Reality Bites: AR That’s Not Just Novel But Useful Too

Man's hands holding a digital tablet with the augmented reality app which shows the table and the chair in the new empty office.

Much has been made of augmented reality (AR) of late. In this opinion piece, Orchard’s senior brand and digital consultant Mikaela Crimmins (feature image) and practice lead, consumer and head of strategy Adam Washington, explain how you can take AR from a fun toy to an effective tool.

2018 was the year ‘voice’ hit the speaker circuit and failed to deliver in both reach and scale.

Meanwhile augmented reality, with its ability to bridge the physical and digital worlds, started to show us that it’s not just here for a good time but a long time too.

While voice is still in its early stages of adoption, platforms like Snapchat and Pokemon Go have accelerated usage and consumer familiarity with AR, broadening its reach and ultimately, its adoption.

Not to mention that it is a technology that fits relatively easily with our natural behaviours (i.e. I don’t need to walk around with a phone strapped to my head – I’m looking at you, Google Cardboard!)

Now, while AR shouldn’t be your marketing campaign, it offers a compelling proposition in its ability to solve real-world consumer problems. And while I’m not advocating for something as immersive as Keichi Matsuda’s world, AR should at least be considered for the following reasons as part of your marketing artillery:

  1. AR is now available in browser

We know that the more barriers we can remove, the higher the likelihood of adoption.

One of the biggest barriers for brands using AR was the requirement to use dedicated apps such as Apple’s ARKit or Google’s ARcore.

But we’re a lazy bunch and for many of us (myself included), this just felt like one too many steps.

The solution for many brands was the development of a highly immersive experience for a select few viewers.

Thankfully, this is no longer the case as browser-based AR is now available, keeping pace with the various apps’ high fidelity and frame rates.

For brands, this means that customers can now launch an AR experience directly from their website, keeping customers in the brand’s ecosystem and lowering barriers to adoption considerably.

  1. Google has added AR to search

At Google’s recent I/O conference, the tech giant announced that 3D Augmented Reality models will now be added to search results.

While this won’t be a feature adopted by all brands and shouldn’t be, it is a great feature for brands where customers may want to give products a sense of scale and place.

For example, if I am shopping for a fridge, I may want to see if that fridge can potentially fit into my pint-sized Sydney kitchen.

Google used the example of searching for a “great white shark”, or shopping for a pair of New Balance trainers where a customer can select ‘view in 3D’ and transform the product into a three-dimensional interpretation.

Offering this service requires no additional technical development for brands beyond the provision of a 3D visual rendering. Farewell, AR apps!

  1. Consumer familiarity

While Pokemon Go was considered a flash in the pan, it did accelerate usage of AR with 800 million downloads.

In 2018, an average of 70 per cent of Snapchat users were playing with an AR lens each month.

This means that usage of AR by consumers for brand engagement isn’t a massive leap, but rather an extension of existing consumer behaviours that bridge the physical and digital.

So, what questions should we be asking ourselves as marketers before we start applying AR to all of our brand briefs?

  • What role is AR playing for my brand e.g. brand immersion, product-trial or education?
  • Could AR be used to increase purchase confidence?
  • Is there a real problem for consumers that AR could solve which would remove barriers to purchase?
  • Am I using AR as a proxy for earned attention? If yes, perhaps reconsider.
  • Is AR my marketing campaign? If yes, perhaps return to the drawing board.

If you’ve answered the above questions and AR still feels like a useful branding and consumer tool, then by all means, adopt away.

Augmented reality technologies now have the scale and ease of use for customers who increasingly find it helpful in search enquiries.

Far from a novel idea, AR is just the newest iteration of the evolving brand experience.

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