Since the launch of Apple’s beta version ARkit there has been a rise of experimental augmented reality apps. This has recently included an AR version of Minecraft and the A-ha ‘Take on Me’ music video.
Outside of pure entertainment the Apple ARkit has given developers the opportunity to prototype new brand experiences. For instance, a developer in Norway created an app that allows smartphone owners to visualise a customisable Tesla Model 3 in their driveway. While not directly associated with the Tesla company, this app still demonstrates how brands can easily provide potential customers with an enriching pre-purchase experience.
This all comes one year on from the launch of Pokémon Go. Arguably the most successful use of augmented reality technology to date, Pokémon Go has generated over $1.2 billion in revenue and driven 752 million downloads.
Behind the success of Pokémon Go were three crucial factors that psychologists identify as being key drivers of human happiness; autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Games that promote these pillars regularly drive high user appeal. They help empower people to explore worlds freely, create communities and reward users for their participation.
Merely using the technology is not enough to make an augmented reality app go viral. Brands should first and foremost focus on how they can tackle an industry challenge or provide a rewarding experience.
Utilising Augmented Reality for Marketing
Even before the breakthrough of Pokémon Go brands had already been experimenting with augmented reality technology. In 2011, luxury houses De Beers and Boucheron both used augmented reality to allow shoppers to ‘try on’ jewellery at home, through their webcam.
This type of tactic targets a new consumer need that has emerged in the digital age. While e-commerce provides the opportunity to shop without visiting a bricks-and-mortar store, AR provides the opportunity to ‘virtually’ try on various clothes and accessories from within the home.
However, one of the great successes of Pokémon Go was that it was, in a sense, an outdoors game. In Robert Pleasant's article on the psychological effects of Pokémon Go, it describes how augmented reality games can encourage people to explore and interact with physical environments. While the game is played through a mobile device, it is an experience that relies on the player venturing outdoors and interacting with their surroundings and other people through duals.
Similar to De Beers and Boucheron, Tissot used augmented reality to turn a plain wristband, that customers would wear, into watches. However, Tissot aimed to enhance the physical shopping experience with the technology available to use outside various stores. This campaign was a social AR experience that required individuals to be physically active in ‘the real world’.
Sephora has also used AR in the past to enhance physical shopping. The premium beauty brand created augmented reality mirrors that could simulate cosmetics on a person’s face in both real-time and 3D. Cosmetic brands Bobbi Brown, Maybelline and Cover Girl have similarly created their own ‘try-on’ virtual experiences. These brands have specifically used the technology in a manner that is relevant to their target market and provides an enriching product discovery experience.
More recently Sephora has transformed their AR mirrors into a smartphone app. By initially testing within a controlled environment, the brand was able to clearly understand and analyse how their customers interacted with augmented reality. This knowledge allowed the brand to integrate the technology into their wider digital marketing strategy in a manner that was relevant and tailored to their community.
Whether in-store or on mobile, the key factor to a successful AR campaign is creating an experience that is customer centric. This requires brands identifying how technology can be used to provide a solution to a consumer problem. Without this initial strategic process you risk the final product being little more than a gimmick.
Tech aficionado, Rob Reid, recently stated that the future of augmented reality is holograms and photorealism, rather than Pokémon Go. There are forms of this technology already available — the smartphone application Holo for instance. However, many of these examples rely on gimmicks and gamification. Arguably the real potential for this technology is in developing daily business processes.
Rather than enhancing their marketing — companies could utilise AR to improve internal communications, presentations and product design. Tech companies are already experimenting with using augmented reality glasses to present 3D models and prototypes. Microsoft is now testing how a human could communicate via a hologram — just like in Star Wars.