Augmented Reality has become a core element of marketing strategies, as nine out of ten brands prepare to cater to the 3.5 billion users that are projected by 2022. However, a lot of brands are still struggling to find their footing and get started creating AR content. AR is a relatively new technology and choosing from among every augmented reality platform available can be daunting.
It doesn’t help that with each augmented reality platform come not only different benefits, but also features and use cases. Each platform also comes with its own way of activating AR content for the end-user.
If you’re feeling unsure where to get started with AR, we’ve come up with a handy infographic to summarise the main platforms available to you, and what you can and can’t achieve with each of them.
There are three main types of Augmented Reality platforms available to you: social media apps, browser-based AR (WebAR) and native mobile apps. Each of these comes with its own set of benefits and will be best suited to different types of AR campaigns.
Social media platforms
When people hear the word ‘AR’ most will probably think of Snapchat. Social media is still overwhelmingly dominant in AR, with platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook making it really easy to access and share AR-powered effects.
Social media AR is in fact so big that it is projected $2.4 billion will be spent on social lens advertising by 2022, generating $15 billion in returns.
It’s not just about advertising, though. Social media platforms are fantastic tools for organic reach and sharing, and can result in more followers, better engagement and higher brand recognition. This is because of the inherent shareable nature of AR content such as face filters. As long as you create a good filter that people love, you can be certain it will be shared.
Social media is therefore great for AR campaigns that have the goal of maximising a brand’s reach organically. Additionally, social platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook allow you to promote your content, meaning that you can put ad spend behind your filters and maximise your reach even further. This can be targeted to very specific audiences, making them very powerful tools for reaching the right people.
The imminent arrival of Instagram AR
One thing to note about social media is that Instagram AR will soon be opening up to brands. Currently only independent content creators and select brands such as Netflix are able to publish face filters on Instagram. Once Instagram AR for brands opens up, every company in the world will have a chance to reach Instagram’s user base of 1 billion monthly active users.
Instagram will be a particularly powerful if your goal is to increase your following and expand your reach. This is for two reasons: 80% of Instagram users currently follow a brand and users will have to follow your profile in order to access your Instagram effects. This means that not only is Instagram already proving to be an effective tool for brand promotion, but AR content will make it even more so. As long as you publish a cool effect, you can be sure your followers list will increase significantly.
Downsides of social media platforms
On the downside, two things to be aware of with social media platforms is that, unlike other augmented reality platforms, their analytics are quite limited. Currently these platforms provide basic performance data for AR effects, including impressions, captures and shares, but that’s about it.
Another downside of social platforms is that they come with their own content restrictions. For example, companies in the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical sectors may not be able to promote themselves on social, so other options such as WebAR will be better suited to these brands.
How do I share social media AR effects?
On Facebook and Instagram, users who follow your page or profile will be able to access your branded AR effects on their camera carousel. On Snapchat, you will need to put ad spend behind your effects to reach specific people within your target audience.
You can also share links to your AR effects via your usual digital channels and social media profiles.
WebAR is revolutionary in just how accessible it is, making it the augmented reality platform with the lowest barrier of entry for end-users. This is because all WebAR experiences require is a web browser, so anyone with a mobile device can easily access them, even if they don’t have any social media apps installed.
WebAR is ideal for AR campaigns that wish to prioritise ease of use. Users will just need a QR code, which they can scan using their phone cameras to open the effect’s URL.
For this reason, WebAR is very effective for physical activation experiences, such as event-based or in-store AR campaigns. For example, we recently worked with Jack Daniels to create a WebAR effect that customers can access when they order a Lynchburg lemonade at one of the Slug and Lettuce restaurants across the UK. The drinks come with a physical card that has a QR code printed on it, which customers can scan to access the WebAR experience on their mobile browser. It’s that simple.
Downsides of Web AR
There are some downsides to WebAR, most notably the fact that it does not currently support video capture. Moreover, WebAR experiences may require a wider marketing campaign around them, as they are not in and of themselves organic content.
How do I share Web AR effects?
For WebAR, you will need a Snapcode or a QR code that your users can scan. Snapchat generates its own Snapcodes which you can share directly via your digital channels. For Facebook and Instagram, you will need to create a custom QR code on websites such as QR Code Monkey, which requires you to enter your effect’s link in order to generate the code. Once the code is ready, users can simply scan it using their phone’s camera.
Finally, AR experiences can be delivered within a custom app. This might be part of a wider app built by a brand for their customers. For example, the app may include AR-powered mini-games or face filters as one of its many other features.
Probably the most compelling use case for AR within a native app is virtual try-on in shopping apps. We have written at length about how powerful the use of AR in retail can be, especially as customers are 11 times more likely to buy a product when try-on is available. Brands that already have a native shopping app might consider incorporating an AR-powered virtual try-on element into them, so that customers can “try on” products using their phone’s camera before buying them.
Downsides of native apps
Native apps can be really expensive to build, so some brands may not find them within their budget. However, WebAR is a great alternative for virtual try-on experiences.
The other downside of native apps is that they have a very high barrier of entry, because they require every user to individually download the brand’s mobile app in order to access the AR features. This can significantly decrease engagement.
Each augmented reality platform we covered in this article is best for specific use cases and goals, so you shouldn’t consider them at odds with each other.
When thinking about what augmented reality platform to choose, we recommend that you consider what the goal of your AR strategy is. Do you want to reach more followers? Create an effect that is physically activated at a particular place and time? Sell more on your mobile app by allowing users to try on your products?
Or you might choose a platform based on the specific features that are available. For example, if you wish to create an AR face filter that allows users to capture video, WebAR won’t be able to support that.
Ultimately, the most important thing to take into consideration is how AR fits within your wider marketing strategy. If you want more tips on how AR can support your marketing efforts, we have written a handy guide to get you started.