From 3-D playing cards and movie posters to virtual fitting rooms and vehicle test drives, augmented reality (AR) is emerging as a more accessible, innovative marketing tool.
Because more than half of shoppers use their smartphones to research purchases, AR offers new and improved ways for retailers to build relationships and engage with their customers—both inside and outside stores. In addition to creating a more engaging user experience, AR provides data that empowers brands to better understand what is resonating with consumers, and to tailor their marketing efforts accordingly.
Early examples of AR have proven successful for many brands, but barriers to widespread adoption among consumers are still present. So how does AR avoid fizzling out like so many marketing tech trends that came before it? (Sorry, QR code, but we're looking at you.)
Executing an innovative and successful AR marketing campaign doesn't have to be complicated. For retail marketers considering experimenting with AR, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind.
1. Make it relevant
For marketers and brands considering making AR part of their strategy, it's critical to understand what types of AR content are relevant to their users.
Within a user's live environment, AR technology has the ability to deliver 2-D and 3-D imagery, video, and animation via a mobile device. For example:
- Conde Nast Traveler added an AR feature to its iPhone app that helped travelers discover nearby attractions simply by scanning the area around them with their iPhone camera.
- The ice cream gurus at Ben & Jerry's added an AR feature within the brand's "Scoop of Happiness" app that allowed users to learn more about their ice cream flavor of choice by simply scanning the lid.
By tapping into the insights that AR provides—based on where, when, and how their audience is engaging with their content—retail marketers can better understand what content resonates with the user, then tailor their messaging and marketing efforts.
2. Create engaging content
Multiple studies have shown that consumers are more likely to buy—or even pay more for—a product after they've touched it. The same has been said about consumers who are able to envision owning a product they've seen while shopping online.
AR makes it possible for consumers to visualize and engage with products like never before, but only if brands can identify and create the right types of content to grab consumers' attention. For example, if you're selling home decor, build an app that allows users to see how a piece of furniture would look in their home.
Engaging content not only gets consumers thinking about products but also leads to increased brand affinity. The more time consumers spend with a brand, the greater their attachment to that company becomes.
3. Understand where users are interacting with content
In 2011, Red Bull ran a subway ad campaign that relied heavily on QR codes. Not a bad idea in itself, at least until you consider that most subways don't offer phone connectivity, rendering the codes essentially inaccessible and useless.
If marketers are planning to integrate AR into their campaigns (and if AR wants to avoid the same fate as QR codes), it's important to understand where consumers are engaging with their content and plan accordingly.
4. Include a clear call to action
Brands don't want consumers to just browse; they want consumers to buy, track, and share. Users should therefore be able to see and do more with AR, and brands should give them a clear call to action to respond to. Just as with traditional marketing campaigns, smart retailers know that success comes from asking consumers to engage with the brand in a specific way. A clear call to action within your AR campaign will not only drive better results but also help gauge the success of the AR campaign.
5. Integrate with other marketing tools
Location-based tools, social networking, recommendations, and reviews are all great standalone tools, but when integrated with AR, they unlock a whole new level of engagement and activity-based re-engagement by making the user experience much more personalized.
When Olympus released its PEN E-PL1 portable camera in 2010, it simultaneously released an AR campaign that allowed users to virtually explore the camera's features, plus share their photos and videos online. Such a more robust campaign offered a way for the brand to engage consumers on a much deeper level.
6. See the bigger picture
User experience is only one part of the AR equation. Another is data, which proves extremely valuable to brands. With traditional retail marketing tactics, such as catalogs and mailers, it can be difficult to access deep-dive data that reflects what consumers are engaging with, what's capturing their attention, and what isn't working as well.
AR technology opens up new levels of data and feedback, allowing retailers to see which ads people are engaging with, how long they're looking at an ad, whether they have downloaded a coupon or shared something with a friend. Such information makes it easier for retailers and brands to identify trends, deliver more personalized content, and re-engage users.
* * *
Consumers love their smartphones, and they are looking for more ways to use them, while brands are searching for ways to unlock the potential of the smartphones their customers are already using.
AR provides a way to bridge the gap between the physical and digital experience, empowering brands to better engage with their customers and drive real business results in the process.
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