3 Powerful Ways Augmented Reality Is Disrupting the Customer Journey

It will improve the buying experience

AR will soon become mainstream. Getty Images
Headshot of Molly St. Louis

When Pokemon Go came out in 2016, the general public lost their damn minds. Within days of its release, the augmented reality-based game had millions of players from all age demographics going to great lengths to catch all the characters—some of them even getting hit by cars and falling off cliffs.

The merging of the physical and digital world is truly irresistible.

One of the reasons that Pokemon Go was such a huge success was that it actually used smartphone technology to get people to interact in the real world. Augmented reality allows innovators to do this seamlessly, which is one of the many reasons it is being acclaimed as the “next big thing” to disrupt numerous industries, including food, automotive and digital marketing.

“Put simply, augmented reality is powerful because it places digital content in the context of the physical world,” said Matt Wren, CTO of BundlAR. “There’s a cool factor to being able to see things that other people can’t see—which to some degree is why so many people spent time chasing Pokemon around.”

Wren also points out that people have been spending decades obtaining information from screens and then using that information to navigate the physical world. AR efficiently combines the digital and the physical. “Not only can we see what is happening around us, we can interact with digital information about the things around us,” he said.

Certainly, AR is a natural for gaming or for turning your face into a human-dog hybrid through Snapchat, but its power is rapidly transitioning into business applications and will soon be making its way into the mainstream customer journey. Here’s how:

Interactive advertising

Augmented reality takes the power of suggestion to a whole new level, which is why it’s such a natural fit for advertising. According to Jake Leeman, senior technical strategist at Sandbox Agency, “AR allows us to transport our brands, products, and stories directly into the consumer’s world.”

Customers need to be able to visualize how brands can become a part of their daily life. Ikea’s Place App does this beautifully by allowing users to scroll through a catalog of furniture, point their smartphone camera at the location they want to furnish, and see how each piece would look in the space.

“The huge advantage AR has over other forms of ‘advertising’ is that it is extremely active,” said Leeman. “It’s our job as advertisers to deliver quality AR content that is relevant, timely and useful. The broader impact is still being determined; however the potential is incredible.”

Improving the buying experience

Brick-and-mortar stores can hugely benefit from AR to improve their customer experience and sometimes, give employees on the floor a little support.

Friends With Holograms is working on building out AR tools for shoppers who want to quickly and easily find product information and be navigated to other complimentary products from their initial search.

“Many stores are understaffed and disorganized, and it takes time to find someone to answer questions,” said Friends with Holograms founder, Cortney Harding. “AR allows customers to scan a product and get all the info they need in one place, and can make the retail experience much simpler.”

Just as geofencing is bringing more customers into physical locations, AR can potentially keep them coming back by making the shopping experience infinitely more convenient.

Optimizing customer service

Nobody likes calling the customer service line, particularly if the hold times are long.

If your company is inundated with calls, chances are that you’re going to have to put folks on hold. And when you put them on hold, they naturally become impatient, which can result in negative reviews or angry tweets. Of course, it all goes downhill from there.

One way to combat this scenario is to reduce the amount of calls you receive in the first place. AR can help with that.

“How-to’s and instructional scenarios are a particularly great use case for AR,” said Simon Wright, director of AR and VR at Genesys. “Say you’re having trouble with your Wi-Fi router. Instead of calling the manufacturer’s customer service line or initiating a help desk chat, you could just point your phone at the router and AR overlays would walk you through the troubleshooting process. ‘Have you pressed this button?’ ‘Is this light blinking?’ and so on. Simple, but incredibly powerful.”

This scenario totally beats reading the FAQs section of a product and trying to figure out what to do without any visual cues.

According to TechCrunch,“mobile AR could become the primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021,” which speaks to how rapidly entire industries will change. The customer journey is now becoming unprecedentedly connective as this technology becomes available, and as we continue to trend in this direction, AR just might become the new gold standard for the optimum user experience.

@MollStLouis Molly St. Louis is a freelance writer for Adweek.