Augmented reality is set to hit the mainstream as some of the biggest players in the industry double down on providing the means for a top-notch, immersive experience. With over 2 billion smartphones potentially ready to take advantage of this transformative experience, cutting-edge brands in APAC are focusing on how they can use AR to market to their customers and boost sales.
According to Deloitte, by 2020 AR will generate direct revenues of around $US1 billion. Although the current market is dominated by basic AR experiences, such as bunny ears added to a photo in Snapchat, this will shift towards deeper consumer and enterprise use over the next few years.
Two organisations that have been pioneering the use of AR in the Asia Pacific region are STM, a maker of bags and accessories designed to safeguard digital gear, and Choice, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy organisation.
STM has been using AR as a way of informing consumers about its products, said co-founder and CEO Ethan Nyholm. Since rolling out its AR experience, the company has seen a significant benefit, to the tune of an increase of 20% to 30% in sales of the bags highlighted via AR, he told CMO.com.
“Our bags are technical, and we can’t sit and explain every attribute with every single customer,” Nyholm said. “AR is great because it allows us to communicate the product’s features in an interactive way. It provides a higher level of experience, as well as consistent messaging around the product.”
Meantime, Choice’s AR experience comes via its CluckAR app, which helps consumers identify whether a carton of eggs comes from a genuine, free-range egg farm; legislation around the industry had made it easy for egg producers to label its product as free range when, in fact, it wasn’t. To date, CluckAR has been downloaded 150,000 times by Australian consumers.
“AR is the new mobile,” said Viveka Welley, head of New Things at Choice. “We are doubling down on it.”
Choice’s original path, he said, was to produce a table consumers could print out. “Everything we do starts with a consumer need,” Viveka added. Eventually the organisation realised it could use the power of the handsets its consumers had to provide a fundamentally different experience.
Therein lies the lesson for marketers, he said.
“If you look at old solutions as a way of dealing with new challenges, then you are going to miss out on some great opportunities,” Viveka said. “It has to be useful, and what we found is that novelty also plays a role in attracting consumers to your AR brand.”
For example, CluckAR has animated chickens that display positive feedback when a consumer uses the app to identify genuine free-range eggs.
Dose Of Reality
Despite these brands’ early adoption, AR still has some way to go before it becomes completely mainstream. For AR to take off, certain technology pieces need to fall into place. One of the major developments is the shift of AR from app-based to browser based. The two major handset operating system developers, Apple, with iOS, and Google, with Android, are set to integrate AR closely into their software with the forthcoming releases of iOS12 and Android P.
“Once AR works natively out of the browser, we are going to see significant adoption,” noted Antony Arena, CEO of AR and VR development studio Unbound. “For brands there will be lots of opportunities, but marketers need to think in terms of what is going to deliver an on-brand, immersive experience for their customers.”
They also need to bear in mind that distribution is a fundamental barrier for consumer adoption, he said. Current experiences parallel the origins of television, which in the beginning was nothing more than radio with pictures.
“What’s going to come is original content that is custom-made for the medium, and not just repurposed Web content with a basic AR overlay,” he said. “For organisations wanting to get ahead of the AR and VR curve, they need to think differently in terms of what the technology can do, and not simply what has been done in the past.”
Now is the time for marketers and their organisations to begin building prototypes, Arena added. It’s a first-mover market, and the technology is only going to get better, he said.
“It also requires education of consumers and hand-holding, and that’s something a lot of marketers don’t understand,” he said.