Augmented reality isn’t an entirely new concept, but it is a new buzz word in marketing circles. So far this week alone H&M, Benetton and Findaproperty.com have all  announced the launch of their own  ‘AR’ platforms, and plenty more are bound to follow suit.

If you’re not already up on what exactly AR (as it has become affectionately known in techie circles) entails, the concept itself is pretty simple. AR superimposes graphics, audio and other sense enhancements from computer screens onto real time environments.

So, in the case of H&M (which is trialling the platform in New York), consumers are being invited to take pictures of virtual clothing and accessories positioned in front of stores, try them on virtually and upload images to Facebook to create their own personal look books.

“After a decade of developing digital media campaigns for top tier brands and recognising the explosion in smartphone sales and increasing interest in location-based marketing, I realised there was a need for a new type of media buy, one tailored for the mobile space,” says Vivian Rosenthal, CEO of GoldRun who have partnered with H&M to develop their AR platform. “You can reach target audiences anywhere they use their [mobile] phones, and more importantly when they are most interested in interacting with a brand or purchasing a product.”

AR itself has been around for years – think of giant logos inserted into fields by computers during televised sports matches – but it is more recent technological advances that are opening doors for marketers who wish to exploit this medium – especially those in mobile technology.

Before smartphones became so smart, augmented reality platforms needed a user to have access to a computer and a webcam. Now though, AR campaigns can target smartphone and iPhone users.

Like H&M’s offering, Findaproperty.com’s is all about enriching the consumer’s experience via a mobile handset. Users open an AR app on their iPhone, and by looking through their viewfinder by looking through their viewfinder at the built environment directly around them, property information is displayed on screen such as price, direction and distance from the user’s location.

It’s the idea of ‘making everyday life easier’ that seems to be the main appeal of AR for to consumers. For marketers, that appeal translates to using AR to make sure your product is there in the palm of the consumer’s hand, when they need it.

According to figures from ABI Research, the market for augmented reality in the US alone is expected to hit $350m (£218m)  in 2014, up from about $6m (£3.8m) in 2008. If you haven’t already started exploring the opportunities AR can offer, it’s a good time to start – it is an up and coming channel there to be exploited.


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