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Are South African brands ready for augmented reality?

Although augmented reality (AR) technology is not new, it is only now beginning to gain the attention of media and marketing professionals. The big question remains: Are South African CMOs ready to include AR into their brand strategies?

AR has moved away from its early days when it was reliant on expensive, specialised hardware. The rapid adoption of smartphones and even faster evolution of their AR capabilities means that AR is now well within reach of the average South African.

However, CMOs who choose to go the AR route without integrating it into their holistic brand delivery strategy will miss out on the measurable benefits AR can deliver.

The basics stay the same

The four stages of the customer journey have not changed — no matter what technology is being integrated into the delivery. Awareness; consideration; engagement; and conversion are still cornerstones which make up a campaign strategy.

In traditional campaigns we push content to our customers. There is a low level of engagement and measurability and the focus is placed on the consideration phase.

Augmented reality has moved away from its early days when it was reliant on expensive, specialised hardware

Using augmented reality, the customers actively pulls content. There is a high engagement level with this kind of experiential marketing and the metrics of that engagement are easily tracked.

We are able to determine how the customer or user is engaging with the brand, what aspects of the experience they are engaging with and, based on this, we can then continue to push content to them – but in this instance it is highly relevant content, tailored to their interests.

For this reason, AR campaigns are exceptionally useful for selling intangible products like insurance and financial services — a traditionally complex and difficult sell for marketers and advertisers alike.

Best practice for introducing AR

Local brands looking to introduce augmented reality should remember that it’s less to do with the technology and everything to do with the delivery. In our experience you either have people approaching AR campaigns from a platform perspective — where they are only interested in the coolness of the technology and lose sight of the strategy. Or, those who approach from a content background, where they are only interested in delivering outstanding content and similarly lose sight of the strategy objectives.

Making use of solid, tested international best practices can help. Some points to remember include:

  • Content is incredibly important, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Companies can make use of existing collateral, or develop new content that can be cross-purposed to other marketing initiatives.
  • Activation is a huge part of the campaign. For those companies who are first time users of AR, making use of the tools available in their chosen visual discovery app is the way to go. Blippar, for example, focuses heavily on the activation phase, which can significantly assist companies.
  • Find ways to engage with unique users in order to get them to interact with your campaign more than once.  Multiple engagements add to your learnings and means you have more opportunities to push the user to the conversion phase.
  • Don’t be put off by demographics. Far too many digital executives think augmented reality is only for the young and tech savvy. AR is not limited to specific customer segments. Essentially, the demographic is anyone with a smartphone, so there is no reason why brands should be constrained by LSMs or age demographics.
  • Rethink the notion that you need a solid existing AR user base for a successful campaign. With several AR platforms in the marketplace you don’t need an existing user base for a successful campaign. Key to remember is that an AR campaign converts the Brand’s existing user base. A high quality campaign can therefore drive more interactions than an existing AR user base.
  • Integrate AR into your overarching omnichannel strategy. Again, this may not be as difficult as it sounds. Blippar has many tools preloaded which allow digital professionals to build social media campaigns for users to share their AR experiences on social media.
  • Since so much depends on mobile devices, consider placing AR initiatives within your mobile strategy. This helps establish and nurture a solid strategy as well as ensuring you have appropriate budget assigned to your plans.  It also means that your metrics are appropriately considered when it comes to assessing efficacy and ROI.

It’s clear that while augmented reality may still be considered a new addition to the customer journey, the well-defined use cases, as well as the built-in support from AR agencies, means there is absolutely no reason why local companies shouldn’t be embracing it.

The key to successful AR initiatives is to ensure they are appropriate, effective and that they amplify your traditional delivery channels.

Author | Johan Walters

Johan Walters
Johan Walters heads up NMPi Labs (previously C2C Labs). He has over 17 years in the digital marketing space and is also part of the NMPi global consulting team. NMPi Labs is the innovation hub of NMPi digital marketing agency. Focusing on AR, VR and mixed realities, NMPi... More
  • gmaubon

    And what is the answer of the first big question ? “Are South African CMOs ready to include AR into their brand strategies?” Do you know successful RA usages ?

  • One of the first uses or AR in South Africa was Pam Golding Reality back in 2012. It bridged the gap between digital and traditional advertising. One of my proudest projects: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llJr9LfgVcE

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