Augmented Reality has received a lot of hype. Is it finally time for PR agencies and marketers to pay attention? The answer is a resounding yes.

Recently while on a camping trip, my friends and I were sitting around a bonfire commenting on the stars. One of the husbands pulled out his phone, pointing it up to Orion’s belt. Suddenly the full astronomical sign of Orion appeared on his screen. When he moved the phone to the North, Taurus lit up. To the West, Gemini.

The app, SkyView, offers a full 360-degree view of nearly every constellation. It was a mind-blowing experience for seven hard-working professionals who rarely take time to stargaze. It is also just one example of how Augmented Reality is becoming a part of everyday life—and how it is actively enhancing the consumer experience.

Like podcasting before it, Augmented Reality is a technology that has been around for a while, yet only recently sparked growing adoption and excitement. Nick Statt at The Verge reported the renewed interest in AR was “abundantly clear at CES 2018” and that AR now feels “poised to take off.” Apple CEO Tim Cook regards it as “a big idea, like the smart phone.” And frenzied excitement surrounding Apple’s recent updates to ARKit is proving to marketers that AR can be more than just fun—it can be actionable for consumers.

Creating Useful AR and VR Applications for Consumers

“Actionable” is a key word as we look at Augmented Reality. Perhaps the most compelling argument to actively invest in AR is consumers want it to enhance, inform and ease their travel, training and shopping experiences. A survey by Accenture of 21,000 consumers in 19 countries found that consumers are interested in practical, daily-life AR and related, more immersive technologies like virtual reality applications.

  • 67 percent want to learn more about a place they are visiting
  • 67 percent want to learn new skills or techniques
  • 61 percent want to visualize how clothes might fit
  • 58 percent want to view 3D manuals
  • 54 percent want to shop for household items and furniture
  • 47 percent want to play games

CooperKatz client Coldwell Banker commissioned a survey as well, which uncovered 77 percent of potential homebuyers would like the ability to take VR house tours before actually visiting prospective homes.

These consumer insights are game-changing when you consider that both AR and VR were once largely relegated to the gaming industries. Further, these insights help open doors for companies who might think AR and VR don’t apply to their offerings.

Storytelling through Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is also notable in its ability to enhance storytelling. Take the New York Times for example, which announced that it is expanding journalism through Augmented Reality. The goal: the ability to experience reporting in three dimensions through your phone.

Graham Roberts of the New York Times wrote:

That means with a smartphone camera, you will be able to see an Olympic figure skater suspended at the peak of a quadruple jump as if he were floating in your living room. The camera can become a window into a world enhanced with digital information—adding a piece of sculpture to your bedroom or a car to your driveway. Neither actually there, but appearing to be and believably so.

This shift toward Augmented Reality experiences in news and reporting makes perfect sense. As of July 2017, more than 85 percent of U.S. adults reported getting news from their phone, an increase from the year prior. And as brands continue to invest heavily in storytelling, the progression toward more engaging technologies like Augmented Reality is only natural.

The Right Level of Investment in Augmented Reality

There is clearly a wide spectrum of how much companies should be earmarking for Augmented Reality. Ikea, as a prime example at the far end of investment, has 150-person “innovation team” working on its AR app and another 20 people responsible for 3D / 360-degree images of furniture.

This level is not feasible for a smaller company or a start-up. However, that doesn’t mean organizations should ignore it completely when budgeting for the next one to three years.

While more sophisticated systems require larger budgets, AR Software Development Kits (SDKs) are available for clients of all sizes. This round-up from Upwork walks AR and VR novices through how to choose the right SDK and the differences between marker-based Augmented Reality applications (image recognition) versus location-based (GPS).

Making AR a Reality

Starting on the road to active Augmented Reality adoption may seem daunting. Yet it’s becoming increasingly clear that it will become a technology must for many brands. To stay ahead of the curve, now is the time to explore where AR might fit in your strategic marketing plan.

This article originally appeared on the CooperKatz blog, reprinted with permission.

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Katy Hendricks

Katy Hendricks

Katy Hendricks is a Director, Client Services for CooperKatz, helping manage PR and content marketing for the agency.

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