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How Augmented Reality Apps are Changing Customer Engagement

Philippa Dods

Nov 12, 2019

At the tender age of 22, engineering prodigy Palmer Luckey unveiled his prototype version of his company’s product to several thousand engineers and developers at a conference he hosted himself. The product was the first commercially available virtual reality headset, and was named the Oculus Rift. While the ground-breaking technology had the world feverish with anticipation, another even more promising development was quietly gaining momentum. Enter augmented reality, or otherwise known as AR.

A man wearing a VR headpiece

Virtual Reality Headset

Augmented reality apps allow users to see a composite, false view of the world created by computer-generated images, while looking at the world around them in real-time. In layman’s terms, it provides the user with a mixed-reality – part virtual, part real world. Now, while VR offers users a more immersive and “trendy” experience, the broader application of AR technology in society tends to have tech enthusiasts far more excited.

AR technology gained mainstream attention after the introduction of augmented facial filters by popular mobile apps, Snapchat and MSQRD, as well as last year’s sensationally popular location-based fantasy game, Pokemon Go, but the probability of many more industries adopting augmented reality characteristics is high in 2017. It’s monumental successes like these that underpin why Goldman Sachs has gone on to predict that the AR and VR industry will be worth a whopping $80 billion by 2025.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go

What This Means For You

Companies across the world are quickly realising the opportunity of leveraging this new technology to enrich their brand experience and improve customer engagement. They are doing this by bridging the gap between online and in-store brand touch-points, providing a more immersive experience, which can reduce time to purchase and increase conversion rates. What this means for your brand is that if you want to get ahead of the market, using augmented reality apps may be the way to do so.

Augmented Reality Future through Smartphone Store Reviews

In a recent Meltwater webinar on augmented reality, Johan Walters, Digital Solutions Consultant at Clicks2Customers, spoke about how augmented reality is changing customer engagement by measuring the results of some companies’ AR marketing campaigns, and gave tips for businesses attempting to experiment with the promising new technology.

Two Reasons Why You May Want to Get Going with AR Today

1. Augmented reality creates a competitive gap.

A company that has adopted augmented reality apps differentiates itself with challenger brands by creating an always-on digital channel in the offline world that didn’t exist before. AR allows consumers to bring the in-store experience home with them, keeping products top-of-mind and embedding an emotional connection to the brand. The competitive gap broadens as only a few companies have taken strides in staying ahead of trends and already implemented the technology, leaving their competitors behind.

2. Augmented reality apps move the customer through the purchase funnel.

Purchase Funnel

The Pokemon Go craze may have faded, but augmented reality has not. It’s now not only used within the gaming industry, but the retail, e-commerce, education, healthcare, air and space travel, automotive and real estate industries are also catching on.

Audiences are no longer passive “window shoppers” – AR has suddenly provided customers with active brand engagement. With AR, customers can see what their future house will look like, how a different hair colour will suit them, or test drive a car, either in-store or in the comfort of their own home. Consumer interest is sparked and can immediately be drawn down to action, actively pushing the consumer through the purchase funnel.

Tip: With a consumer intelligence platform like Radarly you'll get access to all data needed to map out consumer interests.

Who’s Ahead of the Game [CASE STUDIES]

1. Planet Earth II

BBC Earth and AR discovery app Blipper collaborated in an incredible marketing campaign for the release of the series Planet Earth II. Users could scan one of seventeen everyday objects to reveal one of the animals featured in the film and learn more about the animal and environment. The educational experience and customer engagement concealed the fact that it was a great marketing strategy for a television series. Customers responded by spreading information about the series release and expressing their excitement on social media.

Planet Earch AR

2. McDonald’s

The massive fast-food chain had two main goals: to drive repeat visits and increase word-of-mouth.

They achieved this by launching an augmented reality Christmas campaign in December 2016, offering customers a unique way to celebrate the festive season. Customers could download the Blippar app, scan their food tray with their smartphones, and see their tray turn into an advent calendar. Each day of the month until Christmas (1 – 25 December), a new window was opened, with different activations including a selfie feature, camera filters, games and thousands of 10-pound Amazon gift vouchers up for grabs every day.

