Augmented reality (AR) as a marketing tool has received a considerable boost in recent months. Years ago, AR applications either existed only as a concept or had to be programmed from scratch at great effort and expense. In the meantime, they are appearing in the app stores of Apple and Google on a large scale because they actively promote AR itself. Facebook and Instagram, as well as Snapchat, want to use it to rack up points. We have compiled some examples that are worth examining.
Augmented reality vs. virtual reality
To explain the terms: While the users of virtual reality are completely immersed into an artificial world, augmented reality takes the existing environment and enhances it with digital information and elements. To use these today, you generally pick up your smartphone or tablet: The AR software complements the live image from the built-in camera accordingly. Apple and Google have shown that modern mobile devices no longer need special hardware to do this in amazingly good quality. But how can this be put into practical use for marketing purposes? Here are a few examples from four areas.
AR in online shopping
As successful as shopping via the Internet has become, there are many products that cannot be adequately described and presented even with elaborately produced photos and videos. Augmented reality can be of considerable help here. Ikea, for example, shows with its “Place” app how useful this can be. Its allows you to try out digital versions of the Swedish furniture directly in your own home. To do so, you select them from the catalog and use your finger to move them into the desired position. This means you can judge whether your favorite armchair really fits into the intended corner of the living room and what the floor lamp looks like beside it. Another example is provided by the paint specialist Dulux. You can use its app to make the walls in your home any color you want. After all, everyone knows how different a color can look once it covers an entire wall. Modiface, in turn, makes it easy and convenient to try out beauty products. The smartphone becomes a digital make-up mirror. Meanwhile, the start-up has been purchased by L’Oreal. All three examples not only help in the selection of products, but also have a playful aspect. In other words, they not only clear a hurdle but also roll out the red carpet.
AR in stationary trade
AR can also be helpful and improve the shopping experience in traditional, localized retail. Memomi, for example, is a high-tech mirror with some almost magical abilities. This makes it possible, for example, to try out combinations of garments without having to wait for a free changing room. Or the mirror can dynamically adjust the colors of the fabrics. This way, many models and variants can be tried out within a short space of time − even if they are not available in the store. This “magic mirror” is also a good example of the progress made in recent years: A few years ago, the Timberland brand caused a sensation with a similar device. Now this is available as a finished product and is even more powerful than the role model from 2014.
AR in Instagram, Snapchat & Co.
“AR filters” for funny and surprising effects in selfies and other photos are particularly suitable for marketing. Characters from movies, brand mascots or the products themselves can appear here. But as a rule it should be entertaining and fun. Snapchat has explained that a third of its users try out the effect filters called “lenses” every day for an average of three minutes. Another plus point: Users deliberately interact with advertising, often even proactively. They then also voluntarily distribute the results. Netflix, for example, created an spooky AR environment for its “Stranger Things” series with which users could interact. The movie “Despicable Me 3” offered all kinds of funny selfie options. And the fast food chain Taco Bell achieved 224 million views in just one day with its selfie filter. According to various estimates, they spent 500,000 to 750,000 US dollars on it. Compared to an advertisement in the US “Super Bowl” media event, this is twice the range at one tenth of the price. Snapchat is generally regarded as a pioneer in this area. Facebook follows closely on its heels and has, for example, presented the “AR Studio” as part of its “Camera Effects Platform”.
AR for print and outdoor advertising
And last but not least, augmented reality can also be used to enhance static advertising in newspapers and magazines as well as posters. Examples of this have been around for many years. Above all, what is new is that the necessary technology has become more widespread in the meantime. For example, Porsche was the first German customer to use the new AR functions of the “Shazam” app: Readers of the magazine “Auto, Motor und Sport” found an advertisement from the sports car manufacturer that could be brought to life via Shazam. For each model shown, a video was stored which played automatically. In principle, we are dealing here with a modification of the “QR code” topic. However, in this case the interested parties are not simply directed to a website. Instead, the printed and digital displays can be directly linked and combined.
Conclusion and outlook
The fact that Apple, Google and Facebook are pushing the AR topic in this way has accelerated developments considerably in recent months. The next stage of development is now on the horizon: special headsets and glasses. Microsoft’s HoloLens is one of them. The start-up Magic Leap has announced its long awaited first model for this year. And Apple also seems to be working on such a device in its laboratories. They could then open up possibilities for completely new experiences.