Keeping Up with the Trends: Shifting Reality

Cassandra Popli

Vice President

A trend is something that is popular at a certain point in time. Fortunately, and unfortunately, there will always be a new trend coming along to replace the old in what seems like a short time span. It can sometimes feel like a full-time job keeping up with the new applications or technologies that claim to revolutionize the world of brand experiences. The ultimate digital communications strategy is to engage with your community in new and innovative ways while also ensuring you aren’t wasting your budget and time resources on a fleeting “trendy” technology or communication tool.

One of the biggest digital trends we know that is not slowing down anytime soon is virtual reality and augmented reality. Though closely related, virtual reality (VR) creates an entirely digital world, usually through a headset, whereas augmented reality (AR) enhances reality with additional digital content. Virtual reality always generates a buzz, but is harder to cultivate long-term adoption, which is a critical aspect in ensuring you are using your resources wisely. On the other hand, AR is an easier experience to adopt since it is a complement to your existing mobile device. Rather than set a barrier between the user and reality, AR experiences add to their own reality, making the overall experience feel more natural. More than 2.5 billion mobile AR apps will be downloaded by the end of this year alone, and AR is expected to generate 1 billion users worldwide by 2020*. Pokemon Go still holds the title of the largest rollout of AR for mass consumption, and the Snapchat filters also bring AR into our everyday lives. Who hasn’t used the popular dog or flower crown Snapchat filter? This is how you can ensure you aren’t wasting time with a passing trend: integrate it into the everyday lives of your community.

Your agency’s services are competing for your customers’ attention with big brands, such as Disney, Nike and Apple. Through a customer’s perspective, those big brands positively contribute to their lifestyle by inspiring, guiding or motivating them and their way of life. The best type of communication speaks to the human experience beyond just the problem your product or service solves. AR can be used as a tool to evoke an emotional connection with your customers. What you need to bring to people is a bigger, better, bolder and more distinct experience. AR provides an interaction enhancement that is in real time in the world your community sees, the world in which they navigate every day. It is a simple, but powerful tool that is contextual, visual and visceral.

So how will this trend affect your community and your outreach efforts? Imagine a world where your community can actually “see” through AR what planned public works projects will actually look like – highways, water and energy facilities, public parks, new transit lines – and then allow them to even interact with the augmented project. That is what ETA Agency did for the Port of Long Beach. We created an AR app that allowed users to see the new Gerald Desmond Bridge project, interacting with areas of the bridge, learn more information and showcase the new development for the Port. Imagine a water department using AR to allow their customers to visualize their water sources while encouraging them to save water. Education is one of the greatest assets that AR can provide. By using augmented models, your customers will be able to gain a better understanding of concepts that may be difficult to explain through text alone. In addition, prototypes, physical models and detailed illustrations are all expensive, but with augment you do not have to invest in any physical materials. You customers can access resources from any device at any time.

One of the most common questions we hear when we are discussing AR with clients is: how can I measure success? Well, just like all digital mediums, you will be able to gather a wealth of data that can be analyzed and clearly show engagement. For example, if you are using your agency’s own mobile application, you can measure the number of downloads and the time users spend interacting with the app, similar to how you measure the success of your website. However, don’t forget to think on a larger scale. If you are using AR to educate your customers, then a benchmark research study before and after your use of the platform can provide clear results of success.

The applications for how AR can be used are limitless as is the creativity of the agencies using them. How can your agency consider using this emerging technology and approach your mission from a fresh perspective? AR is ever-evolving and becoming more prominent in the lives of your customers. The combination of analytics and AR will allow you to tackle new and existing challenges in a more efficient manner, ultimately saving money and time, which is probably the most beneficial reality of all.