Augmented Reality Is The New Reality: What To Expect And Learn From Brands

0aaMark Smith Kitewheel

As expected, Apple’s iPhone X showcases an array of impressive features. Among them are advances like FaceID, high definition cameras, stronger glass and — perhaps most interestingly for marketers — augmented reality (AR) abilities. AR, once considered a futuristic technology, has officially made its way into the mainstream thanks to Apple and its ARKit software. In its highly anticipated keynote, Apple demonstrated the new technology’s ability to superimpose images onto reality, integrate voice and expression into ‘animojis’ and more — and we know this is just the beginning.

Apple’s ARKit allows consumers to look through the iPhone camera and see virtual objects and personal information overlaid on top of physical objects in the real world (think Pokémon GO). This outfits the iPhone with augmented reality abilities in an accessible way.

Now that many consumers can use this technology to intertwine their virtual and real worlds, brands have an opportunity to use AR to communicate with customers. In particular, AR’s versatility makes it a great tool for marketers to use as a starting point for building lasting customer relationships and encouraging customer loyalty into the new year. Since AR will likely be a prevalent marketing tool this year, we’ve compiled examples of where and how you might notice this new technology.


Practical Applications Of AR For Marketers

One use of AR will be to help increasing numbers of customers better experience products in-store. Uniqlo’s interactive mirrors, which superimpose images of outfits on customers, are a great example of this. AR will also be used to draw customers into stores via customized offers and interactive apps and web sites, like Sephora’s Virtual Artist. These consistent and thoughtful interactions will lead to positive results in the long and short term — their interactive and personalized nature gives customers an extra reason to visit a store, while also providing the foundation for lasting connections.

We can also look at China’s recent Singles Day, their equivalent of Cyber Monday, for insight into how AR might play a role in the U.S. and Europe in the near future. For the event, Alibaba created AR-powered games that allow users to scan physical figures in the real world in exchange for discount codes and other prizes. With strategies like this, AR makes engaging with customers more dynamic and unique, which is increasingly important when trying to beat out competitors.

The technology also has applications that drive engagement using more ‘old school’ marketing tactics, such as direct mail. Think about a piece of mail arriving with a message encouraging you to view the contents through an iPhone camera. By taking advantage of a QR code to identify the customer and linking this with AR, brands can superimpose personalized digital offers and messages to individual consumers in real time, based on their history or profile data from multiple channels. Similarly, brands can also superimpose individual, personalized offers on objects like billboards, posters or public transportation vehicles — allowing everyone to see the offer differently based on their customer profile — opening up remarkable new concepts for digital marketers.

AR Enhances The Customer Experience

Now that the iPhone X has arrived in the pockets of customers everywhere, brands should be incorporating AR creatively and strategically into their marketing initiatives year-round. Everyone knows that brands need to go the extra mile to make that sure their customers are having the best experience possible, so new tactics are needed to keep customers engaged. Brands are already directing more and more marketing funds towards customer experience initiatives — AR is the ultimate way to enhance and personalize the experience.

This idea of combining reality with the digital world, while perhaps difficult, is becoming increasingly more achievable for companies of all sizes thanks to technology like the ARKit. Apple’s ARKit is representative of a shift towards more personalization, as it enables brands to integrate AR into their interactions with customers.

AR is going to make a profound impact on the industry, but in order to use the tool successfully, brands should start small and focus on what’s important. The customer experience will undoubtedly be an integral part of that equation.

With over 20 years of global experience in Marketing Applications and Analytical CRM, Mark Smith is a leader in building, growing and managing successful companies. Currently in “innovation mode” as the President of Kitewheel, Smith is focused on helping marketing agencies deliver better consumer engagement through solutions that unify the “logic” layer of today’s customer-facing technology for their large brand clients. Smith founded Quadstone — the first data mining company to focus explicitly on the analytics of customer behavior. In the years that followed, he moved to Boston to build the U.S. business and oversaw revolutionary analytic progress at clients including T-Mobile, Dell, Merrill Lynch and Fidelity.  His leadership role expanded to global sales, marketing and product teams that lead to a series of three successful M&A transactions over the last 10 years.

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