AR for Marketing 101: Ultimate Guide

Veronika Petrenko
XR Enthusiast

Augmented Reality — the What and the Why

Technology behind AR

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology of visualizing 3D and 2D objects in environments via screens of smartphones or glass lenses. How does it work? It’s pretty simple — the computing device recognizes objects in the real world and renders the computer graphics registered to the same 3D space, providing the illusion that the virtual objects are in the same physical space as you. To put it simply, your smartphone reacts to a trigger in your camera, and plays the content.

Although it is already a part of our everyday social media experience, not everybody understands AR. The word ‘Augmented’ states that the environment or objects around us are modified with graphic overlay so that the human vision system is digitized. 

Everything — from product and service information to guided tours and virtual assistance — can be augmented. There are endless possibilities of AR technology, making it a perfect medium for marketing activations. AR can breathe life into your marketing strategy by combining digital and real-life experiences to make them more vibrant, living, and awesome.

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    Types of AR technology

    There are several types of AR technology. All of them differ by the way it is activated — or triggered. Here are the most popular ones:

    • Marker-based reacts to an image or QR code to play content. It’s an instant and simple way to visualize anything.
    • Surface-based tracks flat surfaces (walls or any other vertical or horizontal surfaces) and places content on them. It’s easily scaled.
    • Geo-based uses GPS to see your location and show objects when you’re reaching a scripted destination.
    • Insta/Facebook/Snap/TikTok filters see your face and augment them with makeup, glasses, hairstyle, or any other piece of content.
    • Body parts recognition tracks the user position in the real scene.
    • Environment recognition tracks the physical environment itself.
    • 3D Object recognition is an attachment of a digital 3D model to a real-world object.

    AR can be stored in 3 ways: as an app, a module to an already existing app, or WebAR:

    • App is an independent program on your mobile phone that has to be downloaded from App Store and PlayMarket and launched via an app button.
    • Module works as a part of a bigger project that could be launched from the existing user interface in the application and has a special UI.
    • WebAR lives somewhere on the internet (e.g., can be a part of your existing website when you add a new page with AR functionality). It can be launches via the link.

    Types of AR content for marketing

    There is enormous potential for AR use in business marketing — it can boost sales, increase brand awareness, improve engagement rate, and do wonders with your key metrics. With successful AR campaigns, you can achieve more significant results effortlessly, especially on social media. AR enhances brand communication with the end customers through interactive content, which could grow retention rates. Besides, augmented reality can also serve as a powerful visualization tool to educate your customers, employees, partners, and others. Here are just a few cases of successful use of AR in marketing:

    • Brand packaging (WeAR projects for Pepsi USA & Mojokaii)
    • Brand story-living (19 Crimes, Jack Daniels)
    • Guerilla marketing (Burger King)
    • Try before buy digital experience (Converse)
    • Training simulators (KFC)
    • In-store activations
    • Long-term communication
    • Supplementary tool for a bigger marketing campaign to reach some specific audiences in Insta or Snap

    Advantages of Augmented Reality for Marketing

    AR is a media itself. Think of it as a blue ocean, a new interface option that is not flooded with ads and native campaigns. It has enough tools for community content (such as Spark AR Studio), a huge fan base of users, and is not limited by the 2D surface of a smartphone screen. But like any other technology, it has both pros and cons. 

    It’s fun, creative, and clever way to engage your audience
    Popular on the biggest social media platforms
    Draws traditional media attention
    Shows the innovative approach of a company
    Gives competitive advantage
    Engages into specifics of a product
    Enhances attention span
    Popular only among certain groups of users
    Can be too complicated for a new user
    Final experience highly depends on visualization execution
    A poorly integrated app can be missed by users
    Development time
    Slower adaptation span

    What problems can AR solve?

