While major marketing tech events such as the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and South by Southwest (SXSW) generate a tremendous amount of hype regarding augmented reality, the general attitude by advertisers and marketers does not quite match this level of excitement. A recent study found that only 25% of marketers are interested in using AR, and only 7% currently use AR technology.
That’s all about to change.
Marketers and advertisers can no longer ignore the huge opportunities AR presents for brand growth, with Digi-Capital forecasting AR revenue to hit $120 billion by 2020. Although AR technology is often overshadowed by virtual reality (VR) thanks to recent mainstream Oculus and Samsung product launches, AR has seen rapid growth in brand adaptation over the last year.
Snapchat, Facebook and brands such as Sephora, Nintendo and Jeep are going beyond exploring the interface and are now actively investing in the opportunities AR presents, and rightfully so. Not only is AR an immersive experience – ensuring that users are solely focused on what’s in front of them – the technology also allows for an emotionally memorable user experience, which can be tailored to suit your brand’s voice.
Augmented reality, by definition, gives brands the opportunity to integrate the digital world into real world surroundings. Imagine being able to tour an apartment without going to see it, trying on a pair of pants without having to wiggle into the physical product, or test driving a car without leaving your living room. This is happening right now, and although the technology may seem intimidating, the opportunities are endless and worth exploring.
So, where do you begin when exploring marketing opportunities in an AR environment? How can you adopt the opportunity and incorporate the technology into your marketing strategy? Here are a few examples of how the innovators of the industry are utilizing this technology.
While Apple is said to be in the midst of building an AR device, as well as AR integrations through existing products (such as the iPhone camera), Google’s Tango platform is market ready.
Tango-enabled devices (the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus ZenFone AR, so far) have the ability to understand space and motion similarly to how humans do. With motion tracking, depth perception and area-learning capabilities, the platform understands motion as it moves through an area and remembers key visual features of a physical space. This allows furniture brands to create apps that enable users to measure their surroundings and reimagine them with virtual furniture – and that’s just one example.
Although Tango allows for a more detailed AR experience, there are currently development companies creating applications with AR-enabled experiences that are accessible on your everyday iPhone.
Sephora’s Virtual Artist app recently updated its offerings to include an AR feature. The app, available on multiple mobile devices, was developed in conjunction with ModiFace. ModiFace has accurate facial recognition and skin analysis technology, identifying the placement of a user’s main features and aligning them with specific Sephora product offerings. For example, if you’re holding up your phone, the app will identify your eyes and easily allow you to try on various eyeshadow shades. As a result, the Sephora app gives users the power to experiment with a wide variety of products, providing a truly personalized e-commerce experience.
Which leads us back to the original question: Where do you begin when exploring marketing opportunities in an AR environment?
2017 will be the year advertisers begin to truly understand the capabilities of AR technology, and the plethora of opportunities it presents for your brand. My colleague Emily Li Mandri, an e-commerce and digital marketing strategist, offered the following tips to keep in mind when considering an AR solution:
- * Think about your customers' pain points and where your conversion funnel is hurting. For example, most online apparel returns are due to fit issues. Looking to capitalize on the capabilities AR offers while simultaneously looking to address their customer complaints, Gap developed their Virtual Fitting Room app. The app allows customers to input their measurements and preview products on their own virtual self without having to physically try on the product or even visit the store.
- * Keep your CTA top of mind when developing your brand’s AR experience. Like Sephora, provide your users with the option of directly shopping the products that they are trying without having to leave the app. This ensures a seamless pathway from AR experience to purchase, and is vital for a beneficial user experience.
- * Make sure your solution provides a minimal learning curve for the user. You don’t want the experience to be troublesome, difficult, or time-consuming. Take advantage of preexisting technologies that consumers are typically familiar with, such as facial recognition or spatial recognition.
The key to effectively executing an augmented reality campaign relies on perfecting the balance between a virtual and physical experience – convenient and immersive, yet personal and memorable. The potential value the technology provides to both customers and organizations is impressive, and absolutely something you should look toward when creating holistic and immersive brand experiences that retain existing customers and attract new ones into your funnel.