The Rise of Augmented Reality

As promised in my last post, It’s Game Time (for Social Media), I am going to share the trends for 2018 that are set to change the social norms of social media. I am going to tackle each one as its own entity, so you have a little time to digest, research and get on board before the year ends. First up, Augmented Reality. While augmented reality had its initial impact on mobile gaming, social media platforms are finding ways to incorporate the new technology.

What is Augmented Reality?

Before we go any further, let’s clear up the usual confusion that exists between the terms augmented reality and virtual reality. Virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one, and it’s a technology that’s been around for decades. Think about simulated environments displayed on a computer screen where an entire world is created with your personal avatar interacting in an immersive 360-degree environment.

Augmented reality, on the other hand, provides an enhanced version of the real world. Think of it as a merging of the real and digital worlds by superimposing virtual information onto everyday objects or environments. Pokémon Go, if you had the chance to play, is a perfect example – an app-based game that uses digital overlay and interaction, but set within real-world markers.  Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram offer filters that allow users to take a selfie with a friend or celebrity projected via augmented reality, by overlaying some type of “mask” using face detection. Using the means of digital technology, augmented reality overlays information in video, text, or image format onto everyday surroundings, objects, and locations from the real world.

Why Should You Care?

Some say Augmented Reality is just the buzzword of the week. I’m here to tell you that augmented reality is limitless and has enormous potential, holding plenty of features in the store for the future.

Steve Jobs said once: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around”. Today there’s a new level of consumer power. Search marketers and CEOs strive to follow trends and market changes to retain customers. The rise of augmented reality can be both the wave that takes you out to greatness, and the breath of fresh air to upgrade your marketing game.

Augmented Reality is dependent on content – the core of everything we do in marketing. Content is how we get our message to the masses. Although, I hate the phrase, with the rise of AR, content is once again the reigning king. Face it, content is a must-have, translated both as the message displayed inside the AR experience and as a trigger for retaining audiences.

How Augmented Reality Works

Users will normally acknowledge the augmented reality around them by making use of a smartphone camera, tablet, goggles, or headset specially designed for AR. However, AR for people like me has been a smartphone experience. AR devices haven’t grasped a large mass of consumers, but find a home more in the work industry, especially in the blue-collar environment.

There are two versions of AR technology:

  • Marker-based uses a visual, physical trigger to start the AR experience. Marker-based augmented reality regards real life objects that trigger virtual activity and visuals.
  • Markerless-based doesn’t need a trigger to start an AR experience, rather it builds the experience from scratch

And AR can fall into three categories:

  • Information overlay (e.g. The Metropolitan Museum of Art- where you can scan a displayed object and pop-up messages will appear with info regarding that specific object);
  • Virtual objects (e.g. Ikea refurbishing homes – scan your home, then place different pieces of furniture in your house environment to see how they fit);
  • Digital packaging (e.g. Starbucks using AR interfaces).

AR Impact on eCommerce

Statistically speaking, eCommerce will be the most impacted industry of all. Imagine virtually trying out shoes from your favorite brand without the hustle and bustle of actually doing it all day long, running from one shop to another. Brands like Adidas, Converse, GAP and Lowes have already tried this technology, scoring higher conversion rates, yet fewer returns, once customers satisfied their necessity or curiosity.

With the help of augmented reality shopping and marketing, eCommerce is and will be able to gain more powerful insight and feedback from customers. Reviews, star ratings, how many times something was tried out, social shares, try-out span, and a whole lot more information will be at the brands’ disposal.

Augmented reality is a win-win business. Customers also have a lot to benefit from it. AR apps save time, provide detailed information, are eye-opening, better serve a customer’s needs, create engagement and entertainment. When available, people will be able to scan surroundings in search of nearby restaurants, discounts, all within line-of-sight and with maximum accuracy.

Augmented reality is beneficial for brands that are searching and fighting to be first and foremost in their industry. Sporting good augmented reality technology and smartly optimized content will both please your audience and boost your content up in SERPs. This way you encourage your customers to participate in the AR experience by contributing with content in real-time. Augmented reality is where content is not only provided by the brand, but also by the customer, both online and offline, and where positive content probably has the biggest impact of them all.

Other benefits

  • Mentions, reviews, links, ratings, all in a new form – this is what AR offers to the world of SEO.
  • people are naturally drawn to brands who take the risk (or the opportunity) to include AR into their content marketing strategy. This is why AR triggers brand awareness, something many businesses fight for and with.
  • Augmented reality cultivates a wow-factor. It presents a new search and information-ready ecosystem to organic search professionals.
  • AR-impacted SEO agencies can get actionable data and deep insight into customer behavior, thus knowing how to launch more engaging and successful marketing strategies across search engines.
  • Augmented reality isn’t supposed to replace your existing SEO efforts, but to expand your audience and to engage them to an extent they’ve never experienced before.
  • Augmented reality is bridging the digital world with the real world.

What Can I Do?

Be inquisitive, research and play. Download AR apps, try them out, see what works and what doesn’t, and understand how it is for companies to engage with the audience through augmented reality. Then, go deeper, and educated yourself.

If already engaging with the augmented reality technology, mind the following steps:

  • Plan constant updates to keep your AR experience fresh and relevant;
  • Use social media to raise awareness about your brand using AR;
  • Create engaging AR campaigns suitable for your brand advocates;
  • Enhance your audience’s user experience by adding AR to printed literature such as business card, banners, brochures, and leaflets.

Final Thoughts

Augmented reality isn’t going to wait for you. The AR landscape is growing quickly and is showing no signs of slowing down. Before you know it, AR will be mainstream, and you don’t want to be left in the dark. Small, medium or large, you need to be ready for the AR boom; when it becomes trending and indispensable, you risk falling flat with your marketing strategy and be left behind. Take away: Be Prepared.

There is a positive and empowering future with AR. We have new opportunities to tell our story, develop a fresh voice, and continue to build our relationships with our clients.

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