As we’ve watched the slow uptake in VR adoption, it would be simple to dismiss AR as having similar challenges ahead. But as we mentioned in our past article, the installed base AR-capable hardware has already reached a critical mass of users the moment iOS 11 was released. Every mobile handset from the iPhone 6s up is capable run apps based on Apple’s ARKit. Google has followed suit with its similarly capable ARCore for Android devices. So, any marketer looking to dip a toe into the AR waters already has billions of active, waiting AR-ready consumers, worldwide. But as with any burgeoning technology, creating a truly valuable and engaging customer experience that forwards your business goals requires maintaining perspective in what really makes its use successful. Here are a few things to consider, so that we all avoid launching the next “stache.”
1) It’s about experiences, not technology
Every potential project should be evaluated in terms of how it enhances the customer experience and/or strengthens the relationship with the customer. This idea seems basic, but when new technology appears, even veteran marketers looking for any possible competitive advantage, can get swept up in the fervor of novelty at the expense of strategy. Great brands have proven, time and time again, that being first is far less valuable than being thoughtfully great.
2) It’s about time
A well implemented AR experience can offer incredible time savings for consumers. IKEA has given us a beautiful example of this. The IKEA Place app lets consumers virtually place any piece of IKEA furniture right in their own home. They can position it, rotate it and swap it out for something else in moments. No more trodding to the store for a better view, or carting something back to the store because it didn’t feel right in the space once it was in the home.
3) It’s about measurement
Permanently emblazoned on our office walls is the phrase, “It ain’t creative unless it sells.” A great AR experience should be created and considered in terms of whether it will result in a measureable impact on whatever KPIs are driving the success of your product, brand or business. Will it drive sales? Will it drive users to connect with more content? Will it increase users’ advocacy and sharing of your brand? Will it reinforce your competitive position in the marketplace? Do you have the infrastructure and personnel in place to review and analyze the data generated? Even the most basic of AR projects require substantial resources to achieve, so make sure you have the measurement analytics tools and processes in place to understand if you are maximizing your return on investment. Both Apple and Google provide in-app analytics tools that can aid in understanding user behaviors. So, what should you measure?
Primary measurements may cover basic use and engagement:
Installs – how many times your app is installed?
Opens – is it being used after the first install? How, when and where is it being activated?
Purchases – are purchases being made with the app or does it push visits to a transaction outside of the app itself?
Content Views – are users exploring deeply within the content provided?
Shares or Invites – if you are providing means of sharing or connecting with social media accounts, how often is that feature activated?
Custom Events – are specific behaviors that drive revenue or leads being accounted for?
Complementary measurements may track connections to the rest of your digital ecosystem:
Google analytics – are you properly attributing and tracking online sessions for users who originate from the app?
Leads generated – how many app users translate into active leads?
Social Mentions and Shares – whether through the app or organically, how often, by whom and with whom is the app mentioned or shared?
4) It’s about human nature
Technology evolves at an increasingly rapid pace. Human nature, however, does not. When creating or evaluating any potential AR experience, ask what basic human need it addresses (or leverages).
Does the experience foster or improve a sense of community or belonging – either within your specific target segment or the greater population?
Does the experience confer status upon the user – perhaps through either gamification, social rankings, early-adopter or exclusivity-based bragging rights?
Does its use instill confidence – either through confirmation or positive feedback?
Ultimately, AR experiences have the ability to connect with customers on a level that supports at least a few tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as well as your business needs. And those marketers who can deliver on that potential will always outcompete their more traditional competitors.
5) It’s never been easier to innovate
Historically, as digital technologies and media have emerged, the tools used to create the content have lagged. In the case of AR, however, elegant development tools like ARKit and ARCore that take care of the bulk of the mathematical heavy lifting and foundational coding have made it easier than ever to close the gap between innovation and execution.
In short: the dog already needs to dance really well
Unlike those early years of the Web where people were entertained for hours by blue text links and static webcam images of a Cambridge University coffee pot, thanks to early successes like Pokemon Go and SnapChat filters, consumers’ expectations of AR are already quite high. Marketers need to understand that AR experiences exist as integrated parts of their consumers’ lives, not aside from it.