Augmented reality- the future is here!

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The new age customers are ‘mobile’ consumers. Whether they are traveling to work, at the park with their kids or simply relaxing at home, people around are immersed in their phones. Someone’s trying to save their lives on Candy crush; some are chatting with their friends over an instant messenger, while others might be making last minute flight reservation or just shopping for groceries. Chances are that you yourself are reading this article on your smartphone, sitting in the boardroom, while waiting for a meeting to begin! The way smartphones have pervaded our lives and rendered us handicapped in their absence, is nothing short of enthralling.

The question therefore: In this day and age, where consumers are connected 24/7 with friends, families and at the same time purchasing and shopping through their mobile devices, can brands and marketers ignore the mobile platform as a crucial consumer communication tool? How can brands ensure they captivate their customer’s attention, to take a second look and follow through to buy the products, services and solutions they offer on their devices?
Interestingly, the marketers have now found an interesting and innovative outreach solution: ‘augmented reality marketing’ (AR), an easy tool that seems to have caught mainstream attention aided by the massive popularity of mobile and smartphone technologies. In simple worlds, AR marketing is the use of smartphones and smart apps that help engage consumers with rich and appealing content while inviting them to be part of a novel experience, rather than just be a passive participant of the brand message.

Touted as the technology of the future, augmented reality is making its way into the market place as brands continue to realize its potential to engage consumers. In fact a recent report by MarketsandMarkets, the augmented reality market is expected to reach $659.98 million. Another recent study put together Trigg-AR, estimates that 30% of mobile subscribers having data plans in mature market will use AR at least once a week this year. It further predicts that the market for AR apps is expected to grow by leaps and bounds with revenues touching to a figure of £ 3.2 billion by 2016, from a mere £112.75 million currently, with a CAGR of 95.35%. Furthermore the study suggests that 2.5 billion AR apps will have been downloaded by 2017.The figures seem to be startling and the opportunities tremendous. But then what is augmented reality marketing and how can brands leverage the same to create an engage and loyal brand consumer?
Simply put, augmented reality (AR) is the integration of digital information with live video and the user’s environment in real time. Augmented Reality recognizes a visual picture or film, blends new information, and displays the virtual result. Imagine a situation. What if a chain of restaurant could use augmented reality smartphone app to determine a consumer location and then incorporate graphic vision with powerful processors to provide directions to a local restaurant or recommend other cafes? Exciting! Isn’t it? In fact, at the moment, there are tons of apps featuring augmented reality, available for everything from gaming to driving to furniture arrangement!

One of the brands that has successfully utilised augmented reality marketing is Maybelline. Maybelline created a ‘ColorShow’ app to help millennials experiment with nail polish colours. A cross between a game and shopping, the app helps customers to get creative before they buy. The app puts Maybelline square in the middle of the creativity and personal style of their millennial audience. Auto dealers such as BMW and Mercedes have been experimenting with the virtual showroom concept since 2012, with features such as interactive car configurators and gesture controls paired with the ability to cars in multiple driving settings are change the high-end automotive shopping experience in exciting new ways! In the travel sector globally, companies such as Expedia have created a rather surreal mash-up between a promotion, game and trip planning tool to form a microsite that allows users to explore ten cities by combining webcam technology with live interaction and storytelling. Jewellery brands such as De Beers now offer a smartphone app that lets users try jewellery virtually.
From a consumer perspective, this empowers them to use their smartphones to scan quick response (QR) codes to read information about the product, on what it does, how other customers have reviewed it, how prices compare with the competition. More importantly, they can come in well informed about the range of products they can buy from leading to more purchases and better satisfaction. It also empowers them with a know-how, giving them a close to the ‘real experience.’

From a brand perspective, it stands to change the very fabric of marketing as we know it! Marketers need to understand these emerging technologies and adapt their strategy accordingly. We have been hearing the buzz about wearable technology and the possibilities of a super connected devices, with the internet of things evolving. As these technologies become a reality, brands will have to evolve their consumer outreach and engagement strategy.
All in all, mobile marketing has already come quite far in just the past few years, the fact remains that there is much more that can still be done. With almost every electronic device available being built to connect to the Internet, smartphones and other gadgets alike will bring marketers and users together to create experiences, influence purchases and make life a little easier.

About the author / 

Neeta Nair

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