The desire of brands to involve customers always seek new ways of expressing themselves. Many companies have already intercepted the potential of new technologies to make the experience with the brand as immersive and engaging as possible. Among the main trends to emerge are virtual reality and augmented reality, which certainly guarantee a novelty effect to the final consumer.
People love to feel unique in the eyes of the brands and appreciate the exclusive services, whether it’s an app that allows them to try out new furniture in the apartment where they live or that offers tips for the perfect make-up based on the type of skin , the important thing is that they are personalized.
Above all the AR, with applications that are much more affordable for each user, is impacting the customer experience by transforming the way companies interact with their customers, helping them achieve their goals and finalize sales by improving their brand experience.
Today the application frontiers of augmented reality are very wide and soon business opportunities will be produced in many fields, such as gaming, events, healthcare, insurance, retail, education, sports and live entertainment.
Augmented reality: a continuous growth market
When we talk about augmented reality we refer to technology that superimposes information and virtual objects on scenes and spaces of the physical world in real time. Augmented Reality (AR) uses the existing environment and adds digital information to it by creating a new environment. It is probably enough to say Pokémon GO to understand what technology we are talking about (even if the applications in the Gaming world are not the only ones, indeed the first real examples of AR have been seen many years before with QRcode thanks to which to display digital contents from framing of a “physical” image).
Today, technology giants like Apple and Google are constantly working to improve the development frameworks and with the launch of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, in 2017, developers have now access to numerous app development kits actually increased, which is why analysts’ predictions of market growth speak of continued growth: according to the analysis by Statista, IDC and Goldman Sach (reworked in an effective infographic by NewGenApps), by 2020 there will be more than a billion users who will use AR applications and services helping to fuel a market estimated to exceed $ 215 billion within two to three years (counting the augmented reality and virtual reality market, both hardware and software and services).
Although analysts today make estimates of market growth by unifying virtual reality and augmented reality, among the developers there is a clear conviction that augmented reality will drive growth trends in the coming years: “where virtual reality obfuscates the real world to create digital spaces, AR encompasses and includes the real world. It lays virtual images over real ones, creating the potential for experiences that are very different from those possible in VR”, is what Digital Trends reports after collecting the opinions of the developers who have attended the AR / VR Summit in Los Angeles last year.
The reason is that VR environments — by their nature — require the utmost attention from the user (who is immersed in a totally reconstructed environment in which he can move and interact only “digitally”), which makes the inadequate technology for real social interaction outside of a digital world. What, instead, the AR makes possible (and this is where its strength lies) because it has the potential to act as a “co-pilot” on demand in everyday life, integrating perfectly into the daily interactions that users have in the real world. Interactions that can go from gaming to entertainment, from sports to shopping experience, to enter the game in business and work contexts: 64% of US consumers in the US even believe that augmented reality will bring benefits to the workplace, for example by facilitating collaboration between teams located in different locations or accelerating design and innovation processes.
Some creative examples of who is using AR in marketing
To date, augmented reality, despite being among the main trends for some years, is still a novelty for brands, which is why it is used for marketing campaigns, even if not “perfect” from the technological and customer point of view experience, it collects attention and success.
Let’s see some examples of use:
- Home Depot
- Gatwick Airport
Home Depot shows how a painted wall will look like before making inappropriate purchases
Back in 2015, The Home Depot released the first version of the AR-based “Project Color” app to show users how they look like paint on the walls of their home, taking into account lights, objects and shadows in the room. so as to show people how a certain shade of color might appear in the real environment where you would like to use it (before then making a wrong purchase or discovering half of the painting work that the effect was not what was expected).
In 2017, Home Depot has chosen to use AR for furniture and furnishings as well, so that people can check how objects, outdoor furniture, taps, curtains and other products can be integrated into their homes.
Solutions that have now also chosen other companies such as Lowe’s and Ikea.
