Why Augmented Reality is one to watch in 2017.

Why Augmented Reality is one to watch in 2017 ...

As we wind down for Christmas I’ve read my fair share of round up and predictions blogs for the year ahead and one thing that keeps popping up is Virtual Reality (VR). Indeed we talked about it in our own predictions blog and there’s no doubt that some brands have made a big impact by using VR in their marketing activity (The National Autistic Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK are two of my favourites). Yet, as we head into 2017 I think we should also remember Augmented Reality (AR) and the opportunities it too holds for brands.

What’s the difference between AR & VR?

Firstly, let’s cover off the basics. To a certain extent both concepts use the same kind of technology and are based on the same idea – to modify our reality.

Virtual Reality fully immerses the user in a virtual world. To achieve this the user requires a headset or goggles, blending their concept of what’s real and what’s not – with some pretty funny results! VR also usually allows you to interact with the experience – this can be limited to choosing your view point or sometimes even communicating through gestures.

Augmented Reality on the other hand merges VR with real life, mapping the virtual world onto your environment. AR is already more mainstream than VR as it doesn’t require any additional hardware for it to work. For instance, many AR experiences simply rely on your mobile phone as a lens onto the virtual world. Despite this fact however, this Google Trends report shows that what you’re all talking about this Christmas is VR. 

Do you remember Pokemon Go?

In the last 5 years, VR has engulfed the alternative reality world, yet despite the noise AR is leaps ahead of VR.

For instance, this year, a little-known mobile game popped up called Pokemon Go. You might’ve heard of it.

It had many of us gripped to our mobiles throughout the summer, exploring our local parks for the first time and eating into our data allowances in the pursuit of rare Pokemon. Not only was it successful in terms of downloads, but it got many of us talking on social media – all great for brand awareness.

Pokemon Go is almost certainly the most successful AR experience to date, outperforming both terms on its own in average monthly searches.

Despite the enormous success of Pokemon Go, I’m not sure many of us think about it when it comes to exploring new technologies for marketing.

Why use AR?

Firstly there are obvious benefits to using a more mainstream piece of technology. You are guaranteed more uptake if users do not need to buy or even download additional functions. Plan for what your customers already have.

As it stands, I also think AR can be more meaningful for brands. By enhancing your own experience, AR can make brand storytelling relevant on an individual level.

Plus, by keeping one foot in the real world, AR can also provide a more obvious call to action. By presenting the product or brand in the customer’s own environment you appeal to their needs and wants – like selling out in the field.

And let’s not forget, AR means you don’t have to look like a complete nutter wearing the world’s most enormous headset – it’s ok to AR in public…

AR & VR in practice

As an example of both concepts in practice, in November, takeaway aggregator Just Eat, announced their own AR. The AR experience will bring menus to life, allowing customers to order from a buffet of food in front of them. Dangerous for takeaway lovers, but equally brilliant! Despite a potentially clunky ordering process (as you get side tracked by all the options, and let’s forget about making special requests), I can see many of us trying this one out at home, even when we’re not really hungry – a last minute selling opportunity for Just Eat.

In the same announcement Just Eat also announced a VR offering, yet it leaves me less excited and reinforces my argument that AR is where brands should be focusing their efforts at the moment. At the same time as announcing AR, Just Eat announced a VR experience which brings restaurant partners a bird’s eye view of their territory, allowing them to spot patterns and areas for growth. While again this is very cool, there’s no doubt that restaurant partners can already access this kind of data without the expensive hardware.

Ultimately, you don’t need either of these experiences, but you want the virtual buffet – let’s just hope they can make it for mobile… if so, AR wins.

AR in 2017

In the end both technologies are still reasonably new to us. We can just about consider AR mainstream, yet the humorous Pokemon Go glitches tell us that there’s a bit more work to be done. Let’s not forget, neither option is an inexpensive route to go either, so if you’re thinking about investing, get it right first time!

Nevertheless, adding to Kathryn’s earlier blog, my final social prediction (or wish) for 2017 is to see more brands utilising AR experiences to tell their brand story. AR presents a huge untapped potential that might be more accessible for brands with smaller budgets – don’t let VR take all the limelight! 

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