It’s early days, but the augmented reality (AR) market is forecast to surge from $6 billion this year to $98 billion by 2028. Investment in AR has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The absence of shop-floor engagement has inspired companies to explore and strengthen customer relationships using next-generation digital platforms.
AR paves the way for more immersive virtual brand experiences, enabling companies to interact in a thought-provoking way. Until recently, however, the manner in which brands apply AR has been strictly limited.
It’s not simply a neat visual feature on an app; it’s a channel that marketers can harness to push beyond traditional communication and connect in real-time.
One of the famous early examples was the augmented reality magazine cover, where a quick scan of a QR code with the reader’s phone would commence a video interview with the cover model.
Right now, there are a plethora of similar AR-enabled sources (including the augmented reality billboard!), but we have yet to see marketers successfully apply the technology to cultivate a genuine community feeling.
However, there are signs that could be about to happen.
What’s exciting today is that it’s possible to run AR applications using most web browsers, meaning that users don’t need to acquire expensive equipment, as they can simply fire up their smartphone’s camera and brace themselves for the ride.
AR can be used for a range of marketing purposes, including sales presentations and proposals. From 2020 we have seen the rise of virtual catwalks and the application of AR by leading fashion brands to ’digitally fit’ clothing onto models.
This is a particularly clever use of the technology, as it assists users in comparing the look of garments in different sizes and on different body types, which in turn generates sales and reduces the rate of returns.
An AR product demo could be useful for trying out anything from sunglasses or a new pair of trainers to your next car, after taking it on a virtual test drive. The real estate industry could face a shakeup, with virtual visits to properties removing the need to travel long distances for a physical tour.
Imagining the Future
A similar application of AR in the area of home improvement and interior decor involves using the LiDAR sensors in a smartphone to capture entire 3D room plans, enabling users to completely redesign their house, sampling everything from triple glazed windows and security doors to couches, rugs, or simply a new wall color.
The apps are currently in beta and need some further work, but this example gives a clear idea of where the industry is attempting to go.
On the other hand, some luxury retail brands have been re-imagining AR in a drive to attract customers back in-store, post-pandemic. One recent pop-up session was used at a central London launch event, with a striking augmented reality 3D animation (activated via a QR code) bringing the store to life. Shoppers were able to take photo and video footage and share it with friends.
At Shark Design, we fully expect AR product placement to become more of a trend in the near future.
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