Augmented reality is everywhere these days.
Unlike virtual reality, which has had quite a few false dawns over the years, this technology has been adopted across industries and is proving to be a highly effective marketing tool.
But what is augmented reality, and why is it so appealing to marketers? You’re here because you want answers to these questions, so let’s get cracking!
Augmented reality is a technology that superimposes digital content - be it graphics or sounds - over the real world.
It should not be confused with virtual reality, in which users have a fully immersive digital experience thanks to goggles that completely block out the real world.
One of the most well known examples of augmented reality is Pokémon Go - a computer game that took the world by storm back in 2016. In it, users walk around their city searching for characters, which will then appear on their phone screens.
Another example of this technology is Snapchat filters. Have you ever wondered what you would look like with a face made out of a chicken nugget, coffee bean, or avocado?
These are fun ways to spend/waste your free time (delete as appropriate), but augmented reality also has more serious applications.
By superimposing infrastructural information over a smartphone’s display, for instance, construction workers can avoid cutting into underground piping or cabling - reducing costs and speeding up essential work.
Augmented reality has also proven very useful across industries since it makes complex tasks much easier for people, particularly in the healthcare sector and training. For, instead of relying on dusty manuals, new employees can practice new tasks with an AR-enabled display.
Augmented reality is also becoming more and more popular in the marketing world, because it allows marketers to do their jobs better:
There’s really no point in companies adopting new technologies if not many people can access them - this would result in low engagement and a poor ROI.
Thankfully, this is not an issue that affects the use of augmented reality in marketing, since all people need to use this innovation is a smartphone (or tablet) with a working camera.
And today, smartphones are very much the norm, with over six billion of these devices in use around the world (Statista).
While strategies and algorithms are in a constant state of flux, one constant truism in marketing is the importance of creating good quality content that people will want to engage with.
Keeping up with technological advancements is one component of this, particularly with regard to new innovations because they remain novel and retain the power to amaze.
At present for instance, only 1% of retail companies are using augmented reality (Mobile Marketer), and any that do will immediately stand out from the crowd.
Take Burger King’s “Burn that Ad” campaign. People were asked to aim their smartphones at a McDonalds’ advertisement, and they’d see Ronald’s burgers burst into flames on their screens.
This is certainly an exciting approach to marketing and users who followed the instructions were rewarded with a free burger - bringing people into Burger King Restaurants, where they would then spend more money.
One of the hardest things for customers online is knowing what a product will look like in the real world - a problem that augmented reality can solve better than other methods.
Smart mirror apps, for instance, enable customers to see what they would look like with a different haircut, glasses and so forth. Other apps do something similar for furniture and paint, allowing people to visualize what their homes will look like with any new addition that they are considering.
And, after purchase, augmented reality-powered apps can help them set up new purchases, and can also be used to assist customer service teams when it comes to problem-solving - speeding up the process and saving companies money in the long run.
The expectations of internet users increase in line with technological advancement. Today, they want personalization, customizable preferences and speed of service.
For companies, meeting these expectations means enhancing every aspect of the customer journey, from advertising and outreach all the way through to after-sale care - and augmented reality is a great tool to this end.
Augmented reality is certainly an appealing prospect for marketers, even when you consider how saturated the industry has become with technology.
But, as with everything, it ultimately comes down to cost.
Thankfully, it’s cheaper than it was in the past - costing anything from a few thousand dollars to $300,000, depending on how advanced you want it to be.
However, given the power of this technology to increase engagement, drive down costs, and increase revenue, it’s definitely an option worth considering.
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