Augmented Reality Advertising: Is Your Business Ready?

To prepare for augmented reality in marketing, you should define clear goals, understand the challenges, and know exactly how you will use the technology.

Augmented reality (AR) offers commercial value extending way beyond the gimmickry and gaming uses that popularized it initially. This fact is gaining recognition across many sectors, including B2B and B2C commerce, where experiments with AR mobile app development for marketing and advertising are receiving plenty of attention.

According to the 2019 IDC forecasts, the worldwide spending on AR/VR is to reach $160 billion by 2023, at the five-year CAGR of over 78%. When a nascent technology takes off, it is usually not long before commercial and industrial beneficiaries begin planning for implementation, and AR is no exception. 

It may be tempting to get onboard with the trend before it picks up too much speed. But it’s a good idea to first ask if your business is ready to employ AR as a way to stimulate interest in your brand, services or products.

3 Questions to Answer Before Implementing AR

Investing in technology for technology’s sake is a common error, especially for smaller enterprises. If you want to be confident of success with augmented reality in marketing campaigns, it’s a good idea to spend some time evaluating the need. That begins with asking the right questions:

  1. Why will you use augmented reality in advertising and marketing? What goals are you going to achieve?
  2. How exactly will you use augmented reality in your marketing campaigns?
  3. What are the challenges you might face? Will you be able to overcome them and, if so, how?

With those questions answered, it will be easier to assess the pros and cons of innovating with AR-driven campaigns. It will also clarify what is needed to follow realistic expectations rather than gamble.

Want to be confident of success before gearing up your augmented reality project? Consider answering these three questions first

Targeting the Advantages of AR Advertising

If you look around online, you can find plenty of resources telling you how AR can improve your advertising and marketing results. However, few of them mention an important prerequisite—to know what objectives matter most to your business.

AR adoption in advertising

Having a clear idea of why you want to implement AR into your marketing strategy is very important as it can help you use the technology in the best ways to reach your goals. The advantages of using augmented reality advertising will vary from business to business. But as you can see from the chart above, sales growth is increasingly becoming the primary reason that businesses are implementing it.

However, there is a difference between grasping at technology just because it’s there and aligning objectives with the known advantages of that technology. In the case of augmented reality, that makes any of the following goals reasonable to reach for.

Boosting Brand Recognition

Do you want to develop a cult-like following for your brand, product, or product range? If so, you might want to think about how you can make related AR experiences as accessible as possible. That can be challenging when campaigns are dependent on consumers downloading an app.

Instead, you can consider taking campaigns to a public setting by using AR screens or mirrors, as Pepsi did with their Monster Mirror campaign back in 2014. The beverage conglomerate installed an AR mirror with face recognition technology in the bathroom of a London cinema. Movie-goers were shocked—and had a story to share on social media—when they looked into the mirror and saw a zombie, scary clown, or werewolf staring back at them.

Does your company have the budget and resources to take your campaigns beyond the constraints of user-downloaded mobile apps? If so, your preparation might include evaluating specialized hardware. You may also want to think about the ways to link the AR experience to digital media channels, such as YouTube, to maximize consumers’ immersion in your brand experience.

Perhaps your company is not yet capable of leveraging the IoT as Pepsi continues to do with campaigns like the Unbelievable Bus Shelter, using live outdoor video feeds and 3D animations. If that is the case, you will probably need to settle for AR in your branded mobile app. This will allow you to create unlimited campaigns using a single core application.

If you choose this path, as many organizations will, is it wise to create a marker-based AR app to revive print ads, billboards, or catalogs with integrated video and interactive objects? Or perhaps a location-based app for gamified campaigns, encouraging customer engagement with your brand? These are other questions to answer while preparing for a marketing future with AR.

Prepping up toward a new AR development? You can get inspired with these market-leaders' AR experiments to maximize consumers’ immersion
We design AR experiences
with technological aptness.

Facilitating the Customer Journey

Perhaps your goal is to make it easier for shoppers to take action after interacting with AR in advertising campaigns. If so, you will need to consider how to integrate the AR experience with your online and traditional commerce channels. This is what IKEA has been doing since at least 2013 to help their customers literally immerse into the brand’s extensive catalog.

The latest installment of IKEA’s AR experiments, IKEA Place is the app that helps users visualize their chosen furniture or accessories in their real-life home setting. The app uses markerless AR to scan the surroundings and realistically place 3D models of IKEA’s products within them.

In-store Augmented Reality Advertising

Perhaps, your objectives are more focused on local advertising and increasing foot traffic in traditional offline sales outlets. In that case, you may want to develop a strategy combining location-based AR to help people find your stores with marker-based solutions to enliven the experience for shoppers once they arrive.

