Augmented Reality is Cool! But What’s the ROI?

If you are a consistent SiliconANGLE reader, then the latest trend du jour – augmented reality – is not new to you.  By now you’ve likely heard of some of the European products like Layar that promise to finally allow us all to interact with the physical world while “enhancing” our lives with informational overlays.Your browser may not support display of this image.

If the concept is new to you, here are a few things to consider: What happens when the internet is no longer confined by a physical device? What happens when we’re all walking around viewing the physical world that is enhanced by data, information and 3D objects as we look through our AR glasses? It’s as if Minority Report-like user experiences are just around the corner.

Do a simple Google Trend search on the topic and you will see how the field is rapidly picking up steam, even though it has been around for years.
My job often puts me in an interesting conundrum when it comes to the bleeding-edge of technology.  As the person responsible for spearheading technology-innovation, I get completely jazzed by the prospect of creating something new for a client that no one has ever done before. The creative opportunities of virtual reality are endless and those agencies that understand this early on have an exciting road ahead.

But, in this age of accountability that for every $1.00 I put in I will get $1.10 out, I also have to help our clients to be smart about how they use their increasingly stretched dollars. In short, it comes down to: BRING ME INNOVATIVE IDEAS…BUT GUARANTEE ME RESULTS.  My guess is that many business leaders today are struggling with this same dichotomy – How do I tackle this, too, when we’re cutting budgets to the point of not even doing the basics like Search?

So, at the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned, out of touch marketer, my recommendation to all of the business leaders out there would be to follow these 3 points of advice:

  1. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER. Ask yourself who you are reaching before you put too much into your first AR effort. When I was growing up, marketers put interactive content on the back of cereal boxes.  At that time my brother and I thought the content was cool enough that it was worth a fist-fight before school.  Whether that content would be compelling or not by today’s standards is beside the point.  But it was foolproof.  Something that today’s mobile and web cameras today are not – at least not yet.  If your target audience is not the savviest tech user today, then think twice before investing too much.
  2. FORGET ABOUT ROI. If you have the right audience, then jump into the game and forget about ROI for the moment. If back in 1995 we all worried too much about ROI before we launched our first website, think about all of the learning we collectively would have missed out on. Find a way to test and learn.  Find a way to experiment. Despite my caution to some marketers, this is the future of consumer engagement. Don’t get left in the dust.
  3. GET SMART. If you don’t have the right target customer today and you don’t have the resources this year to test and learn, then at least spend time learning about it. Eventually all consumers will be able to adopt the technology and that day may come sooner than you think. Follow @augmentedadvert on Twitter. Subscribe to augmented reality RSS feeds. Everyone is looking for an edge. Papa John’s Pizza has taken AR to the mainstream. It’s coming. A year ago moms didn’t use Facebook. Now they are the fastest growing segment, and grandmas are probably not far behind them.

Prepare yourself NOW for the future web — just do it in context of your business.