Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Though marketers have not yet tended to focus on Augmented Reality (AR), this trend is likely to change as AR eclipses Virtual Reality (VR), spurred on by mobile devices with built-in AR potential.

According to a recent Forrester Report that advises marketers to get ready for AR, integration into existing marketing strategies is vital for avoiding gimmicks and creating valuable experiences for consumers. Interestingly, Forrester maintains that AR will be the bridge between online and offline experiences.

The big take-out: AR is well on its way to becoming more mainstream and accessible to marketers as digital companies make the software available to brands. AR integrates well with existing marketing activities in a way that VR cannot.

While AR technology is nothing new, its uptake from mainstream marketers has been minimal, barring the brief Pokémon Go phenomenon. What has changed is that leaders in the digital space have announced changes to their AR initiatives, and are creating software on their platforms that is available for brands to build new customer experiences and broaden their reach. These companies include Apple, which the report says is in the best position to leverage technology and lead innovation in the AR space, with Google, Facebook and Microsoft following suit.

The report also states that AR will offer a wider scope of opportunity than VR, largely because, while VR requires complicated and costly equipment, AR is available through smartphone cameras, making it far more accessible.

However, marketers should not hurry to adopt this trend. Get the basics right first, in terms of mobile and digital marketing strategies, the report warns. It’s also important for marketers to understand whether their consumers are open to the idea of AR – did they ever play Pokémon Go or interact with brands through Snapchat filters? Do they use the smartphone’s camera in store? This, according to Forrester, will provide the starting point for educating target markets.

The first step is to identify the consumers who would be early adopters of the technology and then to understand the profiles and behaviours of these customers more deeply.

AR can certainly ad value to customer interactions, but marketers should analyse where it could add value to the customer journey. “Customers no longer ‘go online’, but engage in integrated experiences wherever they are,” the report says, adding that AR can further enhance these experiences by creating, personalising and contextualising them. 

AR should seamlessly integrate with existing marketing strategies in order to avoid creating a disconnected approach. The objectives, current tactics and new AR experiences should all be defined to create a consistent experience of the brand.

AR, says the report, can be used to raise awareness around products, promotions and in-store sales; assist consumers to visualise products in their homes, such as paint and décor;  simplify payment processes;  provide customer support, connect with customers and create brand loyalty.

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