Imagine trying on a tattoo at home without going to a tattoo parlor or moving furniture around your house before even purchasing it or even trying on makeup without actually applying it to your skin – that is the beauty of augmented reality. Businesses and products can now interact with their consumers on a whole different level, adding virtual elements to reality: almost like magic.
Augmented reality, also known as AR, was massively introduced to businesses through the Pokémon Go frenzy. The game not only showed the possibilities of AR but also validated it as an incredibly effective way of engaging users: as of March 2018, the game has been downloaded over 800 million times with a total revenue of around $1.8 billion since its launch on July 6, 2016. Its popularity is considered to be responsible for sparking the augmented reality movement – which is clearly just starting.
More and more, augmented reality is now flourishing because of advancements in consumer technology, making the customer experiences more personalized and interactive. The augmented reality market is expected to grow to $117.4 billion by 2022 which is a big leap compared to its value of $2.35 billion in 2015. With this impactful data in mind, what does augmented reality mean for businesses? How does it affect them?
First Things First: What is the Difference Between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?
If you didn’t already know, augmented reality is not the same as virtual reality, both technologies are fairly different from each other. Virtual reality, or VR, is the creation of an imaginary reality. It simulates a different environment using a headset, making users feel like they are truly living in that reality with sounds and visual effects. For example, you could be walking on a different planet or even riding a roller coaster.
However, in this post we’ll focus more on augmented reality which is used in apps for mobile devices to add digital aspects to reality, essentially enhancing the real world and adding to what already exists. For instance, using a Snapchat filter that adds dog ears to your selfie.
Advantages Using Augmented Reality in Businesses
With augmented reality becoming a popular technological trend in industries such as retail, education, real estate, construction and interior design, its use in businesses is becoming the next step to furthering a company’s marketing strategy. Implementing augmented reality certainly presents several advantages for businesses. For example:
- Interactivity increases retention. Having a memorable experience with your customers will leave them wanting more from your business. The highly entertaining factor of augmented reality will keep clients interested and bring them back.
- Unique technology. Augmented reality is technology consumers want to use because it is innovative. Having it in your business can make you more noticeable and stand out from the competition.
- Personalization. Augmented reality gives people a more personalized, engaging, enriching and authentic experience with your brand. It is an opportunity to create lasting connections with clients by helping them actively interact with your brand and providing excellent customer service.
- A new level of thinking. AR gives consumers a 3-dimensional experience. It is a different way of visualizing and thinking by adding dimension to a company’s marketing plan.
- Virality. Now that augmented reality is a viral trend, implementing it in businesses is a good marketing strategy to grab the attention of consumers. Businesses are interested in staying on top of the technology trends, the last thing they want to do is fall behind their competitors. People are going to want to share their unique augmented reality experience with your brand to others on social media.
Challenges of Dealing with Augmented Reality in Businesses
It’s important to take into account some of the disadvantages that go along with using this technology. Let’s take a look at a few challenges you may encounter:
- Expensive to implement. Depending on what you want to do and how customized your end product is supposed to be, it might get costly (for example: implementing 3D features can be expensive and time-consuming).
- Privacy, trespassing and security. It is important to be cautious with how technology is applied to outdoor spaces. There can be issues of privacy and trespassing where virtual objects are located using augmented reality apps which can result in a lawsuit if you are not careful. There is also the issue of the users’ safety to keep in mind when using augmented reality. A consumer’s attention could become too invested with their phone screen and be unaware of their surroundings. For example, with Pokémon Go, people would play while driving or walk into the middle of a busy street with their eyes glued to their phones.
Innovative Ways Industries Are Using Augmented Reality
A variety of industries, from construction to hospitality to travel and tourism, are all jumping on the AR bandwagon. Here is a list of some of the authentic and innovative apps and tools the different sectors have created in combination with augmented reality.
Interior Design: It used to be a challenge bringing home furniture and realizing it didn’t fit in the room or the colour didn’t match the rest of the appliances. With AR being paired with interior design, consumers have the opportunity to place furniture in their house and move it around on their screens without actually having to go to the store and buy it. For example, Ikea came out with an AR app doing just that. In their application, consumers would use an Ikea catalog as an anchor to see the 3D image of a piece of furniture in your house. Other furniture and decor stores like Wayfair are also following in Ikea’s footsteps by implementing an AR app to view virtual 3D furniture.
Fashion and Cosmetics: Buying clothes is becoming easier and easier with people not even having to leave the house anymore to shop. Retail shops like Gap, have released AR apps where users can pick the size of a 3D virtual mannequin and put clothes on it to see how it fits without physically trying the articles on. In terms of cosmetics, companies like CoverGirl have virtual makeover tools on their website using AR technology to try on new makeup looks. The goal is if users like the look, then they can buy each item of makeup to apply it on themselves.
Real Estate: Using augmented reality with real estate means being able to view in 3D the inside and outside of a house or apartment building you are interested in without having to physically be there.
Art (Tattoos): There are apps out there, like InkHunter, using augmented reality to show how a tattoo would look on your body before going to a tattoo parlor and getting it done. The app even accepts personal tattoo designs. For the app to work you have to draw an expressionless face emoji in permanent marker anywhere on your skin you wish to have a tattoo, this acts as an anchor for the app to latch onto. Afterwards, the design of your choice will appear where you have drawn on your skin.
Construction: With construction and home improvement, there is always the worry that something could go wrong. With augmented reality you can see the results before building anything, cutting the cost of possible mistakes. For example, Home Depot and Lowe’s have home improvement apps where users can see what they want to put in their home, like a sink or a door, before demolishing anything.
Social Media: Snapping selfies take on a whole new meaning with apps like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. These apps fully embrace augmented reality with the different filters people can use on the camera. You can add bunny ears to your face, take a video of a dancing hot dog wherever you want or add geographical filters to show your location.
Computer Games: As mentioned earlier in this post, Pokémon Go is an extremely popular augmented reality game where players can see virtual creatures they need to battle and capture as they walk around their neighbourhood.
Travel, Tourism, Hospitality: Augmented reality is now being used in GPS apps to translate street signs in different countries and provide information on sightseeing locations for tourists. It is also being used to add more entertainment and interactivity to museum experiences by adding informational tidbits and video clips about each exhibit. In terms of hospitality, different hotel chains now offer interactive experiences and present 360 augmented reality video tours of hotel rooms, meeting facilities, the restaurant, pool and gym.
Education: Using AR in education provides students and employees with a more immersive experience, moving away from the traditional methods of textbooks and lectures. For example, in medical education, there is a 3D holographic anatomy program for health education students at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve where they are able to view virtual cadavers and take a look into the human body with a Microsoft HoloLens.
Final Thoughts on Augmented Reality in Businesses
With the constant evolution of technology, it’s important for businesses to remain on top of the trends to stand apart from their competitors. Using augmented reality can certainly bring a level of personalization, uniqueness, interactivity and a 3-dimensional way of thinking to your brand. However, make sure to know all your options before considering using augmented reality for your business and consult the list of industries currently using the technology. It is always helpful to know the pros and cons and whether it will be a good fit for your brand.