2019 was a huge year for AR and VR. Even before the coronavirus, 2020 was slated to be the biggest year yet for augmented reality at live and virtual events. In fact, many industry leaders maintain that AR is essentially the future of events. So although the COVID-19 outbreak has been devastating for the event industry, it also presents a unique opportunity for event pros to become more specialized in AR. Besides, there’s no better way to keep engaged than to interact with them in creative new ways.
Think about it. Technology is increasingly at the center of the way humans function and connect. The communication systems we use everyday are becoming faster and more sophisticated than ever. As a society, we are more globally connected than ever before, and thus diversity is the new normal. Connecting with many diverse audiences while staying true to our niche and brand is challenging, but the possibilities are expanding with AR.
You may be thinking, “That sounds true enough, but how can I use virtual technology to give my attendees the kind of personalized experience they’ve come to expect in an experiential market?” That’s a fair question, and AR is the answer.
What is AR?
Just to briefly review, augmented reality (or AR) is defined by Wikipedia as “an interactive experience where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities.” To break that down, AR involves placing superimposed, computer-generated images over objects that exist in reality. The Snapchat app is entirely based on AR. When you look head-on into the camera, a superimposed image called a “filter”, such as large animated glasses, is layered on top of your face. The result: You look as though you’re wearing a big, goofy pair of glasses. Mission accomplished. We’re not suggesting you hop onto the Snapchat train, but the pop culture phenomenon’s overnight popularity is evidence of just how much people like to augment reality. And the technology we use to do it is more affordable and accessible than ever.
The Pokemon Go craze was another AR phenomenon that blew up around the world. People physically traveled to places, and then found and caught animated Pokemon characters. Believe it or not, the app actually benefited businesses where people would travel to catch Pokemon!
But AR is not just child’s play (although a fair share of adults admittedly enjoyed frolicking around their cities to “catch ‘em all”). For businesses all over the world, it’s a key marketing strategy. Social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and many other tools already use AR to make their platforms more meaningful and immersive for users. Instagram “stories” are allow users to create a collection of photos that tell a story. Words and filters can be added to the photos to tell a unique story. In this way, Instagram has allowed users to personalize their experience and share it with communities around the world, putting a spotlight on their activities. Adobe Photoshop has been using AR as an editing function to enhance images for years.
What Can AR Do for Your Business During the COVID-19 Crisis?
There are valid reasons why AR is projected to be “the future of events”. More to the point, you can leverage AR these to keep your audience engaged and plan for the future of your business. For example, many companies were preparing to or in the process of launching a new product when the outbreak hit.
With augmented reality, you can do more than a virtual product demo. You can actually let potential customers try the product before they buy it. Gone at the days when customers needed fitting rooms to try on clothes. Sure, it’s ideal for sizing to try it on in person. But when it’s not possible, such as during the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses are using AR to let customers see how clothes and makeup would look on them. All you need is software that allows you to superimpose an image of the clothes over a real picture of the customer. The same goes with makeup; the exact shade and brand is “virtually painted” over the customers’ features. Sephora is just one of the successful brands that have expanded their personalized in-store experience to include online makeup trials that allow consumers to see how different products would look on them.
Models for web magazines and ads can also “model” spring collections without stepping outside. So if you have a clothing line and are creating from home, like so many designers are doing, consider being your own muse. Sharing the pictures on your website and social media gives your audience a sneak preview. Audiences will be excited by what’s to come once everyone is free to get out of their PJ’s and rejoin the outside world.
More and more car dealers are using AR to allow customers to “test drive” vehicles online. It’s not uncommon for customers to actually purchase cars without test driving them on the road; AR technology allows them to try out certain features by clicking on the screen while “driving” the car through a realistic destination. Jaguar Land Rover uses AR gives customers a lifelike, 360-degree test drive of its Velar model. All viewers have to do is click on an ad, and they’re off!
AR allows visitors to view and interact with products in intricate ways. They can see a general view of the product or click on individual parts to see how exactly they function. The old B2B sales process used to include PowerPoint presentations and brochures- things you could read and view, but not interact with. Many people learn better when they interact directly with products; these are usually the same people who prefer hands-on demonstrations during in-person meetings. And generally speaking, we get a more complete experience of a product or service when we interact with it rather than simply view it. In this way, AR has revolutionized in the B2B sales process. And there’s no better time than now to take advantage of this technology.
According to Statista, in 2019, internet users worldwide spent 144 minutes per day on social media. And that’s not taking into account the time spent interacting with ads, websites, live streams, virtual events, and email. It’s easy to see why enhancing the meaning and quality of the online experience is more important than ever. AR has become a key marketing strategy, and it’s never been more relevant than now, during a widespread self-quarantine. Even essential workers are likely spending more time online when they get home. Once viewed by some as a fanciful diversion from reality and human relationships, technology has become the central way in which we stay connected during a time when we most need others.
Virtual showrooms allow for detailed, realistic online fashion shows, trade shows, art galleries, and even grand openings of stores. If you’re looking for a way for your brand to stand out at this time, try organizing an event in which a percentage of the registration fees go toward those profoundly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Or stay connected by hosting a series of live streams that show what your company is up to behind the scenes. Give them a “window” into future events by creating a virtual window that allows them to look inside and see what your next event will look like.
