It’s official, the UK is now a smartphone society. And the emergence of Augmented Reality (AR) is bringing this technology even further into our lives. In fact, it’s really taking off; over one billion augmented-reality capable devices are expected to be in existence by the end of the year.
AR and Virtual Reality (VR) work in different ways. Whereas VR shuts out the physical world, taking you to a totally different place, AR adds to what you can see around you. It overlays digital data onto physical objects to provide you with an interactive and enhanced experience of the real world.
And because AR doesn’t require a head-mounted display, it’s also far more accessible than VR. It offers users more freedom and convenience, and provides brands with more possibilities to interact with their audience.
So my question is why, when it’s so easy to use and engage with, hasn’t there been more uptake by businesses?
Reasons why we should be embracing AR
Many of the barriers to businesses using AR centre around some common misconceptions. Namely, the perception that AR is only being used by early adopters, that AR apps will be too expensive to create and that there’ll be minimal ROI compared to other, more mainstream, tried and tested channels.
It’s natural for businesses to be cautious about new technology but let me try and break down a few of these barriers for you...
AR has become mainstream
To start with let’s look at the number of people already using AR every day. When ‘Pokemon Go’ burst onto the scene in 2016, AR found mass market acceptance. At the height of its popularity the game had over 380 million users around the world, per day. In 2018, Snapchat has 191 million users, Instagram’s AR Stories is seeing over 400 million users every day, and over 13 million AR apps using Apple’s ARKit were downloaded in the first six months following its 2017 debut. Statista is predicting over 800 million AR app downloads by the end of 2018. This is not niche ‘early adopter’ stuff, this is mainstream. And it’s not just for consumers; in a recent large survey of companies 86% expected to bring industrial AR solutions into their customers lives within 12 months.
AR app creation is easier than ever
In the last year, thanks to Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore platforms for developers, AR has gone from being a specialist technology to one that’s widely available to the developer community. This means that it’s becoming more cost-effective, quicker to get an AR app to market and is fuelling the surge in demand.
AR delivers measurable results
The majority of enterprises pursuing augmented reality are experiencing ROI within 12 months, as well as benefitting from the operational efficiencies it’s making in areas such as research and design. Retailers have found that offering AR experiences has increased footfall and impulse purchases in their bricks and mortar stores. And in terms of e-commerce, those who used AR features were found to be 11 times more likely to purchase and spend 2.7 times longer in the app. Using AR shopping apps has seen conversion rates increase by 182 percent in a year. These results are hard to ignore.
What AR apps are bringing to life, society and business
What made Pokemon Go so popular was that it connected the environment with the experience; the game had a groundbreaking element of discoverability that wasn’t just tied to a fixed screen in one room. And it had huge accessibility because users didn’t need to have a separate console - it got children and adults alike exploring their neighbourhoods on one big social treasure hunt that everyone could take part in. Since then, the popularity of apps like Snapchat and Instagram Stories has meant that people have become used to using AR to enhance their lives on an everyday basis.
And most importantly, AR is proving useful. Ikea’s Place App uses AR to let people see what the furniture would look like and how it would fit in their own home. Similarly, Dulux’s Visualiser app makes it easier to get an idea of how your room will look with a new colour on the walls, without having to lift a paintbrush. And on the subject of homes, we are inevitably going to see more apps like ‘Apartment View’ which enable you to walk down a street and, by pointing your phone around you, enable you to see which homes are for rent and instantly explore their photos, floor plans, prices and more.
With high street stores struggling, other forward-thinking retailers are also using the technology to enhance their customers’ buying experience. Through AR, customers have been able to check the size of products, virtually try on clothes by using apps like GAP’s ‘Dressing Room’, interact with window displays and generally enhance their shopping experience. Magnum’s recent AR app gave users a personalised experience of designing their own ice cream, viewing it in 3D in the real world and getting directions to the nearest Magnum Pleasure store to buy it at a discount. It delivered excellent results for Magnum, dwarfing those typically produced by rich media ads. The evidence for retailers is that AR is increasing footfall, length of stay and levels of purchasing.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s MoMAR app is a great example of how AR can open up possibilities and shape the museum-going experience. Objects in glass cases or behind barriers can be brought to life and interacted with, art galleries can become creative playgrounds and displays for virtual works, tour and travel guides can be totally transformed. If attracting more visitor numbers is what you’re after, offering unique AR experiences is becoming a sure-fire way to achieve this.
AR will change your business
AR is an invaluable tool for increasing sales, building engagement and improving efficiencies. The applications are almost limitless, from museums and pop concerts to healthcare and astronomy.
What’s essential, however, is to make the AR experience engaging. More than just showing off the tech, it needs to be intuitive, helpful and relevant.
AR is here to stay and other augmented-reality devices such as HoloLens are rapidly evolving. In a few years’ time, AR is likely to be something that we will just expect across most facets of our private and working lives and will be integrated across multiple platforms and apps we all use. One thing’s for sure, in the not too distant future, it will change your business.
If you’d like to find out more about how your business or service could benefit from AR, please click here to get in touch.