Augmented Reality and the Evolution of Print
Augmented Reality (AR) is the layering of digital content like video, 3D or 3D animation over real-world environments to create an engaging and interactive experience for consumers. When it comes to AR enabled print -- also known as Interactive Print -- the concept is the same, however in this case it is the print brought to life allowing what used to be a static medium to become more immersive and connected. In fact, AR easily connects multiple marketing channels together from a single print piece into a seamless, engaging, and measurable customer journey.
AR enabled print is not a gimmick, it is a functional, everyday marketing solution. It adds a whole new dimension and value to print marketing. Print has evolved!
Augmented Reality and the Dreaded “App Download”
Despite the amazement AR brings to its audience, one of the greatest drawbacks over the past couple of years has been the need to download an app to access the content. While in many Augmented Reality applications this is still the case, there are a growing number of solutions that now allow consumers to immerse themselves in this innovative technology through no other than a QR code -- and we all know how accustomed the market has become to the use of QR codes today. This new AR technology is called WebAR.
WebAR is not unlike the “love child” of Augmented Reality and the QR code, providing consumers with access to the best of both worlds - engaging and immersive experiences that are easy to access.
Before going too much further, it is important to note that WebAR enabled print, or Interactive Print, is not the future of print; it is available now, and growing very quickly in popularity. Here’s why.
In an increasingly “noisy” market, print is re-emerging as a powerful medium for cutting through digital fatigue while establishing trust and brand awareness with consumers. Print is also an essential means to effective local area marketing, has greater longevity than some digital, and delivers an immersive tactile experience.
Digital on the other hand shines when it comes to delivering seamless customer journeys that have great potential for reach. Digital is also well known for its ability to deliver powerful low-cost campaigns that generate impressive performance metrics, and be easily integrated across multiple channels. Digital can also, more often than not, be easily modified and enhanced mid-campaign or “on the fly”.
With these points in mind, it is easy to understand why WebAR and Interactive Print has become so popular; it solves the dilemma of whether to invest in print or digital by providing marketers the ability to make the most of both worlds by seamlessly integrating their print and digital together, working in unison on the same marketing goal.
WebAR and Interactive Print in Use
Print and Direct Mail
WebAR and Interactive Print can take marketing like direct mail, postcards, envelopes, magazines, and press adverts to the next level by adding immersive, interactive content.
Consumers are able to scan printed material with their mobile devices to access more information on products or services and ways to connect with the brand. The interaction can even drive the consumer seamlessly through to purchase a product, or to associated social media channels to share the experience. WebAR content can also be embedded with tracking tags, making it easy to monitor the consumer's journey across all channels and automatically re-target with relevant content on other digital platforms, or even targeted print where required.
In a review into the effect that AR had on direct mail by USPS, results showed interactive direct mail campaigns that were enhanced by AR delivered an increase in response rates from 2-3% to a massive 35%. WebAR enabled print and direct mail is a powerfully interactive, connected, and measurable marketing solution.
Product and Packaging
Like traditional print and direct mail, WebAR has the ability to take product packaging, labels, and product brochures to the next level, enabling consumers to access additional information about a product, then and there, and again, often in the comfort and safety of their own home using nothing more than their mobile device. While there have been a number of big brand examples like Jack Daniels and Bombay Sapphire delivering interactive experiences directly from their packaging, labels, and brochures, there is also a growing interest from many smaller brands to leverage existing video footage and animation to share their story and brand messaging from product packaging and labels.
A bag of coffee beans that shares a story about the roasting process. A wine label that talks about the land where the grapes were grown and the process undertaken to produce the wine. Or a food ingredient packet or product card that delivers inspiration through engaging recipe videos.
In a competitive market, leveraging existing assets to create an immersive experience can be the differentiator that allows a brand to stand out from its competitors and create sustained recognition.
Signage and Large Format
If it can be easily viewed and identified by a mobile device then it can be made interactive; this also goes for signage and large-format print with a number of marketers now enabling traditional outdoor advertising material with engaging interactive WebAR content.
From interactive wayfinders and banners that allow an audience to engage with brands at events, through to real estate and property developers creating WebAR-enabled street signage to allow passers-by to view interactive video or 3D floor plans of upcoming developments -- or even WebAR enabled graffiti and street art walls. When it comes to delivering immersive, memorable, and engaging content, even signage is getting in on the picture.
WebAR and Interactive Print is not the future, nor is it a fad. It is here, and here to stay, for good reason. The value WebAR brings to all forms of print is significant, and if you’re not yet engaging with this innovative medium then you really should ask yourself why.
Karen Maher works for UnifiedAR, a provider of white label WebAR solutions specific to the print and direct mail industry. She has been involved in the print and graphics art industry for more than forty years, and represents UnifiedAR as a Partner Channel Success Manager for North America.