McDonald's advent AR campaign 2016

They achieved their goal of increasing foot traffic as customers came back to see what would be in the next day’s window and a major buzz was created surrounding the exciting prizes that McDonald’s was offering. The results speak for themselves – McDonald’s saw over 1 million interactions in the 24-day period and an average of 2 interactions per user, meaning customers had repeat visits at least twice in under a month.

Now is the Time to Experiment

Johan Walters gave webinar participants what he thinks are the keys to success in implementing augmented reality. According to him, there are five keys to success that fall into two categories: physical elements and digital elements.

The physical elements drive the volume of engagement

  • User education: this refers to the type and size of the CTA button, and the incentive to click on it. An example of a type of CTA button is “Click to download app,” or “Click to see it come to life.” When it comes to the size of the CTA, bigger is always better. The consumer needs to be drawn to it and not accidentally skim over it. The user education also refers to the process of educating the user on how to utilise augmented reality apps. This works best as a three-step process; usually: download the app, scan the image, and watch AR work its magic.
  • Touchpoint: the touchpoint is the marker that is to become interactive. The type of touchpoint can range from anything from a book to an animal. Once scanned, it is the touchpoint that activates the AR experience.
  • Consumer interest: this refers to the consumer interest in the product. Is it a high-passion product that the consumer cares about? Some ways to increase consumer interest include using incentives or competitions, famous events (such as World Cup sports matches) or celebrity endorsements (various events have involved taking an AR selfie with a celebrity).
  • Promotion: the promotional aspect of the campaign is also vital. Because AR is still relatively new in South Africa, a lot of companies have to construct their own audience as well as educate their existing audience. Television commercials and sponsored social media advertisements can be used to gain large, new audiences, and your brand’s blog and emailing list can be used to reach your existing audience. In-store advertisements can also boost awareness through direct promotion.
User Education: The 3-Step Process AR

User Education: The 3-Step Process

The digital element drive the depth of engagement

  • Content: The digital element of any AR campaign is the content; whether it’s a game, video, app or film. When it comes to deciding on the content, ask yourself what the impact of this content is: does it have a wow-factor? And does this piece of content encourage repeat usage? This can be achieved by using incentives for customers to follow-up, or cutting up an AR series into bite-sized content to encourage users to come back.

Commit to Innovation

Most experimental approaches are done in isolation of other marketing initiatives and have no impact on the greater brand strategy. This fragmentary approach gives an inaccurate view of how effective a new technology or solution like AR could be. Walters advises businesses to commit to an innovation budget for the following reasons:

  • Create an innovation line item. This means that spend is made available upfront so you don’t have to borrow from other parts of the budget to afford to try something new. Innovations can then be motivated for with regards to overall budget spend.
  • Innovation is often a KPI measurement for CMOs. Having an innovative line item not only shows what CMOs are doing with experimentation, but they also have a financial target with which they can measure their key performance.
  • An innovation budget allows you to experiment with new technologies or solutions without compromising your performance in more traditional methods. Once you’ve experimented, you can upscale what works to drive consumer engagement and increase conversion rates.
  • Incorporate measurement tools within your innovation budget to ensure you’re making informed decisions. Walters believes that, “measurement is the glue that binds your above-the-line to below-the-line efforts.”
  • Don’t try to be innovative for the sake of it. Many companies spend billions of rands developing brand initiatives that are tech-savvy and advanced, but if this is not aligned with their brand message or delivery, it will never be sustainable.
Man staring at different screens with Dashboards

You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure

The truly outstanding CMOs are those who are bold enough to experiment with new ideas and new technologies. But they are also the ones who are smart enough to know how to innovate in a way that augments their brand narrative, creating long-term opportunities, without exposing them to unnecessary risk.

Walters says that unless innovation is properly managed, measured and monetized, the real benefits will never be fully realised. Fill out the form below and get hold of the Meltwater team to discover how the right measurement tools can help you make informed decisions about managing innovative marketing campaigns.