Augmented reality (AR) refers to the layering of visual information onto a live picture of your physical surroundings, enhancing the real-world environment in real time. If you’re reading this then you’ve probably already used, or know of at least one application of AR. Both Snapchat and Instagram filters are current examples of augmented reality and quite notably Pokémon Go, which most recently drew (and held) the attention of the masses…and headlines (for both good and bad reasons). Since this technology has shown its ability to hook users, more and more brands are making use of it to engage current and potential customers. In an environment where almost everyone has a smartphone, augmented reality seems like an obvious next step since there’s no need for the additional hardware it is generally quite straightforward for people to use, and has a great capacity to enhance the effects of marketing.
Influencer marketing, despite its short time in existence, is already a billion-dollar industry, and it doesn’t look like it’s becoming any smaller. In an age where social media “influencers” have become a key tool for brand marketing and awareness, augmented reality is the perfect complement and support.
Using this technology, influencers will be able to make virtual experiences more personal for their fans. Existing techniques to increase engagement, such as Q & As, meetups and contests will become so much more “real”, as followers interact with influencers in the real world using their electronic devices. This will further reinforce the relationship between followers and influencers, whilst eradicating the need to be physically present. Brands sponsor influencers to take advantage of this relationship between followers, and influencers act as an engaging, entertaining and relatable face to a brand, thus transitively increasing brand affinity.
The use of augmented reality in marketing will be able to take any previous 2D marketing content or digital data and produce an integrated 3D image of products, making use of three-dimensional environments creating a more immersive experience.
Given the impact of introducing videos to digital marketing strategies, adding augmented reality to videos will create a whole new level of immersion for the consumer and give those videos a new life. Presently AR is already being used by brands in a multitude of industries to reinvent how people shop and receive advertising. No longer do you have to imagine how a new piece of Ikea might fit in your room, how an item of clothing might look when online shopping or how that lipstick shade might suit your complexion, AR can show you on your smartphone. AR has already been particularly useful in acting as virtual showrooms for cars, homes and clothing just to name a few.
The effect of AR is not just confined to the retail, gaming or military spaces, but has huge potential to be felt by the hospitality industry. For example, consider hotels or event spaces, where a physical environment is being sold, the physical space can become much more interactive with the use of AR. Premier Inn has already incorporated this technology with maps of the surrounding area; guests can point a smartphone at the map and view additional information about places of interest. Other hotels such as Holiday Inn and Best Western have used augmented reality to virtually depict celebrities and Disney stars through a smartphone around the hotel to make the hotel experience more engaging for guests.
The use of augmented reality technology has the potential to capture a lot more data and real-time feedback. Not only will brands be able to assess how much time is being spent but how. What consumers are looking at, or spending time on will be of great importance as brands to make much more accurate analyses about consumer behaviour.
AR-based campaigns have the ability to offer personalised information as well as additional information which can lead to much higher dwell times, higher interaction rates and higher click-through rates. Creating real and more importantly, authentic experiences will be key to engaging the right audiences. AR is a huge asset to companies looking to engage millennials, given that millennials generally have quite a short attention span. However, brands need to be conscious that they aren’t just using AR for the sake of using new technology but to actually serve a purpose.