Modern design publisher Dwell Media joined the growing collection of print products to add augmented reality (AR) to its pages earlier this week, turning it’s shopping magazine into a shoppable store.

Dwell joins ShortList and Esquire who, in recent days, have used the technology both as an eye-popping attention-getter and, more importantly, as a way to transform the consumer experience.

The project, titled Dwell+AHAlife: A Shoppable Magazine Experience, is the first joint effort between Dwell Media and e-retailer AHAlife who announced a partnership in September to "contextualize commerce."

And that’s what they’ve done-11 of the book’s 33 pages are formatted for scanning. After downloading the accompanying app (developed in conjunction with AR firm Layar) readers can view the print pages through their smartphone or tablet and press one of the "Shop + Share" icons that pop up over the catalog-style grid layout of products Dwell’s edit team curated. Viewers are sent to a mobile product page on the joint company website where they can purchase or learn more information.

"[Our plan] was literally to produce a shoppable magazine," says Michela O’Connor Abrams, president of Dwell Media. "We get dozens and dozens of emails every week asking ‘Where can I get that lamp on page 57?’ or ‘Do you know who sells that blue chair on page 22?’ This kind of engagement is natural for our audience."

O’Connor Abrams admits she doesn’t know how the features will ultimately affect user engagement however.

AR has been used as supplement to print products for several years now, but not on this scale and not exactly in this way. Even the metrics that can tell her how successful the campaign is aren’t available.

"I’m expecting a pretty significant increase in engagement, and I know that sounds terribly amorphous, but we’ve never done this before and we don’t know anybody else who’s ever done this either," she says. "You can’t even compare it to stats that we are familiar with. The rule is, you’re going to get 2 to 4 percent, but my guess is we’re going to get lots more than that."

O’Connor Abrams decided against using similar AR features in the December/January issue of Dwell that will accompany the Dwell+AHAlife book when it’s distributed next week, citing potential concerns about editorial integrity.

Although she believes those issues will fade-"I think they are reasonable questions," she says, "but I’m not sure they’re going to be terribly relevant in a few years"-she does acknowledge their weight.

Regardless, O’Connor Abrams is convinced AR and other forms of contextualized shopping is the future.

"We really believe getting huge discounts is not the future of the way people are going to buy," she says. "They want to be inspired. They want to have ideas brought to them in an authentic way and then be able to buy something. Doing it in this fashion, we’re counting on the content to drive the inspiration."

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