    AR helps solve different problems in business and beyond. Here is the list of the most common ones:

    • Consumers aren’t engaged in brand’s life
    • Lockdown
    • Low online sales
    • Logistic issues during onboarding
    • Highly competitive industry
    • Boring and mundane brand communication
    • High expectations from the content
    • Hard-to-test goods

    AR technology gives the keys to solving such problems with:

    • Brand story-living app (Skoda)
    • Story-living promo experience about the nature on the Earth (Netflix)
    • Social media integration with a try-on (Converse)
    • Visualization tools (ONIRIX) 
    • Guerilla integration into competitor’s content (Burger King)
    • Custom karaoke with living AR band to sing along and get discounts (OKKO)
    • Unique and bizarre visuals in everyday situations (PEPSI)
    • Try-on (AR-commerce)

    AR Integration into Marketing Campaign

    Like any type of content, AR content has to be prepared before the launch — that means developed, tested, and ready to launch on markets. Development starts when the idea is shaped, which can take several months up to a few years.

    Selecting the type of marketing campaign

    AR is meant for different purposes, according to the type of marketing campaign you are about to launch. So, how can we fit AR in different marketing campaigns?

    • Seasonal push campaign — as a gamification tool.
    • Product launch campaign — as a visualization experience for customer acquisition through wow-effect.
    • Brand awareness campaign — as anything, basically! Any type of AR content makes awareness thanks to its virality.
    • Brand launch campaign — as a sonic guide into brand values and features. 
    • As one of the channels in omnichannel communication
    • Sales boost — AR reduces the number of returns (according to CNBC, about 15-40% of online purchases are returned for different reasons)

    Choosing the role of AR in marketing campaign 

    As a part of a new business strategy, AR could become a part of the company’s digital ecosystem as a new component. It can also be integrated into an existing native app or website to provide new functionality for the business. 

    For consumer-based B2C companies, AR would be valuable if integrated into loyalty programs to generate promo codes and discounts. The amount of interactivity can contribute to positive customer feedback. Most commonly done through social media, AR can be integrated with ad campaigns and analytics instruments to better understand customer behavior.

    The place of AR in marketing campaign:

    Killer Feature: AR content is at the center of a campaign, meaning it is promoted in ads, shared via media, and supported in the content plan throughout the whole campaign.

    Example: Mojokaii, OKKO

    Support content: AR is a part of a campaign and highlights the best aspects of a bigger idea. It is often done as an App that explains features or uses graphics to enhance interactions with the product.

    Example: Skoda, Bud AR

    What Has to be Done Before AR Development?

    #1 Problem identification

    Every AR development has to start with identifying the marketing pain points you have and the ways AR is going to fix them. The more specific the problem, the easier it is to find a solution for it. Immersive experiences are all about interacting with multiple media simultaneously (e.g., real-world environment + 3D models, or living objects with digital overlay). This opens up numerous opportunities for combining different media into one solution that is good for a particular task.

    Ask yourself — what problem our marketing campaign encounters right now? Put it simple and understandable for everyone.

    Identify the problem, put a task to solve it, and come up with an idea of an immersive tool.

    Remember: one problem — one solution. Don’t put everything together — it is easy to overtune experience and lose the message.

    #2 Finding the right AR development studio

    Problem — checked! The next step is to find experts to help you out. We recommend checking listings such as that contain professional feedback on development services from their clients. Gather your list of teams and check out their website for their cases, blog, values, and team. Get ready to ask many questions and receive even more back. A good developer will try to understand your vision and deliver the best solutions for it.

    A good development team should be full-packed with these experts:

    • Business consultant — to identify business problems and help with ideas for your solution
    • Project manager — to handle and coordinate the development process
    • UX/UI designer to make experience friendly and understandable
    • Developer team — from junior to architect positions 
    • QA engineer to make sure that you’ll receive the best possible quality of the app
    • 3D artist/animator — to create 3D models and animate them
    • Content manager — to impress user during AR experience and communicate the main business goal 
    • Back-end developer — to build a back-end system, configure servers, create an admin panel or CRM, and track the results and structure gathered data

    Be sure to also search for C-level managers’ personal pages on LinkedIn. It is a good place to understand their values, principles, and views.

