Stuck in the middle
Let’s be honest: When it comes to tech success, you either have it, or you don’t. And for me, Virtual Reality falls into the latter category (it also trips on a cord and knocks over a lamp on the way down). Considering that the technology has been around for decades and is usually met with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ by those who give it a shot, this might be kind of surprising.
Major players like Microsoft and the slow-but-steady adoption of 360 degree cameras (boosted by new developments such as 360 Facebook cover photos) are helping keep the VR boat afloat. Others, however, are paying closer attention to its cousin, augmented reality (AR). But is AR destined to suffer the same unfulfilled fate as its predecessor?
It all depends on how marketers put it to use.
The goal of VR is to transport the user to a completely new reality, creating a virtual world that envelops and immerses them. But AR is even more fascinating. It brings those same immersive experiences to the real world, so in that sense, it’s more ‘enhanced’ reality, than ‘augmented’. And it’s a reality that is projected to reach $117.4 billion by 2022.
AR launched into the spotlight last year with Pokemon Go. The app saw more first-week downloads than any other in history. The technology’s potential marketing power was even more encouraging; it drove more than 500 million visits to sponsored locations around the globe.
But it was a flash. Faster than you can say ‘Pikachu’, the fad had reached its peak. The incredible success, however, is a sign of what’s to come. Millions of consumers were hooked because the app blurred the lines of reality.
The truth is, we’ve barely scratched the surface from a marketing perspective. To maximise the potential of this exciting technology, however, marketers need to get it right. To do that, we must learn from the shortcomings of VR.
Learning from VR
Use AR thoughtfully
Don’t settle for gimmicks and don’t rush something to market simply for the sake of saying you’re ‘doing AR.’ Marketers must have a strategy for adding the experience into the broader customer journey. Collaborate with your tech teams and designers to base your project on a deep understanding of how consumers will use and benefit from it.
AR may seem like it requires a new way of thinking, but it’s simply another extension of your brand experience. Whether in a store or online, AR enables experiences to be immersive but not at the expense of physical interactions. This can help make customer experiences more personalised and enjoyable and help brick-and-mortar stores innovate and thrive alongside their digital-first counterparts.
Focus on the experience
It’s easy to get swept away in the capabilities of new technology and lose sight of what the users actually experience when they use it. That’s one reason why we don’t see more integration of VR technology in our day-to-day lives. For many, the novelty of VR eventually wore off. For others, they simply couldn’t stomach it! As marketers, we must focus on the experience, not the technology.
AR gives you an incredible platform to tell your brand story, drawing consumers in and keeping them hooked. But it’s not just about images on phone screens. More brands are dipping their toes in the water with things like Snapchat geo-filters, but we have to keep pushing.
It’s no longer as simple as ‘if you build it, they will come’ but if you build it right and continually add value, they will stay.
Make it accessible
When the HTC and Oculus VR headsets first hit the market, they set consumers back nearly $1,000. Then, you also had to buy gaming machines with a similar price tag. The sky-high investment cost set VR back and made it difficult to sell it as a valuable technology.
While the gadgets have since come down in price, the result reinforces the importance of accessibility – not just in cost, but also in developing solutions that are simple to adopt and work seamlessly across multiple mobile platforms.
We have to think about where, how and how often consumers will use AR technology. Consumers won’t walk down the street or aisle scanning every object they pass, but it’s hard to say exactly where they’ll draw the line.
By focusing on making interactions convenient and useful, we can ensure not to oversaturate or annoy consumers and miss out on valuable marketing opportunities.
At first glance, AR may seem less immersive than VR; With VR, you can visit faraway lands, walk with dinosaurs or fly through space. Aith AR, you can take your customers on a journey without taking them anywhere.
With a bit of experimentation, we can unlock exciting new ways to connect with consumers and break boundaries (instead of living room lamps).