2016 was considered by many to be a year of revival in the augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) markets. Augmented reality is the technology that overlays CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) on a user’s view of the real world, whilst virtual reality is an immersive computer generated simulation environment, seen via a headset. Both are usually interactive, allowing for a wide array of possibilities when it comes to applying to a marketing strategy. However, even with the huge amount of excitement surrounding such luxury products as the HTC Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR, there have been elements of doubt as to whether the market would be commercially viable.
Enter, Google Cardboard. With their affordable and foldable cardboard headsets, Google are democratising VR for anyone with a decent smartphone. VR has also been used for marketing purposes, allowing brands to create immersive experiences for their consumers in order to promote their business and opportunities. For example, Marriot Hotel created a “Travel Brilliantly” campaign with pop up 4D sensory VR experiences of Hawaii and London, in order to “renovat[e] the hotel experience”.
Even with this step forward, it’s AR that appears to be making the big strides within the marketing industry. This time last year we shared our thoughts about augmented reality in relation to high street shopping, and AR has come on in leaps and bounds since then. With the power to utilise it right at people’s fingertips from smartphones, using AR as a business marketing opportunity is becoming a trendy new way to retell your brand’s story.
The rising popularity of AR for commercial use
Business interest in this medium is certainly rising; according to a 2016 worldwide Tech Pro Research report, 67% of businesses are considering using AR in the future. The 2016 revenue market for both virtual and augmented reality stood at $5.2 billion, but it is set to skyrocket to $162 billion worldwide by 2020 according to the International Data Corporation.
Augmented and virtual reality are already being utilised by businesses in a range of ways, including pre-planning, which allows consumers to place virtual products into a real world environment, creating an educated shopper. For example, Ikea’s app allows customers to see how Ikea furniture would look in their own homes.
In store engagement is another use for AR, allowing for more innovative engagement with products and catering to busy shoppers’ needs. For example, Topshop created AR-based dressing rooms that allow a user to virtually try on outfits.
One can’t speak about AR without mentioning the huge phenomenon that arose with the release of Pokemon Go last year, encouraging a huge audience to pick up their phones and wander about their local areas in order to “catch ‘em all”. We speculated at the time about how such an app could revolutionise online marketing, with its data capture elements and possibilities for in-game advertising.
A further example of AR in action is shown through Volvo’s partnership with Microsoft, which involved the development of pioneering technology using the HoloLens to combine the real and digital word and change the way customers experience Volvo. Through the HoloLens customers can view the interior of each car to scale, and open up the hood and take a look at the engine in action. AR technology can create a realistic demonstration of features that customers are unlikely to ever experience first-hand, yet are integral to the manufacturers’ sales point, i.e. the safety system.
Many are in agreement that 2017 will be a year of development, where both AR and VR will not only become more accessible, but more immersive with the available content. The world of augmented reality in particular is starting to take shape. Once the price point of devices such as the HoloLens becomes more affordable, augmented reality is set to become a powerful advertising tool.