The Potential Marketing Opportunities in Augmented Reality

Oct 21, 2010

Elizabeth Canon

Defined as a view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery, the term augmented reality has been making its way into digital marketing vernacular over the past couple of years. As yet another element to consider in a marketing strategy, this begs the question, should augmented reality be part of a brand’s budget, and what are the benefits and concerns involved?

The most recently launched augmented reality initiative making headlines is Boucheron. In partnering with augmented retail specialist, Holition, a company established n 2008 and based in London, the all-new Boucheron website allows users to try on watches and jewels through their computer screens from the comfort of their own homes.

How does this work, exactly? The user prints out paper models of the product (in this case a watch and a ring), and wears the paper versions. The user then accesses the application and the webcam is activated causing the computer to essentially act as a mirror, communicating with the paper models through the webcam and allowing the user to try on different products through their reflection in the computer screen.

Augmented reality is rather fascinating and there’s a sense of awe and amazement people experience when interacting with it, a definite benefit for brands. However, augmented reality does require the user to work a bit for the payoff of this interaction, which ultimately means that augmented reality campaigns are generally only engaged by a minority of users. This makes it especially important for these campaigns to allow for sharing, thereby exposing the brand and initiative to a wider audience and multiplying the reach of the campaign. Holition has incorporated this sharing into the Boucheron application, which will undoubtedly amplify its success.

Another way the company has overcome the challenge of garnering a significant user-base has been to showcase the application in a Selfridges window display for Tissot, where pedestrians interact with the augmented reality display, generating quite a buzz. For this initiative in particular, Tissot was targeting a younger, more tech-savvy demographic, and they were triumphant in increasing in-store sales at Selfridges by a whopping 85%. In addition, within the first two weeks, YouTube views of the campaign were up to 50,000.

At present, Holition is one of several players in the augmented reality space within the fashion and luxury sector, however their technology seems to offer a more realistic experience. Currently, the ability to virtually try on jewelry, accessories, hats, scarves, and glasses can be done in 3D. Getting the fit to be right for clothing is a bit more challenging, something that can be seen in other platforms, where the end result still appears to be a bit of a “cut and paste” showing garments that sit on top of the body. Holition has the ability to try on clothing in 2D, while they are working to perfect this for the rollout into 3D.

Augmented reality costs can range starting from $40,000 and up, and the current advantages include press, exposure via social media and increased interactivity with customers. To add a bit of perspective, the costs are generally equivalent to a couple print ad runs in publications like the Financial Times or Vogue.

As augmented reality grows in prominence, brands should start to explore ways to add in components of this personalization to their website experiences. An example so far is Revlon, a brand offering the ability to test different makeup products and shades through their virtual makeover tool by uploading a picture and then mapping facial features, resulting in a very lifelike experience.  This serves as a great way to bolster interaction with users while also providing them with a reason to continue visiting the site regularly, as new product becomes available.

Advancements in technology are not only innovations for developers, but for marketers as well. It’s how marketers choose to employ and utilize these new technologies to benefit the customer and to enhance the brand that will ultimately move labels forward online.