Augmented Reality in Advertising: is Your Business Ready?
To prepare for augmented reality in marketing, first, 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 augmented reality app development for marketing and advertising are receiving plenty of attention.
When a nascent technology takes off, it is rarely long before commercial and industrial beneficiaries begin planning for implementation, and AR is no exception. Indeed, according to IDC, commercial investment will generate 60% of the overall $17.8 billion dollar AR/VR spend forecast for 2018.
While it may be tempting to get onboard with the trend before it picks up too much speed, it will pay to ask first if your business is ready to exploit AR as a way to stimulate interest in your brand, services, or products.
Three Things to Explore 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—and that begins with asking the right questions:
- Why will you use augmented reality in advertising and marketing? What goals are you going to achieve?
- How exactly will you use augmented reality in your marketing campaigns?
- What are the challenges to be faced? Will you be able to overcome them and if so, how?
With those questions answered, it will be easier to assess the difficulty of innovating with AR-driven campaigns and to see what is needed for success to be a realistic expectation, rather than a gamble.
Target the Advantages of AR Marketing
If you look around online, you can find plenty of resources telling you how AR can improve your advertising and marketing results, but few of them mention an important prerequisite—to know what objectives matter most to your business.
That’s why your chances of succeeding with AR marketing will be highest if you don’t let your business fall into the no-overarching-objective category shown above. If you will be seeking advice from marketing agencies, beware of the 10% that recommend augmented reality without specifying precisely why.
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 wish 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 into more public settings, 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-tracking technology in the bathroom of a London cinema, giving movie-goers something of a shock—and 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 possibilities for linking the AR experience to digital media channels such as YouTube, to maximize consumers’ immersion in your brand experience.
If 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, then you will probably need to settle for an AR mobile app development project, at least for the time being. This will allow you to create unlimited campaigns using a single core application.
If you choose this path, as many marketing organizations will, should you create a marker-based AR app to revive print ads, billboards, or catalogs with integrated video and interactive objects, or a location-based app for gamified campaigns, encouraging customers to engage physically as well as emotionally, with your brand? This is another question to answer in readiness for a marketing future with AR.
Facilitating the Customer Journey
Perhaps your goal is to make it easier for shoppers to take action after interacting with augmented reality 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 done with their AR catalog concept called IKEA Place.
The Place mobile app lets users pick items from IKEA's furniture range, then ‘try out’ 3D scale representations of those items by positioning them in photos taken on their smartphones or tablets. If the users like the way a virtual item looks and fits in the real-world living space, they can use the app to reserve the actual item and then navigate to IKEA’s local site to purchase it.
Local and In-store Marketing with AR
Perhaps your objectives are more focused on local advertising and increasing footfall 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 come through the doors.
Lowes, for example, is perhaps most famous for operating truly cavernous home improvement centers but 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 optimized, 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 at home and in-store.
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 to face and overcome. Three primary challenges, in particular, are worthy of mention and should certainly feature 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 used by Pepsi 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. In effect then, before you can use AR to market your products or services, you must have a strategy in place to advertise your AR concept and to market your augmented reality app to target audiences.
• Platform Readiness
Many mobile devices currently in use, with the exception perhaps of the latest iPhone and flagship Android phones, lack the capabilities to unlock the full potential of augmented reality. This limits the portion of your audience that can appreciate the latest levels of AR sophistication.
The issue relates to platform software as well as hardware, particularly for Android users, since at any one time, the percentage of devices running the latest software version is small, and to access the most advanced AR technology, nothing short of Android version 7.0 (Nougat) will do.
Of course, mobile device graphics capabilities, and other onboard components are continually improving. Deloitte predicts that by the end of this year, the best part of a billion smartphones will have the necessary software and hardware to support high-quality AR experiences.
At this point though, it’s still prudent to consider if now is the right time for your business to start using augmented reality in advertising campaigns. You may decide that it is a little too early and therefore, presents too much risk for comfort.
• 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 recent launch of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s 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, or at least has ample experience in AR software engineering.
Your Customers are AR Ready - Are You?
If you establish clear objectives for using augmented reality in advertising and marketing, understand the challenges, and have a strategy to minimize their impact, your business should be 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 new survey by Accenture, for example, found that 61% of consumers are interested in using AR for virtual clothes fittings, and 54% want to use the technology for shopping generally. 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 VR, and while device capabilities may remain a limiting factor, for now, that’s a temporary issue. The only question that remains is whether your business is ready—and if you haven’t done so yet, 2018 would appear to be the year to get it asked, and answered.
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