Augmented reality (AR), which overlays text, images, or video over physical objects, is one of those technologies that gets marketers really excited. In recent years, it's been used to create engaging advertising campaigns by brands as diverse as DreamWorks, Bloomingdale's, and Elizabeth Arden. But despite the pizzazz of AR-powered creative, it's still a novelty and marketers aren't entirely sure how it translates into ROI.
Austin Bone, VP of products for GPS-based augmented reality mobile platform Snaps!, sat down with Direct Marketing News at Experian Marketing Services' Client Summit and discussed the future of augmented reality and how it can transform into user-generated native ads.
What role does augmented reality play in today's marketing world?
It's the future. Google Glass is making it more of a mainstream term where people understand what augmented reality is. Two or three years ago it was a hot word, but no one could really define it or knew what it was. Today, Google Glass [helps] define it for the future. It's how you're going to buy things in the future [and] it's how you're going to speak to people. I truly believe that there's going to be a totally new way of connecting [in] a photo-based dialogue. Augmented reality has to be a part of that. It's who I want to connect myself with, where am I going, where do I want to go, what do I want to buy? Augmented reality is that common bond or common language.
How could you use it to buy something?
In our app today, you can see a virtual object and then there's a direct link to buy. We work with a lot of really amazing upcoming graphic design artists, and a lot of them are struggling to sell their artwork. So something that we're doing is we're allowing them to sell it through our app. You can see the virtual object, get inspired, snap your own photo, but also [it's] one click to buy and it takes you to the artist's website. We do a lot of other things where you can link to Amazon. If you imagine augmented reality in three or four years, why would you ever buy something off of eBay that you couldn't put in your house today and take a picture of? Do I like that pillow on my couch? Is that TV too big for my living room? Does that bathing suit look cute on me, or is it the wrong color? I think augmented reality is going to be part of the language of the future.
When I think of AR, I think, ‘Wow, this is really cool.' But, how does that translate back to benefiting a brand and seeing those tangible results?
There are really two ways: It's either discovery or it's delight. Discovery—that's like on Yelp when you launch the augmented reality viewer and it shows you the closer restaurant and what the rating is. That's more of the informational way of discovering content. I consider us a mixture of both, but the surprise and delight factor [is] being able to add a virtual object into your everyday and just make it better. For a brand, it's going to have to be a magical combination of the two. You're going to do real-time A/B testing. [For example,] you can see in our app today that 90% of users like the red shoe over the blue shoe, and they're buying it. So you should probably produce more red shoes. To a brand, it's a paramount metric that they're not necessarily tracking yet just because they don't have the ability.
Are there metrics that marketers can use to measure whether an AR campaign is a success?
Absolutely. On our app specifically what we deliver at the end of the campaign is a full metrics report. You own the photos that are taken in association with your campaign, so we deliver those to you. It's secondary marketing collateral. You can use it as a photo contest or you can print ads with it. In addition to those photos, we can tell you where your users are sharing photos [and] where they're spending their time. That's something I think is incredibly valuable because you know where they're talking [and] where to spend the money to keep those eyes. We also can deliver to you the shared copy that they're sharing. Something that's really kind of funny is that there's default social copy for each virtual object, so a brand can put in a hashtag to track it or they can include a direct link to buy, but 90% of our users don't change it. So, it's an amazing secondary advertisement for brands because not only are you sharing that photo that's going to live on their timeline, but you're also controlling the social copy that they're sharing it with because people are lazy.
Do you think the monetization of photo creation and sharing is something that we're seeing now or will see more of in the future?
That's obviously where it's going. Everything is turning into photo shares and how do we monetize that? From a brand's perspective I think that eventually our model will move to a CPE [model], where users are taking 1,500 photos a day with your virtual objects that our pricing structure would be based off of, instead of the subscription-base that we are now. The power of our platform is that these aren't the typical banner ads you see on Facebook and it's way more [valuable] than a Facebook like. How much value does that have? It means nothing. Or, an email that you can spam. These are photos, native ads, that people are sharing to their networks and then all of their friends are seeing it and it's a captured moment in time. That's a much more powerful and priceless means of communication than an ad.
Do you think text is becoming less and less relevant?
Absolutely. Emoticons and simple texts in the near future will be totally eclipsed by photos. Photos are the means of communication now and especially in the future.
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About the author: Elyse Dupré is a reporter at Direct Marketing News and covers ever-evolving trends in the marketing world. She joined Direct Marketing News in August 2012 after graduating from Boston University with a B.S. in journalism and a B.A. in psychology.