While augmented reality (AR) has promised to break into the mainstream for years, many of its most ardent supporters began to wonder if it would ever overcome its own hype, and many marketers continued to view it as an attempt at innovation with no real long-term impact.
In reality, the technology has already begun to show its true value through simplifying shoppers’ journeys and adding value for consumers. For example, the rise of virtual try-on is transforming the beauty industry and, in the automotive sector, users are now able to use augmented reality to immerse themselves in the experience of driving the car they are looking to purchase.
In parallel, we are seeing major tech giants like Apple and Google investing heavily in AR to make it more efficient and more accessible to billions of smartphone users. This is driving a whole community of developers to build AR experiences that will become ubiquitous across every major industry and sector.
As Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, recently said: “AR will be as important as eating three meals a day.” Just last month, Facebook unveiled plans for users to be able to digitally sculpt a 3D object and share it on Facebook and insert it into your world via augmented reality. Brands such as Lego and Jurassic World are already experimenting with the technology, and the potential impact is huge.
Learning from the past, this situation is not dissimilar to the rise of digital. Brands that failed to embrace the internet and the arrival of online commerce were left behind in a brutal way, either to the point of total failure or years of attempting to catch up with the market. The potential impact of augmented reality is no different. The time is now for marketers to truly harness the fundamental potential of augmented reality.
Many brands have already experimented with AR-based campaigns, but the cost and uncertainty of the technology have held them back from viewing it as a fundamental part of their marketing strategy. The tide, however, has begun to turn: while only 10% of marketers currently use the technology, as shown by a recent Netimperative poll of 100 marketing managers in the UK, 72% plan to use it in the coming year.
It is important in this context that marketers understand the opportunities AR presents for their business and start preparing for it. Here are three things to keep in mind:
Go beyond the wow factor
AR still has an astonishing wow factor. However, while this is a great way to draw people into an experience, it is easy to rely on the novelty and forget how to create true added value for the consumer.
Leading brands and retailers such as Sephora, GSK, Nestlé and Jaguar LandRover, have shown particular leadership in the field. They have experimented with harnessing AR to, for example, deliver personalised advice, provenance information on food or additional services to their products, which has led to successful, inspiring campaigns that move far beyond gimmick.
These experiences have led augmented reality to yield results unprecedented in traditional marketing and advertising. The best campaigns can lead to dwell times of over 85 seconds, interaction rates of up to 20% and click-through rates to purchase of 33% – numbers that dwarf anything across print, online or television advertising.
A recent campaign that Blippar ran with Jaguar LandRover took AR to the next level by, for the first time, integrating augmented reality into rich media ad units without the need to use a separate app. Banner ads enabled users to sit in the new Land Rover Velar, 360-degree view of the car’s exterior and book a test drive on the go. Running across the USA and Portugal, the campaign saw average dwell times of 121 seconds, and a click through rate of 38%, respectively eight times and three times higher than a traditional rich media banner format.
Integrate AR into the apps you already have
For brands that already have an app and are investing in their audience, AR can be a useful addition to help with specific parts of the customer journey.
Ikea, for one, has now fully integrated AR into its app (main image), allowing users to test the way furniture might look in their homes. Similarly, Blippar’s collaboration with Net-A-Porter for the Mr Porter magazine has seen customers’ shopping experience become a seamless interaction enabling shoppers to purchase items by scanning the magazine with their phone. With other retailers following this trend, the ability to purchase items is quicker and easier than ever.
Use AR to improve the customer’s offline experience
AR is an ideal way to bring the benefits of online shopping – such as personalised recommendations and peer reviews, which consumers now expect and demand – into the physical world.
Confectionary brand Cadbury recently harnessed augmented reality to improve the Christmas advent calendar experience for its consumers. Chocolate-lovers could use the Blippar app to scan their calendar, entering an augmented winter wonderland world and unlocking a different festive selfie filter every single day. This campaign debuted as the fourth best-selling advent calendar in the UK in 2017, with 200,000 consumer interactions with AR and a high repeat usage.
In order to survive and thrive, marketers need to make augmented reality a priority. Given consumers’ daily use of smartphones and the changing mobile behaviour, it is vital to take advantage of its potential in engaging millions of people with meaningful experiences.
This progress will only get faster. AR’s rapid rise is now being fuelled by artificial intelligence which enables cameras to ‘understand’ the world and overlay digital content on it. Coupled with hardware becoming more powerful and lighter, this will be a critical year in the future of AR and brands must take note.
Mikela Eskenazi is chief commercial officer at Blippar