Remember how Pokémon Go took the world by storm back in 2016?
If you somehow missed it, Pokémon Go was a mobile game that allowed players to map virtual monsters to real geography, using the phones’ GPS, built-in cameras, and internet connectivity. By putting Pokémon in the real world, the game provided a 3D experience unlike typical video games with animated 2D graphics.
Downloaded more than 500 million times in the months after its release, the craze around Pokémon Go was an introduction to augmented reality for many. You may have heard stories of people hunting down Pokémon on office desks, bathrooms, highways or even graveyards. Not only teenagers but also game addicts and fans of the series were walking down the streets with their gaze fixed on their phones.
That was just an example of what augmented reality has to offer. The potential of augmented reality, on the other hand, is vast and unprecedented.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that allows us to superimpose digital content such as images, sounds or texts over a real-world environment. As the name suggests, augmented reality aims to enhance reality with the help of digitally generated elements. Unlike virtual reality, it does not replace the reality itself. Instead, it blends the virtual and the real to create a reality-based display environment.
Time for Augmented Reality is Now
From games like Pokémon Go to social media filters, augmented reality has become an integral part of the lives of Millennials and Gen Z. In retrospect, this is hardly surprising. AR is powered by mobile phones, a technology that is already in the pockets of the younger generation. The fact that it doesn’t require any costly equipment has marked AR as one of the most accessible forms of tech.
AR experiences first appeared in the gaming and entertainment industries. Non-gamers, on the other hand, interacted with AR using innovative examples such as Google Maps’ AR walking navigation feature or Google Translate live. Before long, social media platforms began to dip their toes in the water as well. Interactive filter games and cute photo filters quickly went viral. The next big step in their ventures was, not surprisingly, a commercial use of this technology.
Augmented Reality Meets Shopping
Although many social media platforms and brands have been dabbling in emerging technologies for years, AR’s true tipping point has been marked by the pandemic. Due to COVID restrictions, consumers have embraced online shopping and brands have been forced to be more creative, leaning harder on digital tools. Makeup and clothing retailers, who have long relied on in store shoppers, have turned to augmented reality features to attract customers. Try-on apps have fast become the new normal, allowing virtual fitting for just about anything, from a new pair of shoes to jewelry, cosmetics, or a new coffee table in the living room.
Apart from product visualization, AR also invigorates interactive ads. It enables brands to interact with customers in ways that cannot be done with conventional print, radio and television.
One of the most innovative advertising examples, where the physical world has turned into a digital opportunity with AR, came from Burger King in 2019. Using the Burger King app, consumers were asked to burn the ads of rival fast food companies. When a competing ad went up in flames, a Burger King ad was displayed instead, revealing a coupon code for a free Whopper.
AR is unique, recognizable and therefore has huge potential to go viral and social. Instead of passively watching a static ad, people now have the opportunity to interact with brands directly. As a result of this interaction, consumers feel more emotionally connected to the brand and are encouraged to make purchases. Needless to say, emotional connection is also a great tool to increase brand awareness. People are more likely to remember an interactive experience than facts about a brand, so AR is great for not only driving sales but also building recognition.
What Role Can Influencers Play In All This?
Influencers dominate the attention market. They’re the ones with millions of followers and not the big brands – some do, but influencers are far more relatable to their audiences. They are both entertaining and engaging. So, let’s start by stating the obvious, their try-ons will reach hundreds of millions of followers and drive consumers from many different industries straight to the brands’ apps. As AR technology improves, influencers may not even need their own piece of clothing to show how they look in it, which means more content at a faster rate.
Some brands have already begun to blur the line between reality and fantasy. Virtual clothing brand Tribute makes “contactless outfits” for the fast fashion-obsessed generation. The brand exclusively creates virtual items, meaning that consumers can never actually have the item in their physical wardrobe. “We’re developing new things that are impossible in the real world, like new materials – that just couldn’t work in the real world due to the laws of physics” the brand states.
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Beauty and fashion try-ons aren’t the only uses of AR. In the household industry, for example, IKEA has released an app called IKEA Place, which allows users to experiment with different pieces of furniture before making a purchase. Imagine events where influencers show how the app is used with a house tour and hold a live vote on which new curtain to hang in their living room.
The merger of influencer marketing with AR could bring even more to the realm of possibility. In the near future, influencers can hold meet-ups, Q&A sessions, or contests with their followers without the need to be physically present.
🎤 Augmented Reality continues to bring experiences to YOU during the pandemic. Check out this full song Lens of “Funny” by @zedd on @Snapchat. 🎫 Love how you get a ticket before heading into the virtual concert. Try it yourself here https://t.co/t0gS4Uuadi pic.twitter.com/piZ2GSaTN3
— Tom Emrich (@tomemrich) August 15, 2020
Considering how quickly influencer marketing has grown into a billion-dollar industry, it’s only a matter of time before these social media stars – adept at attracting and retaining people’s attention – dive into the possibilities offered by augmented reality.
What does the future hold for influencer marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below and stay tuned to learn more about influencer marketing x augmented reality.