It’s so big right now it has its own meme catalog (it’s about 50 percent NSFW, so I’ll eschew the direct link, but please feel free to do some searches on your own), it’s sparked tens of thousands of social interactions and even if you don’t love it and spend time joking about it, you’re feeding the fever.
It’s about time.
For years now, every big agency, retailer and augmented reality startup has been looking for a way to not only create the experiences, but generate the interest and engagement into augmented reality (AR). And early adopters aside, I can’t think of anyone in my circle of friends or co-workers who have heavily invested in either augmented or virtual reality. In fact, unless you’re talking about attending a convention floor display or being first in line to pre-order Oculus Rift or Gear VR, the adoption rate and market for these technologies is mysteriously lacking.
However, interestingly enough, AR in the retail industry has already had a tremendous amount of success in its nascent history. Did you know:
- Companies such as Boeing, BMW and Volkswagen currently use AR in their assembly lines.
- Innovative retailers such as Ikea and Lego have tested and implemented kiosk and mobile app shopping tools to help guide customers.
- Big-ticket item seller DeBeers took a stab at giving consumers a chance to try on rings for that special occasion.
- AR as an industry, inclusive of apps for B-to-B and B-to-C usage, will potentially generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020.
So, while Pokémon Go is changing the public perception and landscape in a mad-fad sort of way, I get the feeling it will finally open the doors to exploring and investing in new ways to distribute content and services the way the technology was meant to do in the mainstream. How so?
Here are five ways Pokémon Go will finally impact the retail market:
1. Commerce: This is a no-brainer. If consumers are going to use the technology, your next bet is that they’ll adopt it as a way to transact. And, as we’ve seen with any fun or easy-to-use mobile app, consumer spending is based on many factors depending on what type of experience you’re hawking. Two of those factors are social acceptance and effortless commerce. If you’re in the middle of an engaging interaction, or if the purchase itself is made easier by the content and data in front of you, there’s little additional research that has to go into the transaction. Point, click, evaluate and buy. AR creates a unique way to get more interactive content in front of the buyer.
2. Complexity: One of the biggest failures in any application is the lack of intuitive design. By creating an AR-infused experience, you can add multiple layers of complexity into the experience without changing the underlying transaction of the process. More complex information with less effort from the user means greater experiences. Think: customizing products directly on-demand from product information management or a retailer’s set bundles.
3. Diversity: How many technologies can you say allow you to be as diverse in your content and data types as you want while still working in a device-agnostic way? Aside from building out responsive transactional experiences, not many. With AR as an adopted way to engage, retailers can create usability benchmarks and repeatable patterns for new types of consumption without changing the device. This allows shoppers to enter the experience and try things out without the heavy burden on the retailer of additional hardware costs.
4. Stationary experiences: AR is going to need to be adopted as part of our infrastructure for this one, but imagine going to a car dealer or a concert and interacting with the content, transactional data and purchasing power via interactive AR experiences on premise. Maybe you use your phone, maybe you use a device handed to you when you enter an establishment. Either way, widespread use of AR in situations where mission-critical detail is either required or as a way to save costs in building out the environment can go a long way in spending our money in higher-return ways.
5. Fun: We adopt technologies and revisit environments that are inherently fun. By taking into consideration ease of use and patterned, user-centric design, you’ll create something that allows people to quickly understand and adopt the tools. And, let’s face it, fun and satisfaction are supposed to be at the heart of retail experiences.
We should be influenced by not only the beauty and complexity of games at scale, but the opportunity they bring to further creatively explore and build new worlds, new dimensions and new interactions.
Yes, Pokémon Go is a game. However, it’s training young recruits in the AR world on how to interact with data and experiences that they know only exist in order to achieve a goal through the technology they already use. As we learn what works (evolution of characters to create complexity and drive additional engagement) and what doesn’t (trying to catch a Charizard, a.k.a. Lizardon, in a church …), we’ll have additional insights into what we can use in our deeper exploration and financial investment of these old, but new things.
How would you consider using augmented or virtual reality to communicate with your customers? How would you use these technologies to boost your returns in and out of retail experiences? What tools do you think could create game-changing, helpful environments?
Monetizing and figuring out how much to invest will be a tricky scenario, especially for smaller brands, but once we push the technology into our quarterly and annual road maps, we’ll get the feel for where it belongs and how much it means (or doesn’t) to the ways we interact with goods and services.
Keith LaFerriere is executive vice president, chief experience officer at Verndale, a marketing technology agency.
Related story: Pokémon Go Becoming a Boon for Malls, Stores
Keith LaFerriere is the SVP, chief experience officer at Verndale. From creative director to UX thought leader and back again, Keith has taken on just about every industry since he began creating and exploring in the 'digital' world over 18 years ago. At Verndale, he works across all accounts and is responsible for the creative and user experience practices.