Now that consumers have come to expect an AR component in many of their digital dealings, how can marketers elevate their experiences?"

In 2016, a little game called Pokémon Go changed the way we thought about augmented reality, showing us how moving this technology could really be — literally. For the first time, millions experienced an augmented reality so delightfully believable that it sent them willingly walking into traffic and traipsing into abandoned warehouses in the hopes to simply “Catch ‘em all.” In different, though equally powerful, ways, 2020 yet again shifted the AR paradigm.

AR proved its power beyond entertainment last year, as it became deeply embedded in everyday life. With its growing ubiquity, opportunities abound for fresh, innovative AR experiences that wow consumers by building on their increased comfort level with its use.

The question is, now that consumers have come to expect an AR component in many of their digital dealings, how can marketers elevate their experiences? Consider these three paths:

1. Keep re-envisioning space.

Sure, AR helped entertain us last year. Verizon transformed our living rooms into an art venue to rival the Met. Nintendo made our messy floors and cluttered tables into Mario Kart courses. Even Burger King made Whoppers into a stage so that we could personally host the most intimate of concerts. However, AR also did much of the heavy lifting when it came to transforming our homes into makeshift offices and schools. Zoom backgrounds and facial filters helped boost our at-home professionalism (or so we hope). Geometric shapes came to life in our living rooms and young learners took expeditions all over the world from their bedroom desks. As we lived our lives more digitally, AR permeated more than just our free time — it became part of virtually every facet of our lives, largely by giving us ways of reimagining our spaces.

As we begin venturing out again, consider taking the same magic that transformed our home spaces into the public. For example, QR codes made a comeback in 2020, unlocking menus and quickly procuring us information at our (albeit touchless) fingertips. Elevate that! Inspire consumers to continue imaginatively rethinking their surroundings. Create personalized experiences in public spaces for consumers.

2.  Embrace the technology.

5G, high-speed networks that have allowed for more robust AR experiences and other developments indicate AR’s popularity will only grow. The iPhone 12’s lidar capability, already inspiring impressive — and glittery! — filters on TikTok and Snapchat, makes the AR smoother and more accurate. The iPhone’s light detection and ranging camera can detect the contours of a room or space (or even a singular object) with stunning accuracy and depth, allowing for more detailed, believable experiences. In other words, it’s a game-changer and a clear indicator the future looks quite bright and quite augmented.

Further, rumors around the wearables watercooler have us portending that, whether Facebook’s and Ray-Ban’s AR glasses take off this year or not, marketers should take note of the buzz. Advances in wearables signify that AR will become even more experiential than it already is and TikTok and Snapchat are on board to boost user experiences. Even if wearables aren’t taking off just yet, pay close attention to the limits getting pushed. Staying on top of quickly advancing tech and considering test-and-learn opportunities for your brand will more than keep you relevant — it’ll generate anticipation and excitement.

3. Amp up the experiential. 

AR has already been shaking up shopping, especially over the last year, making consumers feel good about their online purchases, even when they couldn’t reach out and touch what they were buying. The beauty and fashion industry has been consistently inspiring consumer confidence, allowing virtual makeovers literally from head to toe. Filters help determine everything from the perfect hair dye hue and lipstick shade to the right shoes, and everything in between. When shoppers are done trying on, they often head swiftly to cart. And, hey, even if all they do is snap a pic and send it, how many ads are people willingly sharing and showing off to their friends, anyway?

Since digital try-on was so crucial this year, consumers have come to expect it. We suggest using AR to enhance shopping experiences in ways even an in-real-life experience couldn’t replicate. Take, for example, Gucci’s playable AR campaign on Snapchat for its Bloom fragrance. While it’s rather difficult, impossible even, to try on perfume over the internet, Gucci offered users virtual mazes leading to its fragrances, and of course, its site for purchase. The floral AR mazes conveyed aspects of their scents with a sense of fun.

Or consider how Nike created a gamified, in-store AR experience to show off its latest all-weather gear collection via an outdoor, yet indoor, challenge inside its House of Innovation store in New York City. When users complete the challenges, they’re rewarded with a physical gift from an employee, truly merging the digital world with the real in a gratifying way that uniquely works in-store. Go beyond digital try-on and use AR to creatively convey other aspects of products or take storytelling to new heights.

The past year has marked a gestalt shift in how consumers think of AR. Now, brands should build on consumers’ expectations and comfort level to deliver something even more captivating!

Advantage Solutions

Bianca Borrero-Barreras
Senior Analyst, Market Research

Bianca Borrero-Barreras is a member of Upshot’s strategy team. She joined Upshot, an Advantage Marketing Partners agency, in 2019 after earning her master’s degree in social sciences at the University of Chicago.

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