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The benefits of Augmented Reality in Marketing

June 10, 2021
min read

Good marketing is all about connecting with your audience and closing the gap between reality and people’s imagination. Augmented Reality (AR) displays on a smartphone’s camera screen and, using computer vision-based recognition to augment graphics, video and sound, lays virtual objects over the real-world image. It is, therefore, perfectly placed to help bridge the imagination gap and create an experience which allows customers to visualise what products may look like in reality.

What’s more, smartphones are now a fixture of modern life, enabling consumers all over the world to not only communicate effectively but also pay bills, shop and even remotely control devices in their homes and cars. According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 3.5 billion, meaning 45.12% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. This figure is up considerably from 2016, when there were only 2.5 billion users, 33.58% of that year’s global population.

This reliance on smartphones is likely to increase as more features become available, meaning Augmented Reality is easily accessible to the masses, more so than virtual reality, and thus its growth potential is huge. According to research by Global Market Insights, the AR market size is set to exceed $50 billion by 2024.

Why use Augmented Reality in business?

Augmented Reality brings together a new way of sharing information and encouraging interaction which ultimately helps accelerate business operations. It is considered more appealing than virtual reality because of its ubiquity – it can address the burgeoning market of smartphones and tablets as it expands.

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As well as offering the customer valuable product information, AR can enable new learning activities amongst staff, improve brand awareness, save on material costs and gain a competitive advantage. AR technology innovations offer new opportunities for almost every vertical, let’s take a look at the benefits of Augmented Reality in business across different industries:

  • Healthcare – new AR innovations help enhance doctors and surgeons ability to diagnose, treat and perform surgery on patients more accurately by accessing real-time data faster and more precisely than ever before. AR in medicine can also allow students and trainee physicians to better visualise health scenarios that they will one day be treating.
  • Retail – AR technology has allowed customers to virtually ‘try-on’ experiences to understand how a product would look like on a person or in a room. It has been widely adopted by cosmetics and eyewear brands to deliver a unique and personalised customer experience both online and in-store. Also, these days nearly 60% of shoppers look up product information and prices using their smart phones whilst in store – AR can help supplement this information in a way that sales people can’t.
  • Gaming– AR is redefining the gaming industry by creating a fully immersive experience. Using smart glasses, 3D tracking and geolocation, it can change users’ view with animated 3D content. Game developers are constantly working on innovative ways to take players even further into their fantasy world.
  • Travel & tourism – AR has become popular with hotels and tourist destinations as they can enhance their physical environments to encourage customers to visit. As well as helping customers with research for their trip with 3D modelling and image tagging, AR can continue to support travellers when they arrive at their destination, offering them 24/7 information and interactive maps.
  • Education – AR can breathe life into the classroom by helping students grasp complex topics and adding gaming elements to support textbook materials. Generation Alpha (those who are born between 2010 and 2025) are inherently familiar with a world of technology and use smartphones, tablets and computers. They are used to acquiring knowledge through screens, so it makes sense for schools and colleges to provide an adequate environment that enhances this type of learning.

5 advantages of Augmented Reality in your marketing strategy

As many industries adopt Augmented Reality technology, it’s evolving the way businesses market to consumers. AR establishes an immediate, sensory connection between the brand and audience and encourages repetitive engagement and loyalty.

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Think of augmented reality as adding another dimension to your content marketing, with both you and your audience creating that dimension. Focus on the fun, accessible and visual aspects of AR, keeping in mind what your audience wants to see and how it will help them. Here are some key advantages to Augmented Reality marketing:

  • Enhanced customer experience: People love exciting and new things and Augmented Reality meets these needs perfectly by sparking curiosity. AR experiences are immersive and interactive, building an emotional connection with customers –  which is useful because people are more likely to recall brands they have positive associations with. Also, with AR, prospective customers can model and sample products without having to directly interact with them, making the purchasing process a lot smoother. You can now reach customers with even less physical resources exhausted.
  • Augmented assistance: Augmented Reality in marketing isn’t just about the selling of a product or service. Businesses can use it to help customers get more from their products. AR offers the potential for brands to add a digital component on top of their physical locations and products. Customers are able to pull up AR to give them additional information about the product or an additional brand-related experience. Being so useful only serves to increase levels of customer loyalty.
  • Customer engagement: Effective marketing is about good storytelling, And AR can, of course, provide an opportunity to bring the customer into the story. Creating a novel and compelling augmented experience is a great way to get people buzzing about a brand – they immediately get a positive impression. AR can also take branding materials like business cards and brochures to the next level by adding a virtual component. Because it’s so unique, AR is naturally shareable and has the potential to go viral. Brands can engage with consumers on a far deeper level than ever before.
  • Customer satisfaction: Using AR means that the customer is more relaxed during the shopping experience, without having to make too much effort, and is sure about what the product has to offer before they buy. This means they are less likely to regret their choice later, ultimately creating more customer satisfaction. AR is also increasingly being used to improve customer service and support, providing remote customer assistance and promptly carrying out repairs.
  • Information-rich: For some people, researching a product is very important. They really like to take their time before committing to a purchase, comparing all available options. For this group of people, AR is well positioned to go beyond and above their requirements – overlaying as much product information as they need. This ability should not only increase sales but also reduce return rates and overall customer churn.

