Augmented Reality: Key Considerations for Marketers 

By Rose Anthony

Nearly all retailers want to improve the shopping experience in their stores to better engage and convert customers. Augmented Reality (AR) could be a way to accomplish that goal.

AR is an enhanced version of reality created by using technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device such as a smartphone or camera.

There are several considerations for retailers and marketers as they look to leverage AR technology in their campaigns, says Valassis, which aims to activate consumers through intelligent media delivery.

The past year served as a major turning point for mainstream AR adoption, with Apple launching ARKit and Google following suit, unveiling ARCore at the recent Mobile World Congress. With worldwide spending on AR and virtual reality (VR) expected to reach $17.8 billion in 2018, more innovation and opportunity are anticipated in this space.

“The rapid, mainstream growth of augmented reality presents a prime opportunity for brands to differentiate themselves from the competition,” said Pehr Luedtke, Senior Vice President, Marketing and International, Valassis Digital. “However, before companies dive head-first into this market, it’s important for them to identify how the technology can be applied in smart, relevant ways. Ultimately, AR should serve as another opportunity to enhance the customer experience in a unique way.”

He said brands should keep the following in mind when considering the deployment of AR technologies and strategies:

  • The consumer research and planning phase is crucial. According to Valassis research, over 90 percent of consumers create a list before visiting a store, showing the prominence of pre-shopping research and planning. While product information was previously gathered through online reviews and word-of-mouth, AR is taking the research phase one step further, allowing individuals to truly visualize an item before making a purchase decision. For example, from the convenience of their phone, a consumer can see an image of a furniture item in their home, helping determine whether it fits in their respective space so they can make an informed buying decision. AR is providing an innovative “try before you buy” shopping model.

  • AR doesn’t stand on its own. While AR is a newer touchpoint for consumers, it should be incorporated into a broader, integrated marketing strategy. It may fit in and serve a purpose, however AR should be used in combination with other engagement strategies – including social media, email and direct mail.

  • Print and digital are an AR match made in heaven. To date, much of the AR focus has been placed on digital. But print plays a critical role in connecting brands and consumers – and AR technology further elevates that experience. More and more marketers are placing codes and images on print materials, which readers can scan with their mobile devices. For example, retailers can implement AR functionalities that allow consumers to scan an item, such as a furniture piece, in a magazine or direct mail print ad and view a 3D visual of the item. Through this AR data feed, consumers can also see relevant details including price, color/texture options, purchase locations and more. The inclusion of AR delivers an immersive and engaging shopping experience – all that’s needed is a print image and mobile device.

It’s important for brands to strike a balance between new innovations such as AR and tried-and-true tactics, Luedtke summed up. This will ensure they’re effectively meeting their target audience when and where it matters most.

                                                                        Mid-June 2018