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13 Jun

Augmented and Virtual: Which Is a Reality In Marketing?

It feels like everywhere we look we’re bombarded by advertisements -- and the way they're delivered is constantly changing. Fifty years ago, the only ads people encountered were printed in the newspaper, posted on a billboard, or aired on TV and radio. Today, print advertising isn’t cost-efficient, billboards seem outdated, and commercial prices for TV ads continue to rise as cords are cut. And with the internet, it's hard to tell ads apart from what you’re actually searching for. So what’s next?

New technology has recently emerged that has the marketing world’s head on a swivel; a “new consumer reality” in either virtual or augmented form. That’s right, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) may be the future of entertainment and marketing.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is an artificial, computer generated environment that uses high-end graphics, audio, and aural sensations to transport users into a different world. Think: headsets that submerge your mind into another universe. Virtual reality has yet to establish itself as a stable form of marketing, but many top companies are still in testing.

The New York Times mailed thousands of “Google Clipboard” headsets to its subscribers to test a new way of delivering news. The Times uses these headsets to tell stories from all over the world, while immersing its users into the story’s surroundings. Lowes is also testing an application known as “Haloroom” that allows customers to preview potential purchases or visualize a remodel.

While the use of VR has yet to be defined, it creates an unparalleled customer experience. It is truly the only medium that guarantees a user’s complete focus. In 2014, there were an estimated 200,000 users of VR; that number is now closer to 121 million. The users are there, but how can the marketing world capture their attention?

According to Forrester Research, 42% of US adults had not heard of VR, and another 46% don’t see it being a part of our everyday lives. On top of that, the average headset for a VR headset ranges from $300 to $600. Virtual reality is a powerful tool to experience content, but the real-world practicality isn’t there -- at least not right now. TOMs shoes is one on the first companies attempting to market their philanthropy using VR. If you visit the TOMs store in Los Angeles, their VR setup take you to Central America where you will see TOMs employees delivering shoes to the less fortunate in remote villages.

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Augmented Reality

Once the headset is off and you’re back on your cellphone or watching TV, you may notice some augmented reality. If you’ve  ever watched a football game and seen the imaginary First Down line, the shot-tracker during golf tournaments, or the in/out video during a tennis match, then you’ve seen AR in play.

Augmented reality is the ability to integrate digital data in a real-time experience. Its technology can create a 3D image, up-close and personal for the user. Instead of using a bulky headset like in VR, the only thing needed for AR is a smartphone. The AR platform is expected to exceed $117 billion in growth by 2022.

Athletic organizations were some of the first major players to implement AR into their production process. It may be subtle, but almost every replay shown has some sort of AR aspect involved. The future of AR in sports is still evolving. Soccer, a game that has no stoppage for at least 45 minutes at a time, is experimenting with personalized ads along the pitch based on user preference. Users could also use their smartphone camera to hover over a certain player and obtain their stats.

Another early entrant into the world of augmented reality was Snapchat. The first social media giant to utilize AR, Snapchat lenses and filters have quickly become one of the most popular features to the photo-sharing platform. In fact, in 2016 Taco Bell sponsored a Cinco-De-Mayo filter that generated a record 224 million snaps in one day. We’ve since seen Facebook and Instagram integrate the same technology on their respective sites.

Outside of sports and social media, augmented reality is exploding in furniture, real-estate, and personal care products. IKEA, for example, has developed an app that allows a user to virtually place furniture, with 98% accuracy, to preview what it would look like before purchase. To put the potential of AR in perspective, IKEA did $1.6 billion in online sales during 2016. They are projecting those numbers to increase to $5.9 billion by 2020.

L’Oréal, a makeup and personal care company, has a makeup style and style my hair app that allows users to try on makeup and different hairstyles with selfies. They’ve also inked a deal with PerfectCorp to integrate their YouCam makeup app into their platform. The YouCam app surpassed 100 million downloads in 2016.

The Future?

The potential for virtual and augmented reality is limitless and has opened up the door for advertisers everywhere. The ease of use and attainability makes AR a more exciting possibility, but if VR headsets can become cost-efficient, then the doors for personalized marketing will be blown wide open.