Over the past decade, companies of all sizes have searched for digital marketing solutions that will create customer loyalty, and increase profits. Augmented reality is a relatively new technology that had only been utilized by large companies with extravagant budgets. However, augmented reality is carving out significant space in company digital marketing strategies and consumer hearts. This technology has captured the imagination of so many consumers because of a potent mix of technology, visual effects, and entertainment. Although widely used by the video game industry and grocery industries, shrewd digital market managers can use augmented reality for almost any type of business.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is a live view of a physical space whose elements are augmented computer generated sensory inputs. The user’s current perception of reality is altered by the computer. Augmented reality is not the same as virtual reality. Virtual reality involves replacing the physical world with a virtual world. Most companies use augmented reality in real time, so that customers can interact with environmental elements such as scoreboards or bill boards. Engineers use computer vision and object recognition so that the real world of the user is interactive and easily manipulated.
Augmented reality has been utilized by gaming companies like Nintendo in order to promote new video games. Most small to mid-sized companies do not possess the sizeable digital marketing budget of Nintendo, however the use of mobile devices as augmentation tools has put the power and novelty of augmentation within the reach of the average business. Mobile devices may be a worthwhile investment because:
- They are cheap and easily mass-produced
- Apps can be modified through third party vendors to suit the needs of any company
- All mobile devices come with cameras and screens
Augmented reality apps and the relatively cheap production of mobile devices, have leveled the playing field. Now it is possible for any retailer to bring a virtual shopping experience to their customers by simply mounting a cheap mobile device to their shopping carts as customers shop, or by making a small investment in an augmented reality app that can be downloaded by consumers and used on their personal devices.
Virtual Shopping Advantage
Some retailers have already begun to experiment with augmented reality. The idea behind using augmented reality in retail environments is to catch customer attention with deals and incentives as they peruse down the aisles. For example, retailers can mount a cheap produced tablet that projects an arrow on the floor of the aisle as customers walk. While they are shopping, a special deal for a particular can of soup pops out of the aisle. Instead of retailers spending millions of dollars on paper to generate sales tags every year, ads could be exclusively revealed with augmented reality. Or the retailer could reserve augmented reality apps for merchants who pay a little extra for app space.
More Ways Augmented Reality Can Help Retailers
Retailers have traditionally relied on the use of print advertising or electronic advertising to promote products within their stores. Augmented reality eliminates the need for retailers to solely rely on this old form of advertising, as there are a variety of ways it is already being utilized by first adopters. The following are some of the most successful uses of augmented reality to date.
- Virtual Fitting Rooms: Clothing retailers like J.C. Penny are experimenting with virtual fitting rooms. Shoppers are able to browse for outfits from the comfort of their own home. Customers are able to know before purchasing how an item will look on them. This has improved conversion rates for J.C.Penny, while decreasing the occurrence of returns.
- Increased Warehouse Navigation and Accuracy: Augmented reality glasses have made warehouse navigation easier than ever. Arrows are displayed throughout the warehouse to navigate pickers to needed items and give important information about the items.
- E-Commerce and Virtual Shopping: Grocery stores that want to compete with major grocery chains, have created location based virtual grocery stores where customers can visit virtual locations and shop for goods via apps on their phone. Once customers select items, they can order them and have them delivered to their home.
- Enhances Brand Recognition: This is one of the most common ways that retailers can increase sales by letting customers use handheld devices with augmented reality apps or software. Customers can then walk through the aisles and hover over certain items that will interact with customers.
- Enhance Advertising: Many companies have found the addition of augmented reality to their advertising campaigns has increased their sales. Now customers can use augmented technology to place over advertisements and learn more information about the products. Additional information like coupons, product videos, and web content are made available to consumers.
- Increase Merchandiser Sales: Merchandisers can use augmented reality to increase sales by investing in apps that can be downloaded by consumers on the mobile app of their choice.
- Visualize Product Catalogs: First movers like Ikea have invested in augmentation apps that consumers can use in the comfort of their home. Users can browse an online catalog, select an item they like, for example a sofa, then use augmented reality to show how it will look in their home.
In Store Use of Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is being utilized by progressive retailers. Tablets generally take a key role in these environments. Tablets are mounted to stands and each stand represents an experience that consumers can enjoy throughout the store. The Dezeen store in London uses these augmentations that let consumers try on different designs of watches without actually having to touch the merchandise. An augmentation app on the tablet projects the watch of the customer’s choice on their wrist. This is an advantage for the retailer as it keeps expensive merchandise safe and in the case, but also lets consumers “try on” watches that may not even be in stock.
Consumers are also able to change the colors of the watches, and are given additional information about the watches like features and prices. No longer will consumers be left to the mercy of customer associates who may or may not know this important information.
Other Uses of Augmented Reality
There are a number of ways that augmented reality is being used to entertain consumers in the outdoors as well. In London’s Olympic Park, visitors are able to bike through the park via a movable iPad kiosk. So if a visitor wants to enjoy the scenery of the park, they can do so without actually having to bike themselves through the park. Visitors to the London Eye have been treated to a tour of the city’s most prominent landmarks by using a rail mounted tablet. Visitors use a panorama app that target aerial pictures that relay information about the city’s landmarks.
Augmented reality is fast becoming a fixture in the digital marketing strategy of small and mid-sized companies, but also in the lives of consumers. The proliferation and mass production of mobile devices, smart phones, and tablets, have made it economical for many businesses to invest in augmented reality, especially for virtual shopping. Mobile apps have made it even easier for businesses to connect their customers to their products by allowing them to download augmented reality apps to their personal mobile devices.
If your company has been thinking about utilizing augmented reality for your digital marketing strategy, now is the time to seriously consider how augmented reality can increase your customer loyalty, and maximize your sales.
Contact us for a free consultation and we would be glad to answer any questions and provide Cohlaborative digital marketing solutions to meet your company’s needs.