The digital age has turned us all into voracious consumers of media. The demand for instant information and interaction is higher than ever before, and as we plough through more and more digital experiences per day, it has become harder for brands to maintain reach and viewability, and to ensure their messaging is being received and appreciated. 

Augmented Reality could be the solution to this problem. With inherently higher engagement and the ability to create truly unique and immersive experiences, brands could finally have a means of generating better engagement and awareness, and of becoming better connected with their audiences.

AR might not be right for absolutely everyone, but I believe it’ll have a larger role to play than we might think. Over the next few years, I see AR standing at the forefront of what is the very much the frontier of the next digital evolution.

The 2010s has given us a taste of what’s to come; we’ve seen users adopt and engage with AR at a significant rate, from its simplest forms (e.g. Snapchat filters) to real-life interactive gaming (Pokémon Go).

Brands have begun to participate, having taken note of how strongly these experiences can influence engagement throughout the consumer journey.

In 2018 in particular, we saw large investment from industry, indicative of the new frontier evolving: Google, Apple and Facebook are diving deep into AR and VR, which is set to grow the industry to $148 Billion by 2021. Facebook alone, with its $2.75 billion acquisition of leading VR company Oculus, is example enough of the direction the industry is headed.  

While virtual reality will also play a key role in this media transformation, the current landscape looks better suited to AR’s growth path. With its ability to merge real life with graphics, AR will benefit growth paths that aren’t limited by technical barriers, but are rather enhanced by user interaction, experience and creativity.

VR certainly has high growth potential, but it’s unlikely to experience the ease of transferability across markets that AR will. Rather, VR will have great scope in specialised and specific vertical markets such as gaming, training and data visualisation.

The decreasing attention spans of consumers has highlighted the importance of producing engaging content that communicates effectively (and immediately) to the user.

On average, Facebook users spend just 1.7 seconds with any piece of mobile content on the platformi. However by leveraging AR, brands have the opportunity to create experiences that engage the consumer for longer, enhancing brand recall and recognition.

Initial studies into AR’s effect on behaviour have shown higher levels of stimulation and engagement. AR drives higher levels of visual attention, almost double compared to non-AR stimulus. Memory recall is significantly higher than for static images, as users experience a higher level of brain activity when engaging with AR activity.

Heather Andrew of Neuro-Insight UK indicated in her research that AR delivers exceptionally high attention levels – 45% higher than the average we see for TV viewing or general online browsing.i

L’Oreal was notably one of the first brands to utilise AR. L’Oreal’s AR experience allows users to preview different tones of make up by using AR filters, so consumers can find the best suited options for them.

Eyewear retailers have also moved into the space, including brands such as Specsavers. The Specsavers app enables customers to try on different frames using their phone, meaning they can now browse the range without the pressure they may feel when shopping in-store.

This encouragement of user interaction and enablement also plays a crucial role in the consideration phase. As the distance between consideration and purchase narrows, AR sales tools such as the Specsavers app can be the crucial final piece that brings the user to conversion. 

Beyond the shopping cart, AR can also be used to create unique experiences, rather than have a direct selling intent. One recent example of note is Bombay Sapphire Gin, which created an interactive bottle label that allowed consumers to engage with it (and find out more information if desired).

AR undeniably has the ability to be effective across a broad and unexpected range of industries, mostly due to its high transferability.

Tourism could benefit by using AR to enhance travellers’ experiences or pre-purchase research: imagine using AR to virtually reconstruct ancient ruins, allowing users to interact with both the present and the past, while at the same time, the identical tech could be used to enhance history education in schools, and for a construction company to simulate renovations in an old home.

Just think… if this is what’s doable today, what could tomorrow hold?

Matt Grimmond

Matt Grimmond is Digital Planner, Analyst at iProspect Sydney. He is new to the industry, having recently completed his Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing and Economics) in 2018. He is always interested in opportunities to learn and develop.