The best brands are continuously seeking new and exciting ways to reach their target audience. The brands that hope to stay relevant need to express themselves in refreshing ways to make their consumer base take notice and pay attention. With the advent of augmented reality technologies, many companies are already working toward that goal, giving their customers a new way to engage through immersive interactions.
AR is changing the way in which companies reach and interact with their customer base, helping them stay relevant in a flooded market. With augmented reality, engagement, conversion rates, and overall sales can increase simply by creating a better brand experience.
The current applications of augmented reality for businesses show promise, and the future of AR looks bright. Businesses in every industry can feel the positive effects of AR technologies, including the gaming, healthcare, real estate, education, and entertainment industries.
The Rise of Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is a technology that allows users to superimpose 3D objects into their physical world through a mobile device. Essentially, AR overlays digital information onto the existing environment to create a new environment. One popular example is Pokémon Go, wherein users catch Pokémon they can see in the real world through their smartphones.
Many tech companies are working on improving the framework and capabilities of AR, including Apple, which launched ARKit to help app developers meet this goal. Developers can now access new tools to produce stunning augmented reality and virtual reality applications.
Analysts predict continued market growth for the AR and VR industry, citing that in 2020, there will be more than one billion people using AR applications worldwide. However, even though analysts have made sizable estimates on the market growth for a unified AR and VR world, software developers feel strongly that AR is the future and will drive the majority of growth in immersive technology.
Why won’t VR be as big as AR? Virtual reality is far more complicated than augmented reality, requiring more attention for the user, who is fully immersed in a digital environment. This limits communication with the outside world while the technology is used. On the flip side, augmented reality allows users to interact with a digital world and the physical world at the same time. Users can implement AR into their everyday lives without the need for a special headset and closing themselves off from their environment. AR users can easily switch from using AR for gaming and business to shopping and entertainment, all while staying connected to the real world.
Augmented Reality in Marketing
Many brands have already entered the AR field, integrating AR into their mobile device and browser applications for practical and marketing uses. Some example users include Home Depot, Timberland, Sephora, Chiquita, and Genius Ventures Inc.
In 2015, Home Depot released a way for customers to see how a paint color would look on their walls before they bought the paint. The Project Color app included ways to account for light, objects, and even shadows. This gave customers a realistic idea of how the color would look inside their real environment.
In 2017, Home Depot increased its AR offerings to include furniture and furnishings. Now, customers can see how colors would look on their walls and how various furniture items would look in their homes. This technology has since been adopted by Lowe’s and IKEA, too.
Timberland has also taken advantage of augmented reality, offering a virtual dressing room that allows customers to see their faces on a model body with features similar to their own. Users can then try on different clothes and accessories that the brand sells before they purchase them. Customers have a better understanding of how the clothing will look before they invest in the items, saving time and money.
Sephora offers a virtual makeup artist program inside their app that lets customers try on high-end makeup and different combinations without having to buy the makeup first. While many people prefer purchasing their makeup in-store, some people don’t have that luxury or the time. Sephora’s virtual artist app eliminates those barriers and brings the makeup studio to users’ homes.
Chiquita has partnered with Shazam to show customers exactly where their bananas came from. The new transparency app follows the entire route of bananas from Latin America to their destination. The goal is to help consumers understand the sustainability practices Chiquita is using. To view the life of the banana, users scan the blue sticker on the banana in the Shazam app and watch the virtual journey take flight on their phones.
This year, To celebrate their 50th anniversary Superstar shoe, Adidas and WSS teamed up Genius Ventures Inc to create an in-store Augmented Reality Snapchat activation. This in-store activation with Snapchat code was highly successful, so successful, that they moved on to a second phase to include a coupon-code for a free hat upon making their purchase in-store.
Augmented Reality in Other Industries
Another example of AR integration is in the insurance industry. Insurance companies are providing ways for customers to show real-time views of damage from traffic accidents and natural disasters. On the other end of the video, operators use AR to gain a better picture of the damage, measure different aspects, and estimate the full extent of the damage and the future costs of repairs. AR accelerates the reimbursement process.
In the healthcare industry, augmented reality gives medical students the ability to train in AR environments with mannequins that are overlaid with AR to simulate real diseases and treatments. Physicians are learning more through access to AR, and students have a more in-depth understanding of medical procedures before they enter hospitals.
Augmented Reality: The Future of Customer Experience
AR is rapidly changing the way that consumers communicate with businesses. In retail, the implications of AR in marketing are enormous and promise increased engagement and sales. AR is also taking over education, healthcare, and even the way people interact with their insurance companies.