Have you ever wished that you could see what something actually looked like on you before purchasing it online? What if you could try on a pair of sunglasses just by using a selfie from Facebook making that purchase?
Well, with new augmented reality technologies, this might soon be a possibility.
Facebook has been talking about AR technology for years now, and while they have been rolling out some AR features recently, they’re now ready to integrate this technology into ads. This presents a huge opportunity for brands and social media marketers.
In this blog, I’ll be taking a look at how and why AR is quickly becoming a valuable marketing tool for brands, and how Facebook is currently testing the technology in their app in order to bring it to companies and businesses.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it’s actually something that’s been seamlessly integrated into our lives—and you’ve probably already been using it for years.
One of the areas where AR is most prominent is already social media. Any time you use a filter on Snapchat or Instagram, or play Pokemon Go, you’re using augmented reality technology. In short, AR is technology that projects virtual, computer-generated augmentations onto the real world to enhance our everyday experiences.
At this point, while much of day-to-day AR technologies are used for harmless entertainments, there is so much potential for AR—and not just in the world of marketing. The potential spans industries, such as healthcare, education, navigation, manufacturing, and many more. In fact, the virtual and augmented reality market is projected to be worth $150 billion by 2020.
Facebook Brings AR to Ad Campaigns
Facebook is has been at the forefront of AR technology development for many years, and their efforts are finally bearing fruit in the form of their first AR ads. You may have already noticed some popping up in your News Feed, as the social media platform are testing their first ads.
The first AR ad that Facebook tested is for the fashion brand Michael Kors. The ad allows users to virtually try on different styles of sunglasses on their own personal selfies. Users can choose different lenses and frame colors to see what they will look like in the item. These ads use a technology that is similar to that used with Snapchat filters. So far, these ads are only being tested in the US.
Aside from looking cool and enhancing the user experience on Facebook, AR ads’ main purpose is to limit the time and ‘friction’ between a consumer’s discovery of an item they are interested in, and the purchase of that item. This presents many benefits for e-commerce and any brands that have an online store.
Currently, Facebook is only looking to work with companies that have physical ads, and Michael Kors is the first and only brand that Facebook has tested its AR ads. As of right now, the ads do require the user to manually choose to experience the AR effect. When the ad appears in their feed, the user must click on the ‘Tap to Try’ prompt.
Facebook is choosing to take the rollout of AR ads pretty slowly. If the ads are a success, we can expect to see AR ads on Instagram and Messenger as well. This wouldn’t be the first time that Messenger has seen AR tools, as Facebook Messenger already launched an AR feature for brands in May 2018.
In Messenger, users can go directly for an ad to an AR experience. Facebook had already partnered with brands like Kia, ASUS, and Nike to launch AR experiences on Messenger with much success. The Nike promotion allowed ‘sneakerheads’ to access an AR ad on Messenger, and then buy the shoes directly from there.
Asus saw 10 times the engagement with their AR experience, Nike sold out the Kyrie 4s shoe in under an hour, and Kia saw increasing engagement with its dealers thanks to the AR experiences launched through Facebook Messenger.
The Future of AR for Brands
Facebook’s AR ad efforts with Michael Kors and through Messenger are just the beginning. Facebook also hopes to venture into AR ads in even more industries over time, working with many more businesses and brands.
Though Michael Kors is the only brand currently testing the News Feed ads, Facebook is planning to test other brands in the not-too-distant future. Sephora, Bobbi Brown, Pottery Barn, and Wayfair are all slated for testing AR ads of their own.
The promising results of Facebook’s AR efforts have also led other platforms to experiment with the format. The high engagement rates have inspired Verizon’s Oath to work with Pottery Barn and The Home Depot, while Blippar created AR ads with Jaguar Land Rover and Honda, and Snapchat—and early adapted of AR features—also tried out some advertising efforts.
However, none of these platforms saw the massive reach that Facebook and its News Feed experienced. Despite Facebook’s success, some businesses remain hesitant about AR advertising. Some businesses are concerned that AR ads might not reach audiences at scale, and remain unclear about the ROI of AR efforts.
Despite the hesitation of some businesses, forecasters don’t see the trend of AR slowing down or hindering reach. In fact, it is estimated that 80 million people in the US already interact with AR each month, with estimates projecting that that number will soar to 120 million by 2021.
Facebook will continue to test AR ads in News Feeds as they expand to other industries and work with other brands. This will help limit the time between when a consumer experiences a product and purchases, as AR ads will allow them to instantly purchase it without leaving the Facebook app. This will, without doubt, become quite attractive to other brands, and it will be no surprise when businesses rush to integrate AR ads into their own digital marketing strategies.
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