Augmented reality enables people to interact with virtual objects overlaid in a physical environment. The augmented sound and vision, whether it’s a virtual person, landscape or object, is viewed through a smartphone camera app or AR viewing goggles.
AR uses a computer algorithm that marks the position of real objects in space, like the trees, benches and people in a park. It then adds virtual objects of its own using those markers, such as a person (or a polar bear) sitting on a real park bench.
Let’s look at how AR changes people’s behaviour in general, plus how it changes our purchasing behaviour.
Augmented reality and social interaction
It seems that people have no problem accepting that AR is an extension of the real world. A 2019 study from Stanford University found that people using AR viewers treat a virtual person the same way as a real one.
For example, when they knew a virtual person was sitting in a particular chair, they avoided sitting in the same chair – even when they weren’t wearing the AR device. This integration of real and virtual is importing for marketing – as we will see later.
AR and games
The 2016 Pokémon Go craze saw players of this AR game using their smartphones to find virtual creatures hidden in everyday places. By distorting their reality, AR can give gamers an experience unlike the one they get passively sitting in front of their turbocharged PCs.
The AR experience is dynamic and has an added interest because it challenges people to see things in a new way, literally. It brings objects and experiences into their otherwise ordinary living spaces and predictable lives.
How AR can boost marketing
This ability to bring new object and experiences into the AR user’s life extends to products. Viewing an object in AR means a potential buyer can engage with it during the decision-making phase.
AR extends the range and engagement of marketing material too, giving you two, three or four channels integrated in the one medium. A corporate document embedded with AR comes to life when viewed through a smartphone, showing images and videos.
IKEA’s smartphone app shows customers how virtual furniture will look in their actual homes. This allows them to try out different models and even the best position for the new sofa.
While the virtual sofa is not real, AR does affect the purchase decision. As the Stanford University study shows, people are inclined to regard AR objects as somehow real. AR gives the sofa the ‘foot in the door’ advantage, while the enthusiastic customer regards turning the virtual sofa into the real one as a mere formality.