When most people think about augmented reality, they envision some far-off, Blade Runner-style future that looks nothing like our world today. In reality, AR is already part of our everyday lives, and you might not have realized it.
Some of the ways you interact with AR may be surprising. Football games use AR to indicate the first-down line on TV, for example. In social media, those popular Instagram filters that give you puppy dog ears are AR. And the iPhone X has been using AR to let users create their own customized Animojis.
In fact, the number of AR users is expected to reach 200 million this year. From just 60 million users in 2013, that’s an incredible increase of 233% in just five years. By 2020, the global AR market is expected to grow to US $90 billion.
Clearly, AR is more than just fun filters and small enhancements to a user’s surroundings. One of the biggest future challenges will be navigating the opportunities and impacts this technology will have on the way businesses interact with their customers.
First, what exactly is AR?
If you’re not already familiar with AR, then it’s easiest to compare it to virtual reality. With VR, you use specialized software with hardware headsets (such as the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift) to view simulated surroundings. You’re then immersed in this “virtual” world.
AR, on the other hand, uses similar hardware such as the Microsoft Hololens or even standard smartphones to overlay text, images and video over what you see in the real world. By adding these virtual elements to your surroundings, you’re witnessing a combination of the natural world and the virtual world — now “augmented” to give you a combined experience.
Millions of people are already using AR in some entertaining and often highly publicized ways:
- Mobile games like Pokémon GO
- Location-based services that display arrows on streets or sidewalks to guide a user
- Shopping apps that let you see where furniture would fit in your home, such as IKEA Place
- Trying AR makeup on before you purchase with Sephora Virtual Artist
- Social media filters on Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram
The augmented world is starting to permeate our daily lives, changing how we shop, learn, navigate the world and behave. It will only be a matter of time before it revolutionizes our daily business lives — changing how we interact with customers, operate meetings, give presentations, design products and organize memorable events.
Apps are the easiest way into AR
Right now, apps are the hottest and most convenient way of making AR content available to a potential customer.
Major brands like IKEA and Sephora are using this method to make it easy for customers to shop online — directly from the comfort of their couches with the press of an app on their smartphone or tablet. Armed with the ability to quickly interact with products that you’d traditionally have to see in-store, customers can skip the journey to the mall or big box stores — gaining a more personalized experience in the process.
Other AR apps can be used to promote in-store activities and promotions, such as using QR codes to reveal product details and to display recommended purchases, discovering exclusive discounts or to virtually try on outfits without having to wait in line for the dressing room.
Taking content marketing to another level
Getting customers to your webpage is one thing, but you need content that’s engaging enough to keep them coming back for more.
With content marketing, companies publish digital materials like blog posts, videos and creative social media posts intended to generate interest in their brand’s products or services. With AR, content marketers have a whole new world in which to engage their customers.
Lacoste, for example, created an interactive in-store AR experience that allows users to quickly try on different shoes with their app. Customers can skip the tedious conventional method of waiting for the right sized box to be brought out, dealing with laces and walking over to a mirror. Yes, the struggle is real.
International hipster clothing giant, Topshop, created an augmented reality fitting room where customers could try on different outfits just with a simple hand motion. If your 90s movie brain kicks in when seeing this fun tech in action, you’ll know that Cher Horowitz would be so jealous about this fast fashion.
Other companies are creating AR campaigns designed around smartphones, taking this interactive tech to the next level in the marketing world. Using marketing elements such as tutorials, interactive gaming and scanning infographics on websites, these next-gen campaigns can bring different elements to life and showcase information that will make your brand more memorable.
AR will also allow customers to interact with traditional offline marketing materials like posters, billboards and window signs to unlock hidden promotions or discounts. Whenever possible for your own campaigns, consider creating offline marketing materials with AR use in mind.
For example, follow Google’s best practices for mobile AR design when creating print materials and include QR codes to engage your audience. This way, users can simply scan a poster or image and discover those hidden features with ease.
Let AR know where to find you
Geolocation shows the real-world location of something based on a radar source like wireless or cell phone data. You can geolocate people, companies, products and inanimate objects.
And while this technology isn’t new, AR apps are increasingly relying on local directories to provide answers to queries and directions based on their geolocation. Enter your business…
To take advantage of these opportunities to connect with potential customers, you’ll need to make sure your company is listed on all relevant directories, including:
- Google My Business
- The Better Business Bureau
- Local chamber of commerce listings
Having profiles on these directories not only helps build trust with customers, but it also boosts the chance of a new customer finding your business based on an AR app.
Yes, AR seems like a trend, but it’s likely one that will evolve and integrate in new ways to engage with your customers and help them feel energized about your brand. By incorporating these modern tech features into your strategic marketing plan, you can demonstrate to your customers that you’re ahead of the curve and have the ability to solve their problems in a creative new way.