    The development team that specializes in AR and VR content is just like the other development teams. The trick here is to understand if immersive content is just a part of their toolset or the only profile they’re working on. The latter is better for a couple of reasons: companies that work with AR/VR are often willing to showcase different usage of immersive technologies, as big companies that do everything from mobile apps to web design may have only one working case in VR.

    There are enough AR/VR companies to choose from, so don’t worry. You just need to know the stack of technology they work with (Unity, Unreal Engine, SDKs, other external tools and libraries, etc.) 

    A sign of a professional and trustworthy developer is his ability to acknowledge what he can and cannot do while providing three other solutions to make your idea work.

    Remember: management qualities are as important as technology experience. When talking about your project, be sure to divide responsibilities about non-development stuff (such as design, marketing, PR) with the representatives from their side.

    #3 Ideation process

    Okay, you have identified the problem and found a trustworthy agency to develop your brainchild. Now what? Your next stage is ideation. 

    Ideation is a process of generating concepts for a future product. To make this work, you will need an established methodology. It will turn creative nonsense into a concrete idea for a product. You can approach this task on your own. Just remember the goal — turn an abstract idea into the ready-to-sell pitch. WeAR Studio has its own methodology that helped us create many top-notch ideas. Here is our helpful checklist:

    1. Finding common ground — decide who’s in the ideation team (up to 6 people) 
    2. Identifying the problem and task — as written in the block above
    3. Hivestorm — after brainstorming, ask unrelated people from your company about the ideas. They can give you some unexpected but valuable insights. 
    4. Homework — gather references, similar ideas, or even something unrelatable that inspires you.
    5. First team pitch — choose killer ideas, wrap them up, and get ready for presentation and critique.
    6. Repeat from step 2 until you find one big idea.

    Remember: keep ideation healthy by listening to every idea and communicating pros and cons. Don’t judge, but explain!

    #4 Choosing technology

    Your idea is shaped, and now it’s time to find out how to make it live by choosing the right technology. At this stage, the selected development agency or studio should take the lead by coming up with a proper set of technologies — a base platform that will house your app. Today, the most popular software development kits (SDKs) on the market are: 

    • ARKit combines device motion tracking, camera scene capture, advanced scene processing, and display conveniences to simplify the task of building an AR experience. You can create many kinds of AR experiences with these technologies using the front or rear camera of an iOS device.
    • ARCore is doing two things: tracking the position of a mobile device as it moves and building its understanding of the real world. ARCore enables the phone to sense its environment, understand the world and interact with information.
    • Vuforia supports the development of marker-based and markerless AR and a wide range of features for object recognition and 3D modeling — Ground Plane, Visual Camera, and VuMarks.
    • Wikitude has a variety of tracking technologies. Plus, it supports geolocation, cloud recognition, and distance-based scaling features. 
    • ARToolkit is an open-source SDK with features like tracking planar images and simple black squares, natural feature marker generation, real-time speed support, and easy camera calibration.

    Which SDK to choose?

    Type of SDKBest for:Supported platformsCost
    Apple ARKitMarkerless appsiOSFree
    Google ARCoreMarkerless appsAndroidFree
    VuforiaMarkerless appsiOS
    Free version
    Classic version — $499 one time
    Cloud — $99 per month
    Pro version for commercial use
    WikitudeMarker-based appsiOS
    Smart Glasses
    Pro version — €2490 per year per app
    Pro3D — €2990 per year per app
    Cloud — €4490 per year per app
    Enterprise version.
    ARToolkit Location-based appsAndroid
    AR apps on Windows LinuxOS X 

    Remember: top-notch AR experience can’t be made overnight. Different AR types take a different amount of time for development — apps and modules require longer development but can fit more complex ideas, while WebAR is faster in development but limited in functionality. 

    #5 Building a roadmap

    You are halfway to the launch of your first AR app. The next stage is building a roadmap for your product. Product roadmap is a step-by-step plan of your project execution that is presented by a developer. Its main aim is to track the progress of your app development, its status, and design. Roadmaps may differ from project to project, but some essential milestones that should be included in it are:

    • Research 
    • Design and demo
    • Development
    • Launch and support

    Remember: it is a visual idea of a development project that can differ from the actual development, but not much. Some things might change and grow into something even more exciting. At this stage, be sure to ask for all the words and terms you don’t understand.

