Still skeptical that augmented reality is more than a gimmick? It’s understandable. Much of what we’ve seen written and announced regarding the metaverse seems irrelevant to the average printer. For example, Advertising Week’s article touting the metaverse as reaching a “tipping point,” with major CPG brands selling products in gaming spaces such as Fortnite and fashion trendsetters participating in Metaverse Fashion Week. If that’s all you think the metaverse is, you can be excused for tuning it out.

But that’s not all that it is. Augmented reality has reached a tipping point, and it’s one that is increasingly affordable, accessible, and highly relevant to even the average print shop. Used right, AR has become a way to offer solutions and help your clients sell products and engage their audiences in real, practical ways.  

On August 24, What They Think will host a webinar that includes as one of its presenters Joe Zeff of Joe Zeff Design (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who has created AR campaigns for the likes of AT&T, Pittsburgh Robotics, and the Pittsburgh Zoo. His AR scenes are designed to do all of these things, and he’s a one-man shop. Zeff is also featured in the September 2022 issue of Printing News. After reading the article and watching the webinar, if you still think AR is a gimmick, it might be a bit surprising.

Joe Zeff explains to his website visitors how AR “helps tell better stories.” Holotwin created using RealityBLU WorldViewAR.

The Practical Side of AR

When you can’t pick up a product and hold it your hands, AR is the next best thing. And it’s no longer super expensive and in the realm that only big companies can afford. With some licenses, it would take landing only a single campaign to pay for the software license for an entire year.

Let’s look at some of the data showing the power of AR in today’s online shopping world:

  1. More than one-quarter (26%) of shoppers are more likely to purchase a product using AR. This is simply practical. If I want to buy a couch and can use an app to place that couch in my living room and see it in place, and if it looks great, my likelihood of purchasing that couch goes way up. This isn’t a gimmick. It’s basic human nature.

It’s the same reason that…

  1. Shopify found that products advertised with AR/VR have shown a 90% increase in conversion rate. I, myself, have shopped for flooring that way, and it’s incredibly helpful. A style that looks great online might look horrible in our home, with our wall color, our furniture, and so on. Seeing flooring look just the way I hoped it would vastly increases my confidence in making a purchase. Most brands using such tools don’t call them AR, however. They call them “product visualizers.” Use your phone to check out this one from L. L. Flooring.
  2. Based on its internal data, Vertebrae, an AR software developer, found that engagement with AR rose 20% during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was not an uncommon phenomenon. For us now, the thing to know is that many of these pandemic-fueled trends (including contactless payments, doctor’s visit check-ins by QR code, and, yes, AR visualization) have become permanent. Consumers have become used to the ease of use, convenience, and personalization brought by these changes. Why would they give them up now?

As noted by Vertebrae founder and CEO Vince Cacace at the time:

Consumers are displaying a higher level of consideration as they make purchases online for items that they would typically go to a store to see, touch, and feel. Because of this, they are more open to trying newer experiences like 3D and AR that answer questions and give them the confidence to buy—like “how big is it?”; “how does it look on me or how does it look in my space?”; and “what are the details?” Another reason for increased consideration is that they definitely don’t want to make a trip to the post office to process a return.

While this quote came during the height of the pandemic, not much has changed. In fact, with free returns and the now ubiquity of Amazon Prime, our online addiction has only grown. As returns increasingly decentralize, with drop-offs at our local post offices, CVS locations, and retailers like Kohl’s, shoppers are finding that the “easy return” has a dark side—it has overtaken our lives as we continually find ourselves running out to return something because it’s “easy.”

What’s easy is not having to return something in the first place, and it is here that AR visualization plays another important role. SeekXR found that AR-guided shopping reduces returns by 25%. Shopify found that it reduces returns by 40%.

So as shoppers discover how easy AR is to use and how practical it is in their daily lives (and that it’s a lot more than fashion week in the metaverse), and as retailers discover just how much it improves their bottom lines, AR becomes a tool like any other.

Augmented reality is here, it’s practical, and it’s here to stay. With AR solutions increasingly affordable and easy to use, it’s a great time to start researching the options.