The use of Augmented Reality by marketers is not new. Indeed it’s interesting to take a look at what was being said about the marketing potential of the technology some years ago...early iterations of the use of AR for promotional purposes can be traced back to the past decade, as this Top 10 list from Mashable illustrates, when the emphasis was distinctly on the creation of short-burst wow moments of interest. Some of the examples cited as being cutting-edge then are still ones that are celebrated today - such as the use of face-tracking technology and the use of tracking images to help connect audiences to a band. There is a sense from the examples given that AR is something that has a distinctively gimmicky feel to it, with people being urged to point their phone at a trigger and getting a wow experience, but not much beyond that.
And that challenge is one that AR developers still grapple with today. The ability of AR to create large awareness is not in doubt - witness the enormous interest in the Pepsi Max Unbelievable Bus Shelter AR Experience which hit over 7 million downloads. For AR to really gain in credibility though it needs to demonstrate that it’s a technology that can move consumers through what’s known in academic circles as the Hierarchy of Effects, building knowledge and liking for the product, and ultimately influencing purchase. To do this marketers will need to deploy AR in a way that adds real utility to consumers.
Building brand knowledge: AR that can enhance knowledge for consumers by providing layers of relevant information in areas such a food nutrition, tourist navigation and brand engagement among others. The latter area of brand engagement is likely to see significant expansion in the near future. While the entry costs of AR wearable devices still remains prohibitive, marketers have the opportunity to create opportunities for the general public to experience them. A good example of this would be vStream’s work for the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team, where premiering at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, guests were treated to an Augmented Reality tour that not only gave them a greater insight into the workings of the team but also a glimpse into the future of interactive tours.
And what of AR’s capacity to allow marketer’s to capture sales directly? Well, that holy grail is some time off, but it’s likely that the catalyst for this will be the roll-out of mobile devices with built-in AR capability. One such example already on the market is the Lenovo Phab phone which is the first mobile device build with AR in mind; and there are persistent rumours that Apple’s iPhone development focus has AR firmly in its cross-wires. Combine this with the Apple Pay system and you have a power-charged AR on the way very soon.