Internet Marketing
Published August 11th, 2016 by

Augmented Reality & Related Trends Pose New Marketing Reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR): These terms sound very sci-fi and daunting at first to the average Joe not interested in the tech world. Another trend that preceded these movements was making communication devices (primarily smartphones and iPads) mobile responsive—where people can easily see online information on mobile devices. So how do these trends connect and affect and content marketing? Take a look.

The Digital Takeover

It’s no secret the mobile takeover has completely transformed the entire marketing process and poses a challenge for some companies refusing to embrace digital. Traditional marketing strategies have evolved to match how people consume content and interact. The shift from consulting print media for news and information to handhelds and computers, can largely be attributed to the Internet’s rise of importance. Marketing professionals across all sectors have dealt with the challenges of communicating messages effectively across multiple platforms and demographics. The first step to preparing effective content for AR experience, is for content marketers to plan, create promote and optimize performance specifically for the mobile experience, because that’s where customers are discovering, consuming and acting on content.

Responsive Website Design (RWD)

The number of mobile users accessing the Internet has long since surpassed the number of desktop users. In order for companies to stay competitive, it’s important for them to have a responsive website design—a design that’s optimal for viewing and navigation across all digital devices. In a 2015 study, 64 percent of US small and medium-sized businesses had a professional website, but only a third of those were mobile-optimized. Also in 2015, Google began using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in search results, or rewarding those sites that are mobile-optimized. Keeping up with the trends of information consumption, Google adapted to the demand for relevant, high-quality searches from the convenience of a mobile device. Companies that haven’t implemented an RWD are loosing awareness and business due to lower search rankings and difficult navigation for consumers.

Digital Presence Matters

It’s not enough to just optimize a site for mobile-friendliness. In addition, companies have to take it a step further and continue to update it with relevant content, or content their audience is searching for. For some marketers, building a strong digital presence can be a challenge because of limited resources, lack of data or time constraints. For others, developing appropriate content for each channel poses an even greater challenge. The availability of quality content is never-ending, so marketers must figure out how to specifically and purposefully target their intended audiences so they can drown out the noise. A strategic content marketing plan tremendously increases engagement and at the very least keeps you in the game.

Content Should Be an Experience

In short, content must engage your target audience for success. Viewing content as an experience is one of the first major steps in understanding AR and how it can benefit consumers. From personalization to omni-channel coordination of content and visual assets, simply providing information is no longer enough to compete with industry leaders. The ability to understand customers and actually using personas as tools to represent true customer interests is proving valuable for success. For marketers, evolving that understanding of what really makes customers tick is key in figuring out the role content can contribute to the best possible experience.

User Experience

The perception of user experience as being tied only to screens has been challenged by the ever-increasing prevalence of wearables, AR and the Internet of Things (IoT). User experience, in its essence, is fundamentally about identifying and designing the relationship between people and technology. It’s no secret many companies struggle to communicate real value for their customers. While they are usually separate departments, user experience designers can help digital marketers gain valuable intelligence around how to sell or position a product more effectively. They should work closely with digital marketers to both ensure that a product or service is generating real human value for customers and that it’s also easily discoverable so that businesses can generate commercial value.

So What is AR?

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented, or supplemented, by a computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video graphics or GPS data. The technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality in real-time—in contrast to virtual reality (VR), which replaces the real world with a simulated one. With the help of advanced AR technology, the information about the surrounding world of the user becomes interactive and can be digitally manipulated. If you’ve played with Snapchat’s lenses to take a selfie or noticed the superimposed 10-yard line on NFL broadcasts, you’ve witnessed AR seamlessly integrated into the user experience. In recent years AR had yet to earn the respect it deserved, that is until the start-up company Niantic Inc. partnered with the Pokémon Company to make Pokémon Go.

The Release of Pokémon Go

Soaring to the top of the download charts and surpassing the number of Twitter users, the release of Pokémon Go in early July brought AR to a mass audience. The free smartphone game, in which players try to capture exotic monsters from Pokémon, the Japanese cartoon franchise, uses a combination of ordinary technologies built into smartphones. Location tracking and smartphone cameras are used to encourage people to visit public landmarks, seeking virtual loot and collectible characters that they try to capture. Players traverse the physical world following a digital map, searching for cartoon creatures that surface at random. Although the public nature of the game has created some unforeseen instances, Pokémon Go is now the number one ranked mobile app, ahead of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

AR Goes Mainstream

The release of the game, a breakthrough from a niche toy for early technology adopters, symbolizes something big for consumers and marketers alike. In the past, AR has been seen as gimmicky, rather than a means of truly delighting and engaging audiences. Pokémon Go’s release was an important moment for AR, mainly because it doesn’t require any expensive equipment and demonstrates how AR can cross over into the mainstream on the devices people already have. According to the New York Times, many technology companies thought AR would first take off through specialized business applications, such as architects using it to visualize finished building projects. Tech giants including Apple have been pouring money into developing and refining AR for the masses.

What It Means for Consumers

Judging from the success of Pokémon Go, AR has gone mainstream and content marketers should take note. The future of software and the nature of reality are beginning to integrate into what we think of as entertainment. AR has long been promised but has rarely been delivered in satisfying ways. While many companies have experimented with AR in advertising and sports, most examples have failed to impress users because they lacked added value to user experience. Just like current marketing tactics we know to be successful, audiences crave value and function from the content they are bombarded with.

A New Term for Marketers

Pokémon Go’s social aspect has drawn in users from around the globe who otherwise would’ve never considered participating in AR games. The success solidifies our knowledge that as marketers, we have to find ways to present information to users that keeps them interacting with the real world. Augmented reality marketing, or AR marketing, is a digital element superimposed or added to another environment, be it print, television or real world. According to NewsCred, a common misconception about AR marketing is that it’s a replacement for text and images. Matt Szymczyk, CEO of Zugara, sets the record straight, “AR should be used to enhance content—not replace it. The main challenge is understanding that AR is not a digital strategy but rather a digital tactic that can enhance a campaign across multiple platforms.”

Augmented Marketing for the Future

AR has been predicted to be one of the fastest-growing markets globally over the next five years and the recent release of Pokémon Go reinforces this prediction. With the growth of the market, AR is set to become a permanent fixture in the digital marketing landscape. Marketing professionals can and should use AR to move the needle on engagement and awareness for brands. From interactive ads to user-generated content, the endless possibilities to engage audiences using AR are becoming reality.

AR for Return on Investment (ROI)

As we’ve seen with the success of Pokémon Go, AR can drastically increase ROI through brand awareness and engagement. A game based on a beloved entertainment franchise from the mid-1990s in Japan sent Nintendo’s market capitalization soaring to 9 billion dollars in the first few days of its release. Brands and marketers who get on board with tech trends sooner rather than later beat out competition and get ahead of the curve, positioning themselves as industry leaders. Gaining consumer trust and brand loyalty sets you up for significant ROI.

Changing the Game

Powerful smartphones, faster and more robust networks, a new generation of computer infrastructure and data collection all converge at AR. It provides marketers the opportunity to offer authentic experiences, or impactful interactions, whether that’s education, entertaining or functional. In contrast to passive forms of traditional advertising and marketing that don’t require any active audience engagement, AR requires consumers to trigger the experience and be in control. This type of true buy-in from consumers—even if it’s just to receive information, knowledge or a good laugh—will always win at the end of the day in regards to effective marketing.

Holly Rollins

President at 10x digital
Rollins is the President of 10x digital, a digital marketing, content and SEO firm. She is also Senior Editor for Carpe Daily, and is named one of the top content marketers globally by the Content Marketing Institute: 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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