According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, shopping will be changed “entirely” by augmented reality, and nothing “will be untouched”. Many brands are already reacting to this, such as Zara, Nike and Ikea, and are pointing the way to the immediate promise of AR for consumers.
We think there are two main areas where AR offers immediate value for retail and consumer brands. Firstly, it can help consumers have a significantly better product experience than they would without it. And secondly, it can create a premium brand experience through storytelling.
Augmented Reality usage is on the rise
1) Improving the experience
AR succeeds where it makes the physical product or service experience better or more entertaining for consumers. However, these benefits must be significant, as the barrier to entry for using AR is high and is likely to remain so in the near future. Although we’ll see a real advancement of the tech, the experience of it will – for now – remain limited to the phone screen.
That said, if the consumer benefit outweighs the technological barrier – through adding utility or making the process of shopping more engaging – then an opportunity exists for brands to grow. For example, Ikea, or a similar brand, could use AR to analyse and enhance flat pack assembly. Or, the frustrations of setting up a home internet connection could be alleviated by gamifying it through an AR set-up coach.
Take medication as another example. The impenetrable information stuffed into drug leaflets is known to contribute to preventable medication errors in patients. The implications of these errors on patient health and medical costs are not insignificant, which is why organisations like the World Health Organisation are actively encouraging member states and drug companies to provide patient engagement tools that will address confusing medicine labels. AR can help visualise and simplify the information on drug packaging to make it more accessible and informative for consumers.
AR devices for factory workers that superimpose production assembly details over their vision are already being piloted by thousands of companies, and it’s only a matter of time before the tech will do the same in the world of consumers. We’re all visual beings, processing between 80 and 90 per cent of information through sight, so being able to turn complex information into easily understandable images is a key strength of AR.
“By superimposing digital information directly on real objects or environments, AR allows people to process the physical and digital simultaneously… improving our ability to rapidly and accurately absorb information, make decisions, and execute required tasks quickly and efficiently.”
– Michael Porter and James Heppelmann, Harvard Business Review
2. Telling a story
Marketeers should consider using AR to create engaging brand experiences through storytelling. This is where brands and the entertainment industry will ultimately meet. For example, the wine brand 19 Crimes from Treasury Wine Estates celebrates the criminals and scholars that were banished from the UK and built Australia.
The brand targets young UK men – a market the Treasury estimates to be worth £76 million – due to the fact that they don’t currently consume much wine. Using an AR app, built by Tactic, consumers can see the stories of the real-life criminals that adorn the labels of the wine bottles just by hovering a phone over them.
While this application may lack the necessary depth, it shows the promise of what could be. Here, AR overcomes the drawbacks of interruptive advertising to provide a shared, more immersive and fun ‘in the moment’ experience.
As this example shows, such applications aren’t limited to luxury brands, but they are created with a luxury mindset that understands that today’s consumers are looking for experiences rather than being talked at by brands. AR enables any surface to become a stage for immersive and emotional storytelling, and this will transform the way in which brands engage with their audiences.
To download this AR infographic, click on the image above.
In all cases, the success of AR has to come back to the core of all marketing: providing consumers with value. The benefit of the product enhancement or brand experience that AR brings has to significantly outweigh the hardware challenges that AR carries with it.
The value consumers assign to an experience is a combination of how relevant, timely and good it is seen to be, divided by the effort that has to be put into getting it. If the sum of the benefits your customers will get out of your experience is greater than the barrier to experiencing it, then get going!
For digital design, there’s almost unlimited potential applications for AR. And we believe it can help bridge the gap between brands and their consumers. And when done right, it can drive incremental growth. As Zara’s Group CEO, Pablo Isla, noted: “The strength of the integrated store and online model, bolstered by continued innovation, is driving growth and notable job creation”. And the numbers prove it. Zara has seen overall sales grow since introducing AR into its stores. Its realignment to phygital saw its offline sales grow by 2% and its online sales increase by 41%.
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