Boutique allows pet parents to choose from seven popular Chewy-exclusive Frisco costumes, including the Killer Doll, Werewolf, Granny, Country Singer,Cowboy, Teddy Bear and Superhero.

Pet parents upload a pet photo or take a photo through the platform and adjust the fit of their chosen 3D costume to visualize what it would look like on their pet.

A silhouetting tool isolates pets’ faces and bodies so only the chosen costume style and pet image is shown.

Pet parents can also choose to have their pets’ image displayed on a themed Halloween background or within the native environment of their original photo.

“Our customers also love sharing photos of their adorable, funny and spooky-cute pets in costumes with our Chewy community, friends and family, so we leveraged innovative technology to create an outlet for them to capture custom photos,” said Yeung.

The goal is to elevate the shopping experience prior to purchase, according to Chewy.

“Immersive consumer technology is a powerful tool to enhance the customer journey and provide product visualization, and it speaks to Chewy’s mission of delivering exceptional customer experiences. Outside of Snapchat filters for pets’ faces, AR for pets is a nascent category, especially platforms that can recognize the full body of a pet,” she said, adding, “This is the first-ever AR experience for pets to virtually try on apparel and costumes. As pet parents ourselves at Chewy, we’re all enthusiastic about this experience. We like to say it takes a village to raise a pet, and it took a village of Chewy teammates to bring this to life.”

At the end of the experience, users receive a custom image of their furry friend wearing their favorite costume to share on social media. Additionally, pet parents who share their personalized photos on social media tagging @Chewy with the hashtag #HairyNotSoScary will be entered to win fun prizes that will arrive in time for celebrating Halloween.

“Our customers also love sharing photos of their adorable, funny and spooky-cute pets in costumes with our Chewy community, friends and family, so we leveraged innovative technology to create an outlet for them to capture custom photos,” said Yeung.

Tapping immersive technology
The etailer turned to AR despite it still being a bit unknown in most retail marketing and customer interaction strategies.

“With this platform, we want to elevate the shopping experience so pet parents can preview costumes on their pets before they purchase them. Immersive consumer technology is a powerful tool to enhance the customer journey and provide product visualization, and it speaks to Chewy’s mission of delivering exceptional customer experiences,” said Yeung.

“Outside of Snapchat filters for pets’ faces, AR for pets is a nascent category, especially platforms that can recognize the full body of a pet. This is the first-ever AR experience for pets to virtually try on apparel and costumes. As pet parents ourselves at Chewy, we’re all enthusiastic about this experience. We like to say it takes a village to raise a pet, and it took a village of Chewy teammates to bring this to life.”

Embracing AR is an “exciting manifestation of Chewy’s spirit of inventiveness,” said Yeung.

“We’re constantly thinking of how we can use innovation to deliver exceptional and surprising customer experiences, especially around festive moments like Halloween. Through AR technology, we introduced the first platform for pet parents to visualize their dogs and cats in our top Frisco Halloween costume styles that are only available at Chewy. This had never been done in the pet category.”

The Fur-tual Boutique launched late in September and the retailer is seeing pet parents taking to social media to share pet photos.

“We know pet parents love sharing photos of their pets with friends, family and on social media, so that was top of mind when designing this experience. Users are getting in the spooky season spirit with the Killer Doll being the most popular costume so far,” said Yeung.

One big benefit for cat owners is the ability to at least see what their cat could look like if dressed up for the annual spooky holiday.

“We know cats aren’t always the biggest fans of dressing up and our social media community has echoed this sentiment. Many [customers] are thankful they can capture an adorable costume photo of their pet without having to physically dress them up and if we could ask them, those cats would probably feel the same,” said Yeung.

While the costumes are designed for dogs and cats, feathery and scaley friends are also joining in on the Halloween fun — with a turtle, a parrot and even a bearded dragon trying on costumes in the Fur-tual Boutique.

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