Can AR Save Marketing?

Google Glass was a rare failure for the digital giant and its withdrawal from the market was also a setback for the rollout of augmented reality (AR) applications.

But while Google Glass remains in limbo, augmented reality is marching on and already proving its worth in the area of online shopping.

With the right application, AR is seen as being a key link in the customer journey from online browsing to the checkout.

For companies frustrated at low conversion rates, AR lets customers virtually try before they buy, overcoming the hesitation that many people experience just at the instant they are about to press the “buy” button.

There are already some impressive examples out there.

Furniture giant IKEA, for example, has launched its “Play” app which enables a customer to virtually place furniture into rooms in their home. If you are thinking about a particular sofa, you can place it into a room and see how it looks.

Cosmetic company L’Oreal acquired augmented reality provider ModiFace, which developed an app for customers to virtually try makeup before they buy.

This is similar to the offering from European eyewear company MisterSpex, which has an app where customers can try on frames virtually before they make their buying decisions.

AR’s role in marketing has been examined in a recent research paper by Mathew Chylinski, a marketing lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Working with colleagues, Chylinski’s paper said that AR “provides customers with a seamless omnichannel experience by closing the gap at various online and offline touch points.”

The researchers’ reference “situated cognition” as a reason for AR’s success in marketing, a concept which is being increasingly applied to explain customer experience and behavior.

“Situated cognition implies that customer experiences seem most realistic when they integrate information about products and services in real time within the immediate decision context, allow for physical interaction with a product or a service and provide opportunities for communication with other customers,” the researcher paper said.

“We posit that AR is unique because it satisfies all three criteria. AR’s integration of interactive, real-time virtual content into the customers’ view of the physical environment enables embedded, embodied and extended customer experiences.”

To borrow another headline, AR works in marketing because it is able to “immerse, and not irritate.” It gives the customer the tools, but allows them to control their own experience, creating an almost new concept of “online showrooming.”

While AR is considered one of the hottest trends in marketing for 2018, we are at an early point.

Ultimately, the lines between reality and its augmented version are set to blur in marketing as the online shopping experience becomes more immersive and more powerful, dealing another blow to the bricks and mortar experience.

Meanwhile, Google Glass is being reborn in an industrial application, proving that if something is a commercial flop, it can find a second life if the technology is smart enough, and can find its right application.