Hosting a virtual conference or workshop? You may not have considered this before, but physical spaces can be limiting in some ways. Take your attendees on a journey through 360-degree scenes and 3D objects that bring concepts to life.
Map Out Your Next Event With AR
In a similar vein, you can also use this time to logistically plan out and promote your next event. Use virtual reality to determine where you want sessions to take place, exhibit booths to be located, and such. If your event is strongly geared toward personalization, map out private spaces where attendees can go to process their thoughts alone or convene in small groups for intimate discussions. Then use AR to create images of guests gathering for product demos, performances, and keynote speeches.
You can share this virtual perspective with your community to add excitement about what’s to come. Not only that, but you can share it with potential sponsors to literally show them what your event design will look like. This works well because people are naturally visual, and they’re more apt to believe in and connect to something they can see.
Your map doesn’t have to be set in stone. In an experiential market, it’s actually really important to give attendees some control over the agenda; they want to feel as if you are catering to them and their individual needs as much as possible. So why not share a detailed map and ask your audience to give feedback and/or make suggestions? Share your map on your website and on social media, and ask for feedback in the comments. Do your best to check in and interact with the comments you receive. This way, your audience will not only gain some control over the agenda, but you’ll learn more about their likes, dislikes, and preferences. In fact, once an open conversation starts flowing, you’ll probably learn a lot more valuable information about them- all of which you can use to make future events even more personalized. That leads us to our next AR-related suggestion.
Use Your Favorite AR Lenses on Zoom
Did you know that the creators of Snapchat also make an app called Snap? Snap enables you to apply Snapchat’s AR lenses into video conference calls with all the most commonly used apps and desktop platforms- Zoom, Skype, Meet, and several others. Let’s face it- many of us are going to be working from home for quite a while. Although convenient, video conferences can get a little bland after weeks to months. While we all need to rely more on our imaginations to keep motivated during this time, it doesn’t hurt to augment reality a bit of augment reality here and there. While some of the filters are fun and wacky, others simply smooth out and brighten complexions! At the very least, you can skip the “getting ready” part of preparing for conferences. With many filters, women can avoid their usual makeup routine altogether. (What better time than a world pandemic to take that opportunity?)
If your video conference involves role playing, filters can enhance different roles, making he learning process more memorable. (Remember, people are visual creatures, and many of us are more likely to retain information that stood out to us visually). If your video conference includes product testing, demos, or presentations, AR brings the necessary visuals to life. You can use AR to show people how your products look and work. For example, let’s say that your company has partnered with a company that makes eyeglasses, makeup, or clothes. Your employees could model these products using AR, and share them with the public.
What Are Your Goals, and How Can AR Help You Achieve Them?
What are your most important business goals for the next several months? Decide on these before you implement AR into your virtual strategy. For example, if your goal is to engage your community to leverage product sales, create a virtual event that allows potential customers to “try before they buy”. If you want to use AR to brand yourself, expand your audience, or reach a new niche audience, use AR to enhance branding materials. With AR technology, potential customers can scan printed materials with their mobile devices in order to gain access to videos. These videos give them more information about your brand and how to get the most out of your products or services.
Some people even use AR to add an interactive dimension to their business cards. When someone scans your contact information with their mobile device, they’re presented with a link to your website, email address, or phone number.
Many businesses are struggling to meet their customers’ service needs during the quarantine. Without the ability to help customers in person, companies are inundated with phone calls and unable to reach a majority of people who need their help. Many clients dread being redirected to a website, but now is your chance to augment assistance so that it actually guides people through steps to solve their problems. AR allows customers to scan items and materials in order to gain access to an AR experience. The AR experience gives them an interface to interact with and receive instructions and suggestions from.
For entertainment purposes, 3D AR experiences can quite literally hit a home-run. Since public sporting and entertainment events have been canceled, you can use AR to give your audience the next best thing: A virtual concert, sporting event, or other live performance. To pull off something like that, you’ll need an augmented reality app.
For example, if you normally host indie concerts at local venues, try to get your musicians to record their performances live. Use AR to create a lifelike simulation of a concert venue and stage. On stage, the audience will see lifelike caricatures of the artists. To add excitement, give VIPs the opportunity to ask questions or virtually “meet and greet” with the artists. With artists performing from their homes- yup, the same place audiences will be watching from- there is a more intimate sense of connectivity. There has never been a more opportune time to embrace the fact that we are all intrinsically connected. In the wake of a pandemic, we must depend on the generosity, creativity, and initiative of our communities to keep ourselves- and our businesses- alive.
Our aim today is just to give you a few ideas about how AR can be used to enhance the way you connect to your audience during this unprecedented crisis. The key takeaway point: If you do use AR, use it strategically to help you achieve specific goals. Approaching it with a strategic mindset can help you achieve the goals you planned to before the pandemic put a hold on live events. There’s no getting around it: This pandemic is devastating personally and professionally for the majority of us. But as an event planner or business owner, you can make the best of it by combining your innate creativity with AR technology. Hopefully, this article gave you a few pointers on what AR can do for your business right now- and how to get started!