In the first post in this series, I attempted to summarise where augmented reality is at right now as a marketing tool and how we, as marketers, should start to view it as part of our kitbag.

As promised, in this second post want to dig a little deeper into what augmented reality is good at and how we can leverage its unique characteristics to achieve our goals.

Now I need to point out that this isn't a deep-dive into all the use cases for mobile AR. The applications of AR are just beginning to reveal themselves and the internet is filling up with great examples of how AR is being used by creative marketers and forward-thinking brands.

But, before decisions can be made on HOW best to bring AR into your marketing mix, we must first establish WHY - so let's take a quick look

Augmented Reality's Unique Qualities

AR is a medium with some unique characteristics that offer us the ability to do some new things and do some old things better. These include:

  • 1. Cohesive: AR can elegantly connect offline and online marketing to allow us to use the best of both mediums and create a cohesive experience
  • 2. Contextual: The ability to integrate digital content into what the user can actually see, added to the powerful contextual abilities of mobile, mean AR can be more relevant than perhaps any other marketing medium.
  • 3. Dimensional: AR brings brands out of 2D, making it ideal for telling stories and bringing things "to life."
  • 4. Interactive: AR is great at delivering genuinely interactive and immersive experiences, whether that is a game, shopping experience or brand activation
  • 5. Experiential: Augmented reality's breakout performances to date (if you exclude Pokemon Go) have come from its ability to allow people to experience a product that isn't physically there. We've all seen the Ikea Place app right?

It's these unique qualities of AR that gives it the power to drive key strategic outcomes for your business such as:

  • Positioning and activating your brand
  • Transforming customer experience
  • Enabling e-commerce growth
  • Driving customer loyalty

Unlocking e-commerce

One group that is super-pumped about AR is retail. Why so? Because it "unlocks" almost limitless potential in their e-commerce channels. We've seen brands like Nike, Sephora and Ikea adopt early because they know how much more profitable they will be when their e-commerce channels are freed up by the ability for customers to try their products without having to see them "in the flesh".

The concept of seeing a virtual couch in your living room, virtual art on your wall, virtual sunglasses on your face or virtual lipstick on your lips may seem a bit of a gimmick, but when you consider the impact on online shopping conversion rates, you can see why this is more than just a PR stunt for these brands. Surprise surprise - Amazon is all over this...For retailers the numbers are huge and the investment will be paid back many times over.

And it's not just the big guys who see the potential. We're starting to see this capability being democratised and made available to smaller retailers through Shopify.

So virtual try-before-you-buy could be AR's "killer app" when it comes to retail but there are many other powerful marketing concepts that can be enabled by AR.

I'm going to spare you the hype about talking wine bottles (meh) and Facebook/Snapchat filters (I'm too old to get excited about these). There are plenty of people who are higher on that stuff than I, so instead lets explore a different type of scenario:

A simple scenario to make a point

Imagine for a minute you're a major retailer. You drop over 1 million mailers in mailboxes every fortnight. It costs you a decent chunk of your marketing budget and your CFO keeps telling you to cut it. Experience tells you it's driving important business to your physical and e-commerce stores but you don't know for sure because it's near-impossible to measure. You've invested in creating a mobile app that does a good job but you'd like more people to download it so your mobile market strategy can reach them.

Now imagine that, using marker-based AR (see below), you include AR content in your mailer. By scanning the pages with your mobile app, readers of your mailer are able to access:

  • A new, one-time-only, animated scene and message from the hottest thing in kids toys. Collect all 10 and win [insert appealing prize here]
  • Exclusive, enticing AR-only deals identified by scanning each page
  • AR buy-now buttons providing a direct link to your online store
  • AR "hot-spots" to highlight different options on key product lines

These are just examples to demonstrate the concept, but if you then extrapolate that out into:

The value to the reader (or their kids)?

  • A richer shopping experience
  • A convenience, seamless shopping experience - from view to purchase
  • Access to great deals
  • Cool content to explore each week and a chance to engage with their favourite movie characters

The value to your business?

  • E-commerce transaction growth
  • New app downloads
  • Brand activation and engagement
  • Success metrics from the previously measurable - you now know how many people engaged with your mailer right from scan to purchase
  • Repeat behaviour and loyalty through sustainable, interactive means (wouldn't the world be a better place if we never produced another plastic Block Head or Smurf?)

This is just one scenario but hopefully goes some way to demonstrate the power that AR possesses to not only enable new brand interactions but also become to the glue that binds the other parts of your sales and marketing ecosystem.

The marketing applications of AR are too numerous to begin to cover in this post - we haven't even begun to touch on AR-based gamification, AR advertising, virtual brand ambassadors, hybrid retail and all the exciting/scary possibilities that computer vision creates. They will all have to wait for another day.

But if you can't wait, here are two excellent posts with examples of some amazing applications of AR:

And if you'd like to take a closer look at how AR could be applied in your business just hit me up - I could talk about this stuff all day :)

In the final post next week we'll take a look at some of the technologies that make AR possible, and some of the tools and resources readily available to marketers to make it happen.