How brands can cash in on Augmented Reality in a digitally-driven world

Consumers can make a more informed decision by seeing how a particular product will look in their surroundings through AR elements

AR is now an emerging opportunity for businesses to provide followers with an “out-of-the-box” experience
AR is now an emerging opportunity for businesses to provide followers with an “out-of-the-box” experience

By Prafulla Mathur

Businesses across the globe have been impacted in multiple ways by the raging COVID-19 pandemic. With the situation far from being normal, it is difficult to predict when things will be back to usual. However, what is certain is that the way businesses have been operating, be it home grown companies or large MNCs, will not be the same anymore.

If branding and marketing spends were already moving towards digital, the global lockdown has acted as a powerful catalyst to that trend, given the average monthly online activity has skyrocketed manifolds globally.

A DataReportal analysis has revealed that the number of social media users has gone up to 3.81 billion today, an increase of 8% since April 2019. The ongoing pandemic induced lockdown has definitely helped in reaching those fantastic figures. GlobalWebIndex has revealed that almost half of global internet users (46%) have been spending considerably more time (+24%) on social media as compared to their pre-lockdown behaviours. It is therefore clearly evident that having an effective and compelling digital presence, is now an imperative thing for brands and businesses.

Therefore it also follows, that if ever there was a time for Deep Technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) to “cash-in”, it is now as we approach a more digitally driven world. Advertisers can now reach more than 2 billion people on Facebook, as revealed by the company’s self-service advertising tools. Assuming that every user is at least 13 years old, as required by the platform’s terms of service, advertisers can now reach more than one-third of the world’s total population through an effective advertising architecture.

In March 2020, an additional 76 million people saw adverts on Facebook, as compared to December 2019. A substantial part of the growth was fuelled by strong gains in India, with a potential reach of 280 million, an increase of 20 million since January.

This increased web traffic is heavily dominated by younger age groups (between 16 and 24), who love to play with tools like face filters, as Snapchat had established- basically preferring a much more engaging and interactive mode of communicating with the online world. This is where AR technology plays a powerful role and their applications go much beyond fun and games, playing an increasingly key role in driving greater value to businesses.

Brands have now taken to more powerful and evolved AR-filters like the one described above to magnify their outreach. Taco Bell for example, created a branded Snapchat filter that transforms faces into tacos. As weird as it may sound, the filter was an immense hit with tons of people sharing their taco faces, and most importantly – carried Taco Bell’s logo in the bottom corner of every snap. Bear in mind that your audience today primarily comprises tech savvy millennials and even the smallest technology innovation can blow up into an emerging trend.

AR is now an amazing opportunity for businesses to provide followers with an “out-of-the-box” experience. Leading cosmetic brands like Sephora have seen the light. Facebook has extended its AR offerings to Facebook Messenger, the platform’s messaging application and through the same, followers of Sephora can now try various products, for instance, shades of lipsticks through AR filters. Not only is this an effective “try and buy” medium, but every click carries the brand name and with every share and view, the growth is exponential.

AR filters on Instagram too have become an effective tool in the technology’s rise to prominence on the Facebook-owned platform. French artist Ines Longevial, who has over 308k followers on Insta, made waves on the platform last year with her AR face filters, which typically feature a bright doodle or scribble with a crayon like texture. Her “Save the Planet” mask got ragingly popular as users pledged their allegiance to the cause.

It is however important to shape your content strategies to make room for AR-driven elements into your social media plan. There is enormous scope for creating compelling, engaging and unique content and it is in the hands of brands now to develop the best possible experience to suit themselves as well as the user.

Consumers can also now make a more informed decision by seeing how a particular product will look in their surroundings through such AR elements, sometimes even driving them towards impulse purchases. According to a poll, 80% of young people made an impulsive purchase last year. AR filters, for e.g. Sephora’s range of cosmetics that can now be tried on through social media, enables users to see how the product would appear on their skin in real time. This blurring between imaginary and reality can make impulse purchases harder to resist.

Social networks are now encouraging its user base to embrace their AR tools more than ever and it is only a matter of time when brands scale up to this reality. According to Tractica, AR-based ads will be generating about $13 billion a year by 2022, so if there ever was a time for your business to incorporate AR, it is now. Especially given that we are fast approaching a “contactless” post-COVID world.

The author is co-founder, Queppelin

Read Also: Five simple hacks for brand acceptance in changing times

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First published on: 28-06-2020 at 12:40 IST