Timberland makes the first proof in the dressing room virtual
Sometimes the evidence in the dressing room can discourage shopping because the selected items do not always confirm the expectations and after some tests the desire to choose some other dress falls dramatically. And if in the dressing room you bring only what, a priori, has “virtually proven”?
This is what makes Timberland take advantage of Kinect’s motion detection technology in connection with augmented reality: the virtual dressing room allows people to see an image of their face on a model / model body (size and features similar to the user in front of the screen / mirror) and to try out clothes and accessories, combinations and combinations of styles, remaining in front of the screen (even outside the store) then continuing the in-store shopping bringing in the dressing room only clothes and accessories that have already received positive opinions.
With Sephora Virtual Artist the makeup will be perfect
Many people prefer to buy make-up products directly in-store instead of online via eCommerce platforms for fear of buying the wrong product (the right shade or what was originally expected). The ideal, then, would be to try the product directly on your face.
An opportunity that today Sephora grants to people through an app based on augmented reality (Virtual Artist) thanks to which not only can you preview “virtual” the effects of make-up but also, for example, how it changes over time facial skin with the use of care products and cleaning, simply through the use of the smartphone camera and the dedicated app.
At Gatwick passengers move thanks to beacon and AR
Moving away from the purely marketing context, a very interesting example of the use of augmented reality at the service of people comes from the app developed for passengers passing through Gatwick Airport (a solution that has won several international awards and awards for its effective use of new technologies for the benefit of people, in this case travelers). With the help of over 2,000 beacon in the two terminals, travelers can use some maps characterized by the AR (through indications and signals that appear on the screens of their mobile phone overlapping the real physical environment where passengers are passing at that precise moment) to move more easily within the airport.
From a broader perspective, the app, once used to a large audience, could even help to improve the flow of traffic, suggesting steps and routes so as not to bring too many people into one point, with important implications therefore also from the point of view of security.
Chiquita establishes a partnership with Shazam to transparently describe the traceability and the route of the bananas
In collaboration with the Shazam audio-visual recognition app, Chiquita wants to make the journey of bananas from Latin America to virtual and transparent, with the aim of making consumers understand the efforts made in terms of sustainability. To unlock the augmented reality experience, users will need to scan the blue sticker through the Shazam app and be transported on a virtual journey to discover what is “behind the Blue Sticker”.
Another interesting example of effective use of augmented reality comes from the insurance world: imagine being able to call in real time your insurance and to show live video damage caused by a traffic accident in which you were involved; on the other side of the video call, through the AR, the operator can exploit objects and measuring instruments that allow him to estimate the extent of the damage by making calculations on the real surface of the car. A process that accelerates the calculation of reimbursements involving the whole supply chain (for example the bodywork, the experts, etc.).
And yet, there are some incredibly interesting applications in the health sector that allow medical students to train in mixed environments (mannequins and real bodies with augmented reality to simulate the effects of surgical interventions and choices of medical apprentices), or AR systems. that expand the wealth of information that physicians can draw, thus enabling professionals to interact with patients by integrating real information with virtual ones.
Augmented reality as a new frontier in the customer experience
We have seen how brands in different sectors can provide added value to their customers, radically transforming the way they communicate and interact with them, through the use of augmented reality. In areas such as retail, education and healthcare there are in fact enormous opportunities to use AR in ever more convenient, engaging and meaningful ways. Once companies succeed in regularly integrating the AR into their broader customer experience strategies, consumers will also be able to interact with the technology on a more consistent and robust basis.
Augmented reality is therefore an interesting digital tool for a wide range of brands and companies with which to interact with consumers but, to offer maximum effectiveness, it must be integrated into a broader strategy of engagement and loyalty.
What all the examples show is that the companies that will be able to grasp the availability of contextual information (ie those collected in specific contexts such as the use of app and augmented reality services) can radically transform the way people communicate and interact with their own clients. If a user in front of the Timberland “virtual dressing room” has only tried blue hoodless jackets, it may be inappropriate to send him a special discount for an orange hooded jacket … isn’t it?
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