The time has finally come for augmented reality (AR) to take off in marketing. Feeling unprepared? Don’t worry. We’ve got the scoop on what you need to know, from the state of the technology to how to best take advantage of it.
The Time Has Come for AR
AR isn’t a technology of the future. It’s already here—and tech companies’ support has been steadily deepening.
While great AR glasses and headsets for mainstream use may not be coming soon (Magic Leap looks to have problems, Apple isn’t expected to release headsets and smart glasses until 2022 and 2023 respectively, and Google and Microsoft took their focus to business instead of the consumer), it’s important to remember that AR doesn’t have to depend on glasses and headsets for widespread adoption. The latest devices often come with AR capabilities installed. Apple, for example, started designing phones that could support AR with its iPhone 8.
On the development side, things are also looking good. Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all created software development kits to help designers make AR-compatible tools. Adobe and Unity have both created AR authoring tools that allow people to develop immersive AR experiences without knowing how to code. In a similar vein, Snapchat’s Lens Studio and Facebook’s Spark AR allow creators to craft AR content in their respective apps. (AR is what’s responsible for all those fun filters!)
Brands Are Already Diving Into AR
In fact, brands are already diving into AR. Here are some recent examples:
Apple and its collaborators are showing consumers the possibilities of artistic AR in public spaces. Apple collaborated with seven artists and New York’s New Museum to create original AR artworks that could be experienced via a walk with an iPhone in Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris, San Francisco, and Tokyo. I was lucky enough to go on the San Francisco walk and found it incredibly inspiring.
Ikea is making it easy to picture your new home decor. Ikea upgraded its Place app, letting users put multiple items in a room at once. (People used to be limited to trying one piece at a time.) It also added a “wish list” functionality, a curated “For You” feed, and some fun Easter eggs to bring a little extra joy to the shopping experience.
Toyota and other car brands are transforming car retail. Last year, Toyota created an AR experience that launched with a click of a social banner. Modeling 10 different car models, the immersive experience allowed consumers to place the AR vehicle in any environment (for example, their driveway). Then, they could walk around the vehicle to explore it at any angle, including expanding and rotating the vehicle. And Toyota is definitely not the only one: Lots of other car brands are experimenting with AR to improve customer service and drive sales.
HBO is making out-of-home out of this world. Taking a page from Pepsi’s book with its Unbelievable bus shelter in 2014, the HBO Watchmen’s 2019 AR out-of-home experience featured a surreal surprise falling from the skies at bus stops in Los Angeles and New York.
The beauty industry (and others) are letting people find the perfect look—without the need for a tissue to wipe off all that makeup. With beauty brands leveraging solutions like ModiFace's AR tech to YouTube's AR Beauty Try-On feature, people may never need to smear another lipstick on their wrists. But the opportunity goes beyond simple make-up try-ons. Here are a couple of examples: To promote the release of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Disney crafted its first virtual makeup try-on experience on YouTube. Viewers watching a Maleficent tutorial by makeup artist Promise Phan could launch a split-screen AR view that let them decorate themselves with virtual makeup and Maleficent’s headdress then take a selfie to share on social.
Adidas is gamifying the experience to highlight its sustainability efforts. During the holidays, Adidas hosted a gamified experience at its flagship store in Paris. Shoppers could point their smartphone cameras at digital displays to view a virtual ocean in which a whale swims around and collects floating plastic. After users helped collect the trash, they could watch how Adidas converts the waste into shoes.
Retail companies are improving their customers’ experiences. This holiday season, many retail companies decided to up their games with a little AR magic, from Toys R Us integrating different AR experiences with toys in its holiday toy catalog via Snapcode to Starbucks using custom AR effects in a holiday Instagram campaign to Gucci letting consumers virtually try on its Ace sneakers collection. Some, like Walmart and Target, are making the shopping experience more seamless.
Why You Should Care: What AR Can Do for Brands
Of course, if AR were just a bit of fun that didn’t make much of an impact, it wouldn’t be worth doing. But that’s not the case.
According to a 2018 Drum article, AR can capture a person’s attention for over 85 seconds, increase interaction rates by 20%, and improve click-through rates to purchase by 33%. More recently, the publication reported that L’Oreal saw engagements double on a site with an AR feature while conversion rates tripled.
Martech Advisor reports that AR’s conversion rate could be as high as 80%, depending on content quality. In addition, it says, customers are 70% more likely to remember the messaging than they are with traditional static ads.
This impact makes sense. AR is an interactive technology that allows its audience to explore and create, which is naturally more compelling and memorable than a passive experience.
How Brands Can Succeed with AR
So when you decide to take the plunge, what should you do to make a splash rather than belly flop?
Go mobile. There’s no reason to worry about where the headset or smart glasses tech is. There are already hundreds of millions of AR-enabled devices in consumers’ hands, thanks to Apple and Google.
Make sure your campaign has a real purpose. As Martech Advisor pointed out, you’ll see a better return with quality content. As with any marketing strategy, you need to align the content and strategy to your customers and goals. Don’t jump on the AR bandwagon without thorough research and a thoughtful plan.
Tell a great story. In an article on the new age of storytelling, Deloitte noted that emotional connections drive business results, and that good storytelling is key to building those connections. With AR’s ability to transform viewers’ environments, immerse users in your narrative, and provide different types of storytelling experiences, you have ample opportunity to craft deep connections and lasting impressions. And when you use AR’s ability to powerfully blend the roles of the listener and storyteller, you make the impact even stronger.
Be willing to experiment. AR is still in its formative stages, so best practices aren’t yet known. But don’t let that paralyze you. Marketing is all about experimentation, looking at the results, and putting those learnings into your next efforts.
Bring in the magic. People respond to magical experiences, and AR can act like a lens to bring invisible magical things to life, transforming an ordinary environment into something extraordinary and memorable.
When appropriate, encourage the sharing of user-generated content (UGC). UGC is not only fun for consumers, it can also help increase brand awareness.
What could your brand do with AR? We can’t wait to see what new worlds you open. And if you need assistance with figuring out how AR can help you best tell your brand story, just let us know. We love to tell a great story.