    #6 Selecting content 

    As Bill Gates once said — ‘Content is the king’, and this saying is the truth as high-quality content can make a difference. So what do we put inside your AR solution?

    • Locations — detailed stores or showrooms on a 1:1 scale
    • Products — easily accessible via the store or just placed wherever you want
    • Videos and images — as an additional channel or point of interaction for your content
    • Creatures and characters — less researched field with huge opportunity for storytelling
    • 360 videos — highly interactive and immersive way of interacting with content
    • Volumetric videos — basically, videos in which images of objects are captured in a 3D space
    • 3D content and animations — provide more realistic and engaging AR experiences

    Any combination of the previous can be fully recreated in AR on your smartphone.

    #7 UI & UX

    Now it’s time to think of the visual aspect of the development, namely UX and UI of the product. Here the key is keeping it simple and understandable. AR is far from adapted for everyone as it uses 3D and real-world environments, so make sure you feel comfortable using any design the developer shows you. 

    What are the signs of a good UI/UX?

    • Design is created with safety in mind so that users won’t bump into real objects while using it.
    • UI is not cluttered with visible UI controls and information because they diminish the immersive experience.
    • UI and UX create a connection between the user and the real world, and AR is the medium for it
    • Every button has a unique action behind it.
    • A guide on AR activation is simple and understandable for everyone.
    • Visual noise is reduced to the minimum.
    • Colour schemes include 3-4 colors that match together.
    • Familiar UI patterns are used rather than non-standard. This helps avoid increasing the learning curve among users.
    • User is guided visually with illustrations.
    • Audio is used to improve the usability of the app by creating the right mood.
    • AR objects don’t flicker, and the FPS rate is high.

    Remember: usability testing is a must. When the working prototype of your augmented reality design is ready, test it yourself to make sure it fully complies with your requirements. 

    Is it Possible to Manage Development without Experience?

    There are still no ultimate templates for AR apps, and everybody’s trying their best to make the XR design user-friendly and smooth. This is why to succeed in development, follow our checklist: 

    • Ask as many questions as needed to understand every technical word you hear
    • Get the access to developer’s task management system
    • Double-check the roadmap
    • Make sure to create a smooth communication model between you and the development team
    • Ask to be present on demo days/MVP presentations
    • Take part in every ideation discussion
    • Provide as much feedback as you can 
    • Be present on tech overview once in a while

    What is MVP? And WHY is MVP?

    A minimum viable product (MVP) is needed to show the functionality of a product to validate the concept on the live audience and check all your assumptions. This means it has all the features to work but isn’t fancy enough yet.

    Imagine it as a car without windows. And bumpers. And doors. You get the picture — a running engine that works. You will get a general understanding of what you’ll see in the end. Design and content may change over time, and that’s fine, but the foundation you’re putting in the carcass and defining the way of interaction and types of content is EVERYTHING here.

    The importance of communication during the development process

    What is the recipe for successful cooperation? To be in sync with the people you are working with. You’ll understand that these are your people if the following conditions are met:

    • Your initial conversation mainly consists of questions
    • Working together is comfortable for you
    • They fully understand your idea and share its value

    Since many technical aspects can be new to you, the developer’s role is to guide you through the first steps.

    Remember: it is your project, and you have all the rights to get access to the development team’s workflow. Transparent processes and constant communication are the cornerstones of a healthy relationship.

    Risk management with new technology

    Developing something innovative is always risky, especially if you are a newbie in this field. But with no risk, there is no reward. As this may be your first experience with AR, we would recommend:

    1. Start with simple activations: WebAR as supportive content for a bigger campaign. This will save you time, budget, and nerves.
    2. Test the readiness of your audience for immersive content.
    3. Create MVP to validate your concept.
    4. Set up a few goals for this product, such as data collection.

