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Augmented reality has been pegged as ‘the next big thing’ but the question is does it really hold enough weight to become the next level of marketing, or is it just a gimmick?

Augmented reality (AR) uses technology to superimpose a computer-generated alternative reality onto a user’s view of the real world, you are most likely to have experienced it when messing about with Snapchat filters or perhaps you were an enthusiastic participant of the 2016 Pokémon Go craze. It’s certainly great fun and a very cool tech gimmick but can it have any other, more practical applications? With the rate the tech world constantly spits out new programmes and innovation, it’s unsurprising to learn that AR technology is getting better by the minute. With these innovations, AR is leaving it’s gimmick status behind and holds real value in terms of marketing potential.

Just a Social Media Gimmick?

In terms of social media Snapchat has been leading the pack, in 2015 they launched lenses successfully bringing AR to it’s user base. Since then it’s really taken off with lenses being its most popular feature, bringing with it potential revenue streams. Brands, like Taco Bell, can sponsor lenses, targeting specific demographics such as age and gender. However, Facebook and Instagram are close behind, with the rise of Instagram’s stories feature, and it’s popular rainbow sun-through-the-glass filter and Facebook’s Camera effects platform where you use your camera to interact with digital items laid over the real world (adding steam to a cup of coffee for example).  Whilst you can argue AR filters are mainly gimmick Facebook messenger’s AR has some real marketing applications. For example, Sephora uses AR in messenger to allow customers to virtually try on makeup, generating serious sales.

Interactive Advertising

Allowing customers to virtually experience products through AR has huge potential that is slowly being exploited by leading brands. As previously mentioned Sephora is leading the way for the beauty industry allowing people to try out different makeup looks on their both through messenger and their App. Ikea has also joined the trend, with their app that allows customers to place Ikea furniture in their own homes using AR and share videos and photos with friends. However, for brands to avoid this simply becoming a gimmick they need to ensure they go past the wow factor and use AR to add value to customer experience. Companies like Sephora use AR to provide product and lifestyle advice which allow their campaigns to have a real impact, great campaigns can lead to dwell times of over 85 seconds, interaction rates of up to 20% and click-through rates to purchase of 33% – numbers unseen across other advertising platforms.

The Future of AR

The future of AR is looking bright with more and more companies finding ways to incorporate it into their products and marketing campaigns. Forward thinking brands will be using map APIs to make geo-located AR experiences that will be a huge asset in terms of overlaying entertaining or useful promotional information on to the real world. Meanwhile, Facebook’s developing it’s AR target tracker which will enable your phone camera to track an object then create an immersive experience, allowing brands to create content that’s contextually tied to images, logos, signs and pictures in the real world. These innovations have a huge marketing potential as they enable companies to promote their products in an engaging and all-consuming way.

 

AR has come a long way in recent years moving away from tech gimmick towards marketing must have! This doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few challenges to overcome, for example, lenses are not only costly to develop and promote but have limited analytics making it harder to measure success. However, Facebook and Snapchat are making strides in fixing these little problems and AR’s other applications are clearly very effective.

 

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