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AR marketing:
how augmented
reality marketing
can help engage
customers

Author: Paul Gillin

Augmented reality marketing, also known as AR marketing, might soon become a full-fledged discipline thanks to the growing sophistication of consumer devices and the arrival of 5G networks.

Augmented reality isn't a new concept. "The Wizard of Oz" author L. Frank Baum envisioned the technology at the turn of the 20th century, and working prototypes were developed in the early 1990s. But technology forces are aligning to make the gear and bandwidth needed to deliver a full augmented reality customer experience affordable and practical.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality is often used interchangeably with virtual reality, but the concepts are quite different. Virtual reality uses a headset or an immersive physical space to create a self-contained experience. Augmented reality overlays information or context on the real world, enhancing a scene by projecting contextual information onto a screen that a user wears or carries. In some applications, the experience includes audio, too.

Augmented reality requires more than specialized equipment. Devices need to connect to a network with high bandwidth and ultra-low latency to support a huge volume of data. Edge computing capabilities could also help power augmented reality applications by moving processing power closer to the user.

Augmented reality marketing and the augmented reality customer experience

Whether in video games or surgery, augmented reality has the potential—if not yet the promise—to spur transformation. The consumer push for AR technologies is already in motion—MarketsandMarket expects augmented reality hardware and software sales to spike from $15 billion in 2020 to $77 billion in 2025. And Crunchbase lists more than 2,600 companies working with the technology.

A report from Futurum Research shows that 69% of surveyed consumers expect to use AR and VR technology to explore products in 2021. With potential customers prepared to adopt AR solutions, businesses can explore augmented reality marketing to create a better user experience.

The Zurich-based company Wayray is developing an augmented reality platform that turns a car's windshield into a full-fledged interactive video display. The platform projects a holographic image onto the windshield, giving drivers information access to maps and information on potential hazards, waypoints and the location of available parking spaces.

Augmented reality can work in the workplace, too. It can turn ordinary windows into information portals. Office windows could show weather data, news feeds and upcoming events. Heavy machinery operators could view precise instructions about where and how deep to dig.

Retailers could use augmented reality to display enhanced information about items in a storefront or share live updates about promotional offers, and some have found creative ways to leverage it during the sales process. Harley-Davidson has an app that lets prospective buyers customize and virtually test-drive motorcycles. Realtors are using augmented reality to show clients what spaces will look like when fully furnished; some augmented reality programs even let prospective buyers design spaces by moving and resizing windows and doors. Ikea's mobile app, Ikea Place, lets visitors see what furniture would look in their homes without leaving the showroom.

AR marketing can also improve conversion rates and reduce returns by minimizing post-sales surprises. ThreeKit, a product visualization platform developer, surveyed more than 1,800 American adults and found that 60% of them were more likely to buy a product if it was first shown to them in a 3D or augmented reality view.

Powering AR marketing

Augmented reality adoption has been stymied by technological limitations. However, recent advances in low-power augmented reality marketing processors and batteries have made delivering an augmented reality customer experience possible—and possibly practical.

Nearly every smartphone is now powerful enough to support basic augmented reality functionality, and augmented reality can be seamlessly integrated into HTML5 without requiring special plug-ins. The arrival of 5G networking could unleash a flood of new applications by shifting more processing power to the cloud.

Businesses looking to explore augmented reality opportunities, whether in marketing or beyond, will need to prepare their networks, devices and staff to support new applications. Organizations with the experience and personnel to deploy complex technologies might be fine on their own. Others might partner with a managed services provider to ensure that their network is secure and capable enough to maximize the augmented reality customer experience and to monitor and manage threats or concerns as they arise.

The pieces that will take augmented reality mainstream are finally coming together. Service providers should consider the opportunities that the technology can unlock across a wide spectrum of businesses.

Learn how Verizon can support augmented reality and virtual reality technologies.