Three Things You Need to Know about Augmented Reality—Now

We’ve been watching augmented reality (AR) for awhile, and it’s been nipping around the edges of the marketing-verse for awhile. However, there has been a groundswell of investment and commitment from key players that is changing the landscape. If you haven’t been paying (serious) attention, it’s time to start.
AR is set to become the new marketing reality the way the other digital technologies like mobile and social media marketing have done. For those deeply already invested in the world of AR, that tidal shift is long past. For those with the luxury of jumping into marketing trends a little later, such as commercial printers, we’re on the cusp.
Here are three things you need to know about AR right now.

  1. Major brands have been investing in AR for some time.

I recently interviewed MJ Anderson, former co-owner and chief marketing officer for Trekk, a Rockford, IL-based agency with deep expertise in AR and VR, and now chief experience officer for RealityBLU, a start-up rolling out a full-scale cloud-based AR platform, BLUairspace. BLUairspace is being rolled out in stages starting this summer and will serve the enterprise and industrial scale needs of creating AR and VR experiences.
MJ and I spent a long time talking about the market changes related to AR and why a product like this is needed now. As part of this discussion, we talked about all of the “now” AR applications and strategies that have been developed and are being developed by major brands.

While many of us think of AR applications in the context of hokey games on the back of food packaging, that’s not what MJ is talking about. He’s talking about major investments in AR as a problem solving tool and for delivering useful information. Examples include retailers using AR to deliver loyalty program information, banks using AR to engage customers with video bank statements, and cable providers offering AR tutorials to help customers install their own cable boxes. On the marketing side, Trekk is working with a large expo promoter delivering ongoing AR experiences via direct mail containing a Google Cardboard.
These aren’t gimmicky, throwaway applications. These are applications central to the way these companies engage with customers. This is a tidal shift in the way brands are engaging with consumers.

  1. The gaming industry is moved to AR and VR.

The gaming community is highly influential in launching new technologies into the marketplace. Pokémon Go, which launched in July 2016, was a turning point in the gaming world and brought AR to the mainstream. Here are some eye-opening stats for the app:

  • Pokémon Go/AR has 650 million+ downloads.
  • Pokémon Go/AR has an estimated 65 million monthly active users.
  • 11% of Android devices in the U.S. have Pokémon Go/AR installed.
  • 6% of U.S. Android owners use Pokémon Go/AR on a daily basis.
  • Pokémon Go/AR still generates $2 million in revenue daily.

I haven’t been able to find similar stats for iOS, but CNET reported that Pokémon Go was downloaded more times in its first week than any other app in history. So you get the point.
Pokémon Go broke through the nerd wall and brought AR to the mainstream. As reported by eMarketer, a June 2016 CB Insights report that tracks the investment in VR and AR found that, even before Pokémon Go, gaming companies were making massive upgrades in their investment in the technology. Investment rose from $238 million in Q4 2015 to $1.1 billion in Q1 2016. eMarketer also reports on a UBM Game Network report that found that, while only 7% of gaming industry professionals were developing VR or AR games in 2014, nearly 20% were developing AR in 2015. That development hasn’t slowed. According to the Game Developers Conference 2017 State of the Gaming Industry Report, 13% of attendees said that their last completed game was released on VR headsets, a jump from 6% one year earlier. Looking ahead, 23% plan to release their next game on a VR headset. One in 10 are working on a platform-exclusive game for VR or AR.
When AR and VR are mainstream in the gaming industry, they’re mainstream, period.

  1. Social media platforms are mainstreaming AR, as well.

Consumers live on social media, and where social media goes, they go. Marketing strategies anticipate and follow. What happens on social media matters, and it’s moving to AR.
For example,

  • At Facebook’s F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be introducing an AR platform that will be available within Facebook’s Camera feature (although it’s currently in beta).
  • SnapChat, which is rapidly taking its place as one of the big gorillas of social media, has rolled out a new feature as part of its 3D filters, World Lenses. World Lenses is similar to SnapChat’s other popular filters, but uses AR.
  • There are other, more niche uses of AR already being used on social media. For example, the TeePeedU app, which uses AR technology to help students interact virtually in class and at sports games.

All of this is bringing AR and VR into the mainstream. Once AR/VR is part of the way that consumers are used to communicating with each other, they will expect the same from marketers and the brands they are engaged with. If you’ve been holding out to the very last minute to start paying attention to AR/VR, you’re at 59 seconds with milliseconds to go.

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