Augmented and Virtual Reality marketing

Augmented Reality is an experience in which virtual objects are superimposed onto the real-world environment via smartphones, tablets and AR glasses. Virtual reality (VR), in contrast, is a fully immersive experience where a user leaves the real-world environment to enter a full digital environment via VR headsets.

Virtual reality applications can be used across many industries in a similar way to AR – helping surgeons plan surgery, children learn in a simulated walk on the moon and soldiers train for combat scenarios. Arguably, VR is not currently as useful as AR for marketing because, of course, VR headsets are not as accessible as smartphones.

However, with the amount of research going into VR, prices for the hardware are decreasing and, as the technology advances, it’s worth considering how you could leverage both AR and VR to take your marketing to the next level.

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Augmented Reality in digital marketing

AR is a huge asset for digital marketing campaigns as it has the ability to offer personalized, additional information and create authentic experiences for the right audiences. Millennials, in particular, engage well with AR as they are prone to a relatively short attention span. AR-based campaigns can lead to much higher interaction, dwell times and click-through rates. Augmented Reality seems like an obvious next step in digital marketing for the following reasons:

Connection to social media influencers – influencer marketing is already a billion-dollar industry, with influencers being a key tool for brand marketing and awareness. Using AR technology, influencers can make virtual experiences more personal for their fans – enabling Q&As, contests and meet-ups to become more real.

Adding a new dimension to marketing materials – AR enables you to take any previous 2D marketing content or digital data and produce an integrated 3D image of products – creating a more immersive experience. You can also breathe new life into video content, overlaying additional useful information.

Capture data on consumer behaviour – using Augmented Reality technology offers potential to capture more data and real-time feedback, allowing you to assess how much time your customers are spending interacting with your brand and what exactly they are looking at.

Augmented Reality examples

As more and more brands are using Augmented Reality campaigns to have an impact on potential audiences, we can look at some of the most successful for inspiration.

Asos launches virtual catwalk

One of the most talked-about advances in Augmented Reality advertising in 2019 is the launch of the Virtual Catwalk on the Asos app in June. Customers point their device at a flat surface, click the ‘AR’ button on the product page, and models virtually appear wearing the product – giving the customer a refreshing new way of viewing the products in real life. Customers can view what products would look like on different size models so they can get an idea of how an item might fit their body shape.

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Ikea Place

When Ikea launched its Augmented Reality Place app in September 2017, customers responded enthusiastically.  It turned its physical catalogue into an interactive catalogue, allowing users to visualise how furniture would look in their own home before buying it. The app catalogues over 2,000 products that you can place anywhere in a room by pointing your phone at a particular area and watching the object appear at scale.

Visa AR campaign

In 2017 in Poland, Visa created a popular AR campaign named ‘Try something new with Visa’. Providing an unforgettable experience in several shopping centres, members of the public were able to view the real world mixed with computer generated images. Whenever a person entered the designated circular mark on the floor, realistic animations of virtual animals such as giraffes, pandas and elephants, would merge with a live video of them that was being projected onto a huge LED screen. This brought much amazement to those watching, plus people could take photographs in which both images were visible and share them on social media.

YouTube’s AR Beauty Try-On

Last summer, YouTube rolled out an AR-powered ad campaign with its new virtual makeup feature Beauty Try-On that works directly in the YouTube app on a mobile device. When watching makeup tutorial videos, users can click a button saying ‘try it on’ to launch the camera in a split-screen view, so they see a live stream of their own face on the bottom screen. They can then scroll through various product shades, applying different colours and seeing which one works best. MAC cosmetics were one of the first brands to take advantage of this feature.

The New Yorker AR cover

Some of the most impressive AR campaigns are those that use it with paper objects. This was the case with The New Yorker magazine, which used AR on one of its covers. To access the information, users had to download the app Uncovr, which then allowed them to walk through New York City in the same black and yellow graphics featured in the magazine. The artist, Christoph Niemann said: “The idea of an Augmented or Virtual Reality is inherent in any drawing—it’s almost the definition of a drawing. If you create a world on paper, you create a window. Usually, you just break the surface with your mind, but you always have the feeling of: What if you could step into that world or if something could come out of it?”

Infographics - The benefits of AR in Digital Marketing
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