Is AR really nice, new and necessary?

Before rushing to integrate AR ( Augmented Reality ) into your marketing strategy, it is crucial to gauge its sustainability and genuine value for your brand.

Abigail Hickey

Before rushing to integrate AR ( Augmented Reality ) into your marketing strategy, it is crucial to gauge its sustainability and genuine value for your brand. We can see many brands gaining masses of attention, from integrating AR into their strategy such as The North Face putting a puffer jacket onto Big Ben or even Maybelline mascara being promoted on the London Underground tubes. While new technologies are intriguing, the excitement often obscures the actual necessity and utility that AR brings, undoubtedly engaging and experimental, AR still involves uncharted territories for exploration and development.

Rushing into building and investing in AR without considering its fit within the broad landscape of a brand might lead to pitfalls. Take the Metaverse for instance, as an ambitious virtual world concept Meta (formally known as Facebook) attempted to contribute to with their VR game “Horizon Worlds”. Initially hailed as cutting-edge, it failed to sustain attention, fading from conversations by 2023. This example highlights how buzzwords can lack actual value for a brand.

Brands seeking interactive and visually appealing promotional campaigns can explore alternative strategies to AR that prove to be equally, if not, more effective. Gamification, for instance, has constantly engaged consumers without the necessity of VR. Users can take part in interactive experiences from their phones. While AR can be integrated, its presence might not be indispensable for creating a compelling experience. 

That is to say, AR holds incredible potential. As research progresses and technology redefines, it might offer broader possibilities, becoming a more promising integration for brands. 

What exactly are AR and VR?

In simple terms, AR integrates digital elements into the physical world, delivering sensory stimuli—visual or auditory effects—through technology, especially mobile devices. AR enhances the physical world by adding new information to the existing environment. In contrast, VR ( Virtual Reality) aims to transport users to entirely different digital landscapes, immersing them in a distinct world rather than enhancing real-world surroundings.

How is AR viewed?

Initially met with reluctance, AR has gained traction among retailers and brands, especially after the digital surge during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. This sudden leap onto the digital landscape has made many innovations, including AR, more accessible and reasonable in terms of cost and investment. The urgency to adopt new digital features has become evident, raising questions about the lasting impact of technologies like the metaverse, AR, VR, AI, and chatbots within brand circles.

Are these innovations fleeting or here to revolutionise digital communication in the long run? 

While advancements are inevitable, the future of AR's immersive experience remains uncertain. Evaluating AR's potential impact on a brand's growth and understanding its capabilities are pivotal steps, given the discrepancy between retailer preparedness and consumer expectations for increased AR usage.

Why should brands embrace the use of AR?

AR facilitates digital communication in unprecedented ways, making dense information more accessible and digestible by transforming concepts and processes into interactive 3D visuals. It captivates audiences with high-impact visuals, elevating reality whimsically and entertainingly beyond traditional marketing media.

Offering AR experiences can instil confidence in users, enabling them to evaluate products visually and interactively, reducing uncertainties associated with textual or print information. Numerous success stories highlight AR's effectiveness: it encourages product sampling, boosts consumer engagement, and increases consideration for smaller brands.

Implementing AR allows brands to offer unique experiences, easing purchase hesitancy for new customers. By empowering buyers with more control, AR enhances purchase decisions, especially for riskier or more expensive products.

AR's incorporation into ads enables gamified experiences that entertain and engage audiences, they can breathe life into static mediums like print ads, and create compelling, interactive brand stories. It keeps brands top-of-mind by providing engaging content in saturated advertising spaces.

However, the hesitance in adopting AR stems from its underdeveloped state and performance issues. While promising, its application in campaigns often faces glitches and technical concerns, raising doubts about whether it’s an enjoyable user experience.

Challenges such as data-heavy applications, costs in development, and achieving a seamless blend with reality pose hurdles to AR integration. Brands also grapple with creating polished and inclusive AR experiences that cater to diverse user needs and body types, which need to reflect the brand's image sensibly and as a positive addition.

Is AR worth the investment?

Assessing AR's worthiness should be tailored to individual brand needs. Despite its challenges, AR and similar technologies are here to stay and will evolve continually. Responsible innovation and user-focused approaches will shape how these technologies integrate into daily life. Brands must explore AR's potential, conduct thorough research, and adapt it to their long-term strategy or closely monitor technological advancements in this field.

Ultimately, AR remains an effective tool for brands and businesses, fostering communication with consumers and paving the way for dialogue. While acknowledging its drawbacks, brands should embrace the excitement around AR, incorporating it thoughtfully or staying vigilant about its future developments.

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