Augmented Reality: Catch Customers, Not Pokemon
by Linda Mallwitz, marketing director
We are submerged in the technology era, in which consumers are anxiously awaiting the next innovative gadget. It is a challenge to keep up with an ever-evolving environment. The same applies for companies that want to get noticed in a sea of competition. Myriad ways exist for organizations to build brand awareness, attract tradeshow booth traffic or promote a unique feature or process; however, you may ask yourself, “What can my company do differently that will not only wow my audience, but give us sustainable tools and knowledge to build long-term impactful relationships?”
Here’s a way: augmented reality (AR).
For those unfamiliar, AR is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. How is this different from virtual reality? Perhaps you’re familiar with the computer-generated simulation of a real-life setting as seen by wearing oversized goggles: That’s virtual reality. The effect positions the operator by making the person feel as if he or she is experiencing the simulation in real life through audio and visual technology. Virtual reality was first commonly used in gaming and 3D movies. Now, virtual reality is used to improve training and education in real-life situations by allowing people to practice scenarios. With augmented reality, users continue to be in touch with the real world while interacting with virtual objects around them. While AR has been around for many years, last year its popularity exploded thanks to the interactive game Pokemon Go. Remember seeing groups of people walking around trying to capture Pokemon at businesses and parks? It’s a technology that made a significant impact.
But, you’re in manufacturing: How is this relevant? Think about the technology that could show your latest capabilities and services. Since AR is meant to engage, the following list provides some ideas to get the creative juices flowing.
Inspiration Idea #1: An injection molder opens a new location and wants current and prospective customers to see a specific new automated press within its manufacturing facility. The company creates a virtual experience that shows what the cell looks like and content within to support it.
Inspiration Idea #2: A resin distributor is exhibiting at NPE. With more than 100,000 attendees, the distributor must stand out! With lots of pre-show communication to generate buzz, the distributor develops an experience that entices others to look. Using an iPad, a gaylord full of resin appears right in the middle of the booth. The user is able to learn about multiple resin types and can ask the sales rep questions.
Inspiration Idea #3: A plastic extrusion manufacturer is launching a new product to its global audience. The direct mail piece appears to only be in English, but when using AR technology, it translates the deliverable into a multilingual piece, along with a 3D depiction of an extruded profile.
Inspiration Idea #4: Onsite customer service. Since no one appreciates being placed on hold to speak to a representative in search of support for troubleshooting, AR creates an experience where the service representative comes to you! Gone will be the days of live chat pop-up boxes that rarely convert. For example, a pioneer in AR technology, Metaio, has created a user experience where a customer service rep will walk a user through a process and see what the user is seeing, which then will enable the representative to educate and provide support with greater detail, ultimately solving problems more efficiently in a DIY style.
Many companies are becoming exceptionally creative at leveraging this technology to encourage consumers to buy their products and services. But, if the “why” can’t be answered, what’s the point? According to a 2016 study done by ExhibitorOnline.com, AR has the potential to become a powerful marketing tool because it can result in the following outcomes:
- increased brand awareness
- increased sales
- increased booth traffic
- increased length of meeting, exhibit or event visit
- increased ROI/ROO
- increased event attendance and interaction
- enhanced quantity/quality of lead data
- personalized follow up
- improved relationships
Whatever AR direction your company goes, please consider how this will be more than just a “one and done.” The last thing you want is to have your audience lose interest right away; instead, give them reasons to come back and share their experience with others. If your company is spending ample resource dollars, it’s critical to have longevity in the forefront. Also, keep in mind: AR is not cheap! Depending on the complex and comprehensive AR approach, it could range anywhere from $25,000 to upward of $300,000. So, the most important thing to do is ask yourself (before proposing AR to your organization) these questions:
- Will your company’s AR experience educate your customers?
- Will your company’s AR experience earn the respect of your current and prospective customers?
- Will your company’s AR experience captivate the attention of future talent?
- Will your company’s AR investment ignite discussions that will lead to profitable results?
If you answered “yes” to all of these, then that is at least a starting point for AR consideration.
To put into perspective the relevance of this technology, Apple is expected to launch a new product this year called iWear: a wearable headset that connects wirelessly to iPhones and shows information that is superimposed onto a user’s view of the real world. The explosion of AR technology has the potential to decrease training requirements, hustle up introductions to new processes, advance quality procedures on the factory floor, boost customer service by providing better documentation and act as a better sales tool when demonstrating product features.
So, if you’re going to pursue this technology, my recommendation is to first become more educated and then decide if AR technology is a communication tool in which your organization wants to invest. It must be a well-thought-out process, but don’t wait for other organizations to penetrate the manufacturing environment first – show that your company is an innovator!