How marketers are wooing consumers with augmented reality

Many organizations are using the technology to give people a glimpse into the future—or, for museums and such, the past—to inform and to guide purchasing decisions. Is yours?

In consumers’ eyes, augmented reality (AR) is the touchstone for innovation.

So finds a survey commissioned by Diffusion.

About one-fourth (26%) of consumers said AR led them to think a brand was technically savvy, higher than artificial intelligence (19%), facial recognition (18%), chatbots (6%) and cryptocurrency (4%), Mobile Marketer reported. In addition, 44% of consumers want AR to improve shopping experiences by portraying products in real-life settings.

By superimposing computer-generated images onto smartphone cameras or other screens, AR blends physical and digital worlds and allows users to shape their experiences, unlike virtual reality, which is entirely digital.

Pokémon Go offered an early popular example of AR, but consumers now want brands to apply AR to more practical applications, such as showing what furniture looks like in their home or how clothing or makeup would look on them.

Tech companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook have invested significant resources to develop advanced yet easy-to-use AR creation tools. Adobe and Unity have created AR authoring tools that don’t require coding skills. Snapchat introduced an augmented reality lens this year, and Instagram quickly followed with its Spark AR.

A study by Magid found that consumers consider virtual reality exciting and entertaining and augmented reality as more practical. Whereas VR content was found to drive emotion, AR content makes more sense for daily integration, it concludes. However poor AR content can hurt consumer perceptions.

The technology offers a plethora of practical applications that go well beyond games. Customers can see:

  • What a meal looks like on their plate and rotate the meal to see all angles.
  • What furniture pieces look like in their home set against other pieces.
  • How they would look wearing clothing and other accessories they’re considering purchasing.
  • What places looked like in the past—a boon for museums and other educational facilities.
  • What places look like after suffering environmental degradation or improvement—ideal for environmental organizations.
  • Virtual tours of houses for sale and commercial properties under development.
  • Virtual college tours for prospective students.
  • Virtual visits to amusement parks and museums.
  • “Inside tours” of machinery and other complicated equipment.

Boston Consulting Group offers these recommendations:

  • Consider making AR a core component of the overall marketing strategy. “For marketers, the user numbers are too large, the engagement and results too promising, and the potential brand halo too compelling to ignore,” the report writers state.
  • Measure results. While marketing managers cite measuring results and uncertainty about return on investment as top barriers to adoption, evidence already shows that AR marketing can be effective at driving business outcomes. Set metrics that align with business objectives of a specific marketing campaign. Measure results and adjust campaigns for optimal impact against set objectives.
  • Consider methods of distribution. Brands can develop and manage their own proprietary mobile apps or brick-and-mortar store experiences in what’s called first-party AR. These applications can be designed for stores, convention booths, museums or other locations. Alternatively, sponsored AR programs can use third-party platforms developed by social media networks, digital-publishing companies or others. AR programs can also employ a hybrid approach. The choice has substantial implications. Consider your brand’s overall marketing objectives when choosing a distribution platform.
  • Embrace a test-and-learn culture. CMOs should instill a mindset of test and learn throughout their organizations by setting up the right processes, rewarding new ideas—and not punishing failed ones.

A version of this post first appeared on the blog.


2 Responses to “How marketers are wooing consumers with augmented reality”

    Grace says:

    Super interesting read! Using AR to enhance a consumers experience I think will definitely be a positive enhancement to marketing.

    Ronald N. Levy says:

    Whether PR is offered a seat at the table or in the lavatory may depend on how well PR guides an account’s top management to make a PR crisis end.

    “With as little damage as possible,” an old-style PR executive may say
    (without arousing much management enthusiasm because mangers don’t know how little that may be). “We have to face the reality of what happened” an old-era PR worker may say. But this pronouncement ignores management’s valid concern, like that of a patient in a doctor’s office who is going to get a shot, that it’s going to hurt.

    The hero in a PR crisis may be the PR exec who counsels: “No, more important than the mistakes of the past which is over is that the public cares more about the future than about the past.” Just as skilled surgery can save and actually strengthen a patient who has been injured, skilled PR rehabilitation actions can help an injured account to not only survive but actually come out more highly regarded than before the trouble began.

    Augmented reality can make this happen.

    Just as Artificial Intelligence is not just a corrective measure for Genuine Stupidity, augmented reality should mean not just an augmentation that creates more of the same. Fortunately, augmented reality can mean that the public gets an augmented OUTCOME, an excellent result that makes people happy. This happens when a serious problem that has come to light intensifies management’s program to make this not just okay again but better than ever.

    This happens again and again, in one field after another. Fortunately it happens sometimes even without a problem event intensifying management’s dedication to improvement. So I’m hoping that Ted Kitterman, Beki Winchel and their colleagues will elicit “how we succeed with this” articles from leaders of great PR firms large and small.

    Some of the “how we do it” authors could be invited to teach at a Ragan seminar on changing PR crises from potential tragedies into actual PR triumphs. I can’t help because the CEO of my family, who is also my wife, has directed me to turn off my computer and take her on a trip. She counsels that this will give me the advantage of avoiding crisis and diminished reality.

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