    Creating a working prototype will lead you through all development stages, too!

    Demo sessions: when and how

    The demo is the first working prototype of your future killer app. If you’re developing an innovative solution, put a demo phase earlier, just to be sure the technologies you’re working with are compatible. 

    The demo is ready to be tested by end-users, so few closed focus groups will be enough to check if your audience is prepared for this kind of content. Don’t forget to collect all the insight from the demo — at this stage, fixing UI and functionality is easy, but later on, it might become problematic.

    #8 Release and support

    When your app is built, it’s time to go public. Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to submit your app to the App Store properly:

    1. Collect all the important information about your app:
    • Screenshots (for iPhone 8/10/iPad)
    • App logo (512 x 512px)
    • Description (up to 400 symbols)
    • Short description (up to 80 symbols)
    • URL containing your Privacy Policy or document
    • Release build
    • Answer the age rating questions
    1. Create an iOS distribution provisioning profile and distribution certificate
    2. Create an App Store Connect record 
    3. Archive and upload your app using Xcode
    4. Configure app’s metadata and further details in its App Store Connect record
    5. Submit your app for review
    6. Check the status of your app
    7. If your app is rejected, make necessary fixes
    8. Done! You’re now on the App Store

    Remember: it takes about one to three days to receive approval. And it can take up to 24 hours for your app to appear in the App Store after approval.

    What is the lifecycle of an AR product?

    • Demo — first working prototype
    • MVP — minimal functional version 
    • Release version — fully functional and ready product
    • Patches — upgrades and additions to the product
    • Final version — the last modified version of a product

    After the release, the product is mostly supported for a brief period of time to make it more stable.

    What happens on a launch day?

    Launch day is the day your solutions become available to the audience. The content can be available for everyone to download via stores or presented on several devices only — depending on your needs.

    The date of the launch should be presented in the roadmap. The best day for the launch is the day your marketing campaign launches — to align all of your plans and track the efficiency of your AR activation properly.

    How to gather feedback

    Your users are your primary feedback source, so you want to check the number of downloads, rating on stores, social media impact, and media reaction.

    First days after the launch are most important, as most of the feedback will be available straight away. It is an excellent time to gather all the bad stuff about the solution and fix it.

    Remember: be patient and aware of feedback, even, or especially, if it’s mostly negative. The insights of your audience can help you improve the product.

    #9 Data collection

    Well done! Your first AR app is finally released, and now it’s time to reap the rewards and collect the data about its success to make it even better over time. AR app allows you to collect all the critical information about the user experience in real time. What data is interesting for marketing?

    • Time spent
    • Number of actions
    • Heat map
    • Content interactions
    • Behavior
    • Preferences in products

    How to Improve Your Next Development? 

    There is always room for improvement. During the development, gather notes for every step taken — questions asked, problems encountered, and insights taken. Of course, your first experience can be overwhelming with new vocabulary, but development has many similarities with marketing campaign launch. Here are some of them:

    • Problem identification
    • Ideation
    • Pitching
    • Designing a solution
    • Launch and support
    • Feedback and overview

    As a product owner, your task is to sum up all the stages of development. The technical part isn’t your responsibility, but the overall performance counts on your possibility to explain and communicate ideas to developers.

    Your growth points are communication quality and technology understanding. Develop your knowledge of AR by following companies with an active blog and cases overview.

    First campaign overview

    When the campaign is finished, the data gathered will show if it was successful. Media buzz isn’t an efficiency mark yet, just as the number of downloads. You want users to interact with your product, share it, and enjoy. But more importantly — to improve their connection with a brand and provide useful information. That means a good overview will include:

    • Number of quality interactions with AR
    • Marketing expectations met and expectations unfulfilled
    • Client feedback
    • Users feedback

    Technology partner overview

    A satisfied customer is good, and the customer that leaves feedback is the best, even if the feedback isn’t the best. Everyone wants to improve, so even after the project is done, be sure to leave comments, notes, and rate the developer.

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