How Augmented Reality (AR) can improve business
I’m almost certain that by now you’ll have heard of Augmented Reality, or AR for short, but you won’t necessarily know exactly what it is and the potential benefits it brings. So here’s a little overview of what it is and why you should start seriously considering implementing it for your business.
In a nutshell, Augmented reality applies digital renderings, like computer generated graphics or digital images, to a physical environment to create the appearance of those renderings occupying that real-world environment. So for example, you could look through the camera on your phone as you point it at a worktop in your kitchen and AR would then superimpose a 3D image of a kitchen appliance onto the image on your screen to give the appearance of what that surface would look like with that object on it in reality.
Source: Road to VR
One way I’m sure you’ll have seen or come in contact with AR is through the viral phenomenon that is Pokemon Go which hit us in 2016. This is a game where you are tasked to “Catch ‘em all!”. “‘Em” being animal-like creatures with special powers that hang about in random places near your location, like a widespread gang of digital youths. You then need to throw balls at them to catch them and add them to your collection.
The game’s use of augmented reality allows it to superimpose the Pokemon so they appear to be in front of the user. It turns something that would be quite mundane if played entirely on the screen in a non-existent world into something that is incredibly immersive, and quite addictive. This has all meant that the game has been a huge success, racking up an estimated 752 million downloads and a revenue of $1.2 billion!
As you can see, AR is already bringing the big bucks. Now, it’s true that us regular folk aren’t a huge brand like Pokemon who, let’s face it, brought in a lot of revenue because of the sheer size of its name. But I think it is true that Pokemon Go wouldn’t have been as much of a success had it not adopted augmented reality to give itself something the masses haven’t seen before.
This is something businesses need to take into account, that new technology is all the rage at the moment. For a number of years now, we have been inundated with a never ending flow of new technology being sprung on us from all directions. From new iPhones being released every 10 minutes and cars that drive themselves, to “smart” speakers that listen to us and are able to answer all the mundane questions we never knew we wanted the answer to, we are now naturally on the lookout for the latest tech trends and augmented reality is in the forefront – along with its intense, in-your-face sibling virtual reality.
This means that adopting AR as part of your marketing will have huge benefits simply due to the fact that it is new tech, which immediately makes it noticable and interesting. If you’re struggling to find a way to set yourself apart from the competition, this can be a very effective method of getting yourself noticed and creating some buzz around your brand. Pokemon Go has proven that the virality of augmented reality is very high and the word of mouth that comes along with that creates the potential for a high number of customers to see your brand.
As well as just being something that people will talk about, AR also acts as a new way in which your brand can express itself. You now have an extra dimension to work with, whilst still remaining within the digital realm. A great example of AR being used effectively for marketing would be when Pepsi used it to shock some innocent bystanders. This didn’t really showcase anything about Pepsi products but importantly, it generated some buzz and got people talking about the Pepsi brand. PR at its finest.
Another big company using augmented reality effectively is Lego. Their use of AR didn’t only generate some buzz around the brand, it also worked as a brilliant way to showcase their products. They installed a “Digital Box” in their store that allowed users to approach it with an unopened box of lego. They then held their box up to the screen and were shown a rendering of how their chosen lego will look once built.
This not only received a lot of attention as people will be talking about this cool, new piece of tech, it also allowed customers to make a more informed purchase decision as they have essentially had a try-before-you-buy like experience. This, along with the higher number of customers visiting the store to see the technology, will have an overall increase in purchases and conversion rate.
Ikea also embraced augmented reality to brilliantly showcase their products, by creating an AR app that allows their customers to see what Ikea products would look like in their homes. This is a perfect example of how new technology, such as AR, provides better ways to communicate to your customers to give them as much information as possible. The more information you can provide, the better informed your customers will be, which will lead to smarter purchasing decisions.
Plus, if your customers are buying products that they know will fit in their home, or wherever they want to put them, there is a much lower chance that customers will need to return it. This could save companies huge costs due to the much lower costs for fewer returns. Especially if the products are large, like sofas or dining tables for example, the returns can be laborious, time-consuming and expensive. In fact, it’s estimated that returns cost UK retailers £60 billion per year.
AR won’t only help you with sales and marketing though, it also has the potential to drastically improve customer service. Do you remember the last time you rang up your internet service provider because there was an issue? It’s likely that they tried to get you to fiddle about with your router to reset it, check the connections or check what colour the blinking light on the bottom panel is, only you can’t find a blinking light and you start to worry that you’re not looking at the right thing and now you’re never going to have internet again and you’ll be cut off from the world forever. Nightmare!
Imagine being able to point your phone at your router and see a display of boxes that clearly label what each part is as if they were attached to it. Now imagine that the customer service rep on the phone is able to see that video and give you guidance on what to do as if they were right next to you, pointing at the parts you need to fiddle with.
By providing your customers with a really high quality remote service, the smaller issues could be fixed relatively easily and customers could have their services up and running again very quickly. This will improve overall customer satisfaction, improve productivity and will help to retain much more customers. This will also free up much more time for specialists, like engineers, to visit customers with a much more serious issue. Reducing the amount of time that customers need to wait to have their issues fixed.
There are solutions like this already available to employees who need help fixing and maintaining their ever-advancing pieces of hardware. Remote AR allows employees to remotely call a specialist if they come across an issue. That specialist will then be shown a live feed from the employee’s camera on their phone or tablet. They can then add visual aids and give them spoken instructions on what exactly they need to do to fix the issue. This kind of technology could be offered to customers, whether they have an issue with their laptop or even just struggling to build a flat pack chest of drawers.
It could also be used for training purposes. Instead of sending your employees off to a training centre, you could bring the training to your place of work. Rather than having to fit everything in in one day, they could potentially take as long as they need to learn.
In times like these, it is essential for businesses to start adopting new technology as soon as possible. It is an effective way to make your brand stand out from the crowd and generate some buzz around your name. As a marketing tool, even by simply using things like augmented reality, you are immediately making yourself shareable and worthy of going viral. Then, the increased functionality that it offers will help you immensely improve customer service and retain all those new customers. It is predicted that the AR and VR market will reach over $162 billion by 2020. So don’t get left behind, pave the way for your industry and embrace new technology before we get bored and move on to the next big thing.
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