SMEs must utilise AR to make an impact post-COVID
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, SMEs need to look into engaging potential customers immediately in order to drive sales and awareness in the difficult months ahead. As the majority of the public continue to live and work remotely, however, companies must seek out new methods of marketing in order to attract better engagement. The online space has, thus, become crowded with brands attempting to cut through noise to truly make an impact on consumers.
This has resulted in many brands turning to augmented reality - a highly effective means of reaching and involving consumers, marketing and raising awareness of products in a new and innovative way. Not only are the advantages of AR evident, but could also be amplified with the growing anxiety of attempting to progress out of the pandemic.
AR has, therefore, become more affordable and attainable than ever, but a lot of brands are still not exactly clear on how to effectively utilise and implement this technology, especially without breaking the bank.
What is possible with AR?
Augmented reality uses mobile technology to place interactive virtual objects within our world through our camera lenses: from showing AR versions of shoes on users’ feet, to allowing people to pose with products or film characters, to creating face filters that virtually apply makeup and accessories, for example.
AR can create personalised interactive brand experiences that involve consumers in a way that was not previously possible. With the technology world booming, and consumers becoming increasingly reliant on their mobile phones for information and communication, AR experiences are becoming the new future of marketing.
What can AR do for a brand?
The majority of AR effects are distributed on social media platforms, which are fantastic tools for reaching and targeting different consumers. Popular platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, for example, recently opened up to branded AR filters, meaning that any company in the world can now reach Instagram’s 1 billion, and TikTok’s 800 million, active monthly users. In addition to this, Snapchat, the leading platform for showcasing AR content, announced 15 billion cumulative views of these types of experiences in May.
Brands are able to provide users with effects, games or face filters, for example, which are simple and fun to use. As social sharing is core to these platforms, brand effects can gain traction as users send them to friends or post them for their followers, simply because they like it. This results in more followers, better engagement and higher recognition for brands.
Even more importantly, AR has been proven as an effective way of brand marketing, as these experiences can generate a 70% higher memory response compared to non-AR marketing; the more a consumer remembers you, the more likely they are to buy your products. These types of encounters, thus, enable brands to become much more memorable and popular with consumers than standard videos or visuals. They have also been proven to directly affect purchasing behaviour, with brands achieving a boost of anywhere up to 200% in conversions when AR is used.
Social media platforms are not the only way to deliver this type of experience, though. WebAR is revolutionary in its accessibility; it just requires users to either click on a link, or scan a QR code using their cameras, to open the effect in a web browser. WebAR can, therefore, be very effective for physical activation experiences, such as event-based or in-store campaigns, or can be sent out to customers in print media or online newsletters and webpages.
Media and marketing are increasingly trending away from video towards immersive content. AR experiences are becoming increasingly popular with brands, and projections pin AR advertising at $453 (£359) million in revenue in 2018, expected to grow to $8.8 (£6.9) billion by 2023, with 9 out of 10 brands planning on using AR in their campaigns; the time for AR is very much the present.
Steps to creating a creative AR campaign:
- Seek out a creative platform to produce your immersive experience for you. This allows you to offload the stress of marketing campaigns, and platforms such as Poplar (https://poplar.studio) enable brands to produce powerful AR experiences ‘on demand’. All you have to do is submit a brief of what you are looking for to start your AR journey.
- Know what you want to achieve - clarity of your needs will give you a better idea of what type of AR campaign is right for you. If you wish for consumers to visualise your products, for example, you could create a virtual try-on experience using a face filter, or create 3D versions of your product in the consumer’s world through their cameras. Or, if you want to increase engagement through a fun, competitive experience for consumers, you could even create an AR mini-game.
- Know how you will promote your experience - different platforms better support different types of interactions - what you can achieve on Instagram, you may not realistically be able to achieve on WebAR. Face filters, for example, are best suited to Snapchat and Instagram, as the platform encourages consumers to use the effects and share them with their friends. When thinking of which to use, return back to your goals: do you want to reach more followers? Create an effect that is physically activated at a particular time and place? Or sell more by allowing users to virtually try on your product?
- Keep it simple - AR effects do not need to be elaborate to succeed - simple filters often gain the most attention. Nestlé’s Purina, for example, created an effect that allowed users to engage with the beloved Felix the cat through just three interactions: jump, paw and roll. They achieved 172 million paid impressions, with an average of 30 seconds of play time. Whether your aim is to create an experience that is useful, or fun, the resulting AR effect should be memorable and easy to access, understand and share.
- Make sure it’s easy to use - not everyone understands what AR is, or how to use it. It is important to provide guidance on how to use your effect; you may need to guide the user in what they need to do within the experience by writing ‘tap here’, ‘look around’, for example. Also make clear what you would like the user to do after interacting with the experience. If it’s a virtual try-on, do you want to direct them to the product on your website? If it’s a fun game, will you ask them to share it with their friends? Make this clear.
- Market the experience - promote your AR effects through your usual marketing channels: social media, email, newsletters, content, magazines, etc. You could even reach out to influential people related to your campaign, ask them to capture the experience and share it. This can both add credence to your campaign, and maximise its reach.
Evidence continues to prove AR’s efficacy for ad campaigns. Following COVID-19, SMEs should utilise this innovative technology to showcase their products and create lasting, impactful campaigns which encourage engagement and sales throughout the difficult period ahead.