 Lowe's in-store AR mapping

Lowes, for example, is probably most famous for operating truly cavernous home improvement centers. Now, the retailer is also becoming known as an augmented reality innovator.

Lowes has implemented a dual home-improvement app solution, giving shoppers the ability to style and design their homes or rooms using virtual versions of the products. Once shoppers arrive at a store, they can follow visual turn-by-turn routing on their phone screens to locate all the products they have picked. This is a great example of how advertising and information can be strategically combined using AR to engage shoppers in-store and at home.


Augmented Reality Advertising Examples

Along with what Pepsi has been doing as mentioned above, there are several other examples of uses of augmented reality for advertising. For instance, a company called YouVisit uses AR to help people explore everything from new cities to luxury hotels. They have recently introduced campus tours, allowing prospective students to visit college campuses without the associated travel costs. Students can also explore areas surrounding the campus, which is often part of the deciding factor when choosing a college.

Additionally, many car companies have already embraced advertising through augmented reality. We see a good example of augmented reality mobile advertising with Volvo. To promote their new S60 model, they teamed up with YouTube to give users an idea of what it felt like to drive the car. Users had to start on YouTube and scan the Volvo video and then use their smartphones to “drive” the car whenever they wanted. This use of an augmented reality advertisement campaign saw a jump of 239% in Volvo’s website traffic.

Ford has also used AR advertising, in this case to reach out to a younger demographic. They teamed up with Snapchat to make an AR filter related to their EcoSport mini SUV that featured a true-to-life 3D model of the car. Users could place and scale the car anywhere in their environment and could get a feel for both the inside and the outside of the car.

Challenges of Augmented Reality in Marketing

Once you know your objectives for AR-driven advertising, you should make sure your team is aware of the challenges you may face and be ready to overcome them. There are three primary challenges, in particular, that are worthy of mention and should certainly be considered in your preparations for AR marketing.

User Adoption

Given that augmented reality software overlays digital data onto a person’s view of the real world, it must be delivered via some form of hardware with an element of visual functionality. This may not be the case in the future if projected holograms become a reality. But for now, marketers must either invest in the types of hardware that allows for public-delivery AR campaigns or create app-based experiences that people can access on personal mobile devices.

However, as experience with most forms of mobile marketing reveals, the current dependence on apps can be an obstacle, because you have to persuade people to download them. So, before you can use AR to market your products or services, you must have a strategy in place to advertise your AR concept. You will also need to market your augmented reality app to your target audiences.

Platform Readiness

Making AR available and practical on smartphones is still a work in progress. With traditional AR requiring the use of a headset, the technology needs to be successfully scaled down to work on mobile devices. Also, the user needs to be satisfied with their interaction with AR apps to keep coming back to them. 

The Pokémon GO app, for example, frustrated many users because it required them to swipe on the screen in order to interact. Swiping is not something that is done in our normal lives when not using mobile devices, so that element left some users unsatisfied with the interaction technique.

Another factor to consider is that not everyone has a smartphone, and those who do may not have the latest version or keep up with their software updates. This could prevent the app from working properly or even prohibit users from downloading it in the first place.

Of course, mobile device graphics capabilities and other onboard components are continually improving. At this point though, it’s still prudent to consider if now is the right time for your business to start using augmented reality app advertising. You may decide that it is a little too early and therefore presents too much risk.

Development Complexity

Does your company have an in-house development team, and, if so, does it include augmented reality developers? AR apps are not the most straightforward to develop, although with the launch of Apple ARKit and Google ARCore SDKs the process has become easier.

If you wish to create apps compatible with older versions of iOS and Android though, you will still need people with appropriate coding skills to create augmented reality software. If you don’t have the internal resources, you’ll need to seek help from a development company that specializes in or at least has ample experience with AR software engineering.

Three primary challenges to keep in mind when preparing for AR marketing: 1. User adoption 2. Platform readiness 3. Development complexity

Your Customers are AR-ready, But Are You?

Establishing clear objectives for using augmented reality in marketing and advertising, understanding the challenges, and having a strategy to minimize their impact puts you well on the way to being ready.

The one thing you probably don’t have to worry too much about is whether your target audience is ready to engage with your brand via augmented reality. A 2018 study by GlobalWebIndex found that 65% of consumers in the US and UK are already aware of AR. Also, more than a third of AR users believe that its potential lies in the advertising and marketing industry. That would seem to bode well for the application of augmented reality in marketing.

Your customers are probably ready to interact with your brand through AR, and while device capabilities may remain a limiting factor, it’s a temporary issue. The only question that remains is whether your business is ready—and if you haven’t done so yet, it seems like now is the time to start thinking about it.

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