Augmented Reality – Are agencies ready for the shift?

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augmented realityI am sick of hearing phrases like “game changer” or “disruptive technology” bandied around by startup geeks claiming they are revolutionizing the world with their new gimmick. Too many times I have been sucked into their hype to finally ask what it is they actually do just to find out another cat video app is on it’s way. Augmented Reality might be one that does all the above!

When Pokemon Go hit the world like a sledgehammer through a brick wall in the second half of last year it’s fair to say we all took notice. I never played it myself but walking to and from work in Manhattan it was clear that the world had another big change on the way. Not the game itself; that would fade as quickly as it arrived and there will be variations on the concept that come and go throughout 2017 and beyond. Each one of them implanting artificial elements onto a world visible through your phone hoping and praying that the population embrace it like a new puppy.

For me, the technology within the software was a year ahead of the hardware. People will hold their phone in front of them and interact with it as long as their battery lasts (see battery accessory sales data to validate) despite the increased risk of traffic accidents and in spite of their hands turning blue from the brutal east coast winter because there is no alternative option.

Wearable technology like Google glass didn’t catch on originally because augmented reality and other software to align with it wasn’t ready yet and by the time it was the eye wear had been shelved as a failure. It was a classic chicken and the egg situation. That is all changing now and as such we have a world ready for a paradigm shift.

Augmented Reality Requires A Change In Mindset

Advertising agencies have to be proactive to it as there are many industries that struggle with traditional digital advertising options that can now be better served. The early adopter agencies can steal a march on their competition if they can pivot to the trends as soon as they arrive not after they have gone, this isn’t a game changer, it’s a change of reality.

As the financial figures of the big retail chains’ holiday period were released this past week, it’s clear that physical shopping for products is quickly becoming yesterday’s hobby. Companies like ASOS set the trend that monsters like Amazon have developed to redefine online shopping. It’s quite possible or even probable that shopping malls will be empty shells reminding us of a different era in the near future. If retail is dead or at least dying then hospitality is the biggest industry left that people will still venture out for – people gotta eat!

Maybe we are moving too fast and retail isn’t dead, it just needs to realign its offering. Can we envision a world where your smart watch can interact with your smart glasses that can simultaneously interact with sensors on the sides of buildings to deliver data that helps consumers chose which shop to go into to buy a new jacket based on the personal preferences that these devices understand about them? The movie Minority Report was bang on the money depicting a world we could be in soon enough, but I would suggest that is stage two or three of this transformation. Stage one doesn’t need to be that advanced to be embraced. Yelp reviews of every pizza joint you walk past being embedded into the air in front of you as you stroll by at dinner time doesn’t need to know if you prefer pepperoni or hawaiian to offer value. To see prices, promotions and upcoming events in the area all without the need to stare at your phone like a zombie, blindly walking into traffic or other people caught in the same vain is a world people want, it’s simply more convenient this way.

Hospitality Would Benefit From The Adoption

Bars, restaurants or clubs throughout cities or towns would benefit hugely by showing their drinks specials or happy hour prices to people as they stroll past with their friends on a night out; before they walk in and not after. This will naturally create healthy competition among local businesses evened out by a larger share of the market’s consideration than they would otherwise have. Everyone is a winner in that scenario, except perhaps our poor livers.

Nightclubs can enable women (or men) to show their relationship status above their head so as to ward off unwanted attention without the need to tell people that they’re not interested? Tinder and the like can be as physical as augmented reality and the people who embrace it want it to be.

The options are endless, and this potential reality could is just around the corner.

Apple has recently invested in new AR glasses (http://www.investors.com/news/technology/click/apple-looks-to-augment-product-lineup-with-ar-smartglasses), Google are rumored to be bringing their third generation Glass out this year along with other smaller start-ups like Vuzix Blade (http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/vuzix-blade-3000-ces-2017) and pretty much every tech giant in between are following suit. We have an interested community, the technology is now ready to support it, and software styles, strategies and options will flow faster than the wine on a Friday in any one of these establishments that can benefit from it.

The only thing missing from the cocktail recipe are agencies that can provide small local businesses with access to this new market and there is huge gap in innovation as yet unfilled.

Disruptive technology, game-changer, paradigm shift, call it what you will, just deliver something people need in this new world which starts with access to market because the one thing this world doesn’t need is another “disruptive” cat video app.

Watch this space!

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Sean Butler is the founder of SearchButlers; a strategy consultancy and marketing blog focused on consumer journey driven Search Engine Optimization strategies and content marketing initiatives.

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