Why marketing is in need of an augmented reality check

Marc MichaelsToday’s brands face a significant dilemma: in an increasingly ‘always on’ digital world where it’s never been easier to reach customers, it’s also never been harder to stand out, engage, convert and, perhaps most crucially, retain their loyalty.
Marketing needs to continuously adapt, test and invest in the latest technological innovations to build customer-centric marketing campaigns that really engage with audiences. Such is the appetite for the latest innovations, that 87% of marketers have a dedicated budget for testing new technology, according to a recent DMA report. Augmented reality (AR) is one such technology – but how do you know whether it’s appropriate for you?
Delivering the four Es with AR
Once seen as simply a novel promotional tactic or even a gimmick, AR has been evolving into a more mature marketing tool that has actual utility and is able to improve outcomes for campaigns, gain cut-through and help direct customers to the next best action.
Indeed, AR is not just about the technology, it’s about the creative idea that is making the most of the technology and bringing something to life in a human way. For example, showing something in situ, such as displaying a new car in the drive or a painting on a customer’s wall, makes it much more real and can be a vital psychological prompt to purchase.
From a marketing standpoint, it’s about layering entertaining and informative content that will engage a customer, allow them a higher degree of interaction, ultimately tempting them to at the very least engage and at best make a purchase.
A well-planned and implemented AR campaign, therefore, should be underpinned by the four Es: explanatory, educational, entertainment and engagement. If AR activity ticks one or more of these boxes then it is likely to provide a real benefit to the organisation and the customer and solve an actual challenge, either marketing or operational.
Changing the dynamics of customer experience
Of course, before launching an AR campaign, a number of factors need to be considered. Central to this should be budget availability, but marketers also need to think about technical feasibility, available assets that can potentially be reused or adapted, as well as any potential barriers that could get in the way of adoption. For example, can it be developed as a progressive web app (meaning no native install is needed), or will it need to be part of an existing app eco-system?
If carefully considered and planned, however, the benefits of AR are vast.
AR can help marketers enhance communications and prevent avoidable demand by taking complex messages in printed materials, bringing them to life with an augmented overlay that links to more explanatory or educational digital content that knocks down barriers to purchase.
In practice, customers can be reached on the go with AR enhanced point of sale marketing materials and displays, catalogues, flyers, brochures, business cards, posters or print ads that include can link to 2D, 3D, static or animated assets, overlaid over reality, providing entertaining, additional content to engage customers.
Using AR as an integrated part of your marketing mix has the potential to help acquisition and build customer loyalty by interacting with prospects and customers using content tailored to the environment, context and user.
Indeed, the richer customer experiences provided by augmented digital content can meet the needs of the customer at each stage of the customer journey, with the ultimate goal being increased sales and lifetime value.

Marc Michaels is strategy and creative director at Paragon Customer Communications

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