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Bădeci Raluca, IAA Romania Young Professionals Member Marketing

Augmented Reality - a new way to attract consumers

In the context of a constantly changing marketing industry, especially in the social media area, technology has become omnipresent in business. New trends appear on the market and companies need to quickly align their marketing and communication approaches to keep them relevant to consumers. Among the new trends brought by 2018, such as virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence, voice marketing, etc., there is also the augmented reality (AR).

With the aim of becoming even more visible and to reach more customers, marketers have made great progress in the technology area as consumers demand a more integrated experience. By blending the physical and digital worlds and enabling users to actively shape their experiences, AR offers unique ways for marketers to interact with consumers. These can range from navigation to virtual showrooming. The augmented reality has great chances to change the way marketing is done right now.

The use of augmented reality (AR), is quickly gaining popularity, as demonstrated by Pokémon Go’s rise to 50 million users, only in the US in the first few weeks of application. Although they recognize the opportunity, few companies have yet moved beyond experimentation with AR, and only a small number of them consider the technology an integral part of their marketing strategy. But research and customer experience indicate that this is about to change. There are a few things that companies have to keep in mind in order to align themselves with the rapid AR growth.

The opportunity offered by this trend is already very big. On the basis of 2017 data from Snapchat, Pokémon Go and other AR applications, it is estimated that about one-third of all smartphone users are accessing applications based on augmented reality, at least monthly. Consumers using these applications are mostly Millennials (aged 19 to 34) or Generation Z consumers (aged 18 or younger). They use their smartphones continually throughout the day, communicating through images and video as much as they do via text and voice. This behavior is a new opportunity to connect with consumers - an interactive approach where the communication specialist participates in the "conversation" rather than a company delivers a message.

As a result of a rapid consumer adoption, a dynamic ecosystem is developing around AR and marketers are moving quickly to capitalize on the opportunities that this new trend brings.

Companies in industries such as retail, fashion & beauty, gaming and entertainment are the ones who earn, for now, the biggest advantage. AR offers consumers in these industries benefits such as the possibility of viewing makeup on a potential purchaser’s face, furniture in an actual room in their own home, or video game characters in a real-world setting.

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Advertisers regard AR as a tool that can help them engage with consumers, but also a way of keeping them close; currently, most of them are focused on the top and middle stages - awareness and consideration. Today AR is used to increase availability, engagement, and awareness, but the most desirable objectives are commitment, purchase intent and sales.

These are the most intuitive cases of using AR, but many other creative uses already exist and many more will appear in a variety of sectors. AR advertising has already begun to demonstrate measurable success and has done so in a wide variety of industries. A good example is the Pepsi Max, sugar-free, lunch campaign, where Pepsi has done an augmented reality advertising campaign, named “Unbelievable Bus Shelter”. The campaign was presented at a bus stop on Oxford Street - the busiest street in London. Imagine waiting for the bus while enjoying natural landscapes through a transparent window of the station, but suddenly you see how a tiger approaches you. Pepsi has managed to offer this experience through an advertising campaign using AR.

With an idea on my taste, a Nike store in Paris used the augmented reality in an innovative way. The shop was equipped with AR devices, which are projection-based on augmented reality. Thus, customers were allowed to view shoes patterns displayed on the shelf in different design aspects. In addition, Nike urges customers to think outside the box and allows them to create their own shoes with customized color and pattern.

That's what campaigns based on augmented reality can make - add a magical effect that won’t let you take your eyes off of them.

Despite the size of the opportunity and the encouraging results from early movers, big advertisers report several challenges that are preventing them from expanding their AR efforts. Being a new trend, companies are particularly struggling with market maturity, impact and measurement, as well as internal capabilities of companies.

The main expectations are that the AR ecosystem will continue to mature quickly, overcome barriers and become an important tool for the marketing industry. Technological giants such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are already setting their own positions for the new wave, giving great confidence to its development. Apple CEO Tim Cook told the BBC: “I’m incredibly excited by AR because I can see uses for it everywhere.”

No one can anticipate how new technologies will evolve, such as augmented reality, or how they will influence consumer behavior and the marketing sector, but I can say that AR has opened up an innovative way for companies to represent themselves. Also, using interactive augmented reality advertising, they not only connect with us, but they make us an integral part of their campaign. And, this really helps them to literally infuse their brand-name easily into the users’ mind. Thus, augmented reality slowly increases as the new trend in marketing industry takes place in the future of advertising.

This article was written by Bădeci Raluca, International Advertising Association Young Professionals member, Romanian Chapter.

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