From direct mail’s inherent trustworthiness to its usefulness in boosting online marketing efforts, print is a highly effective way to generate inbound results. Still, there is no denying that consumer behavior is being reshaped daily by new technology.
Our attention is constantly being fragmented and pulled in multiple directions by device-driven media, marketing and entertainment. If it hopes to remain relevant to the next generation of consumers, print marketing will have to adapt to compete. And Augmented Reality, or AR, may just be the next step in that essential evolution.
If you can’t beat it, join it
Integrating print with digital has been the name of the game for some time. Technology advances such as QR codes have enabled marketers to create synergistic campaigns that use print to push consumers through the digital sales funnel. But bringing digital’s benefits to the printed piece has been largely unexplored—until recently.
Augmented Reality, or AR, is a fast-growing technology that brings digital content into your real-world surroundings when viewed through an app-enabled device, such as your smartphone camera. You’ve likely seen AR in action already, perhaps using Snapchat apps that let you superimpose masks on moving faces or, more likely, playing the once-ubiquitous Pokémon Go game.
Augmentd reality hits the mainstream
Pokémon Go became a phenomenon for its addictive scavenger-hunt appeal, but the buy-in was largely due to the AR technology. Kids and adults alike were mesmerized by the ability to watch digital animations interact with the real world around them. So were marketers.
In no time, businesses were using the same technology to bring maps alive, put customers on AR “deal” hunts and drive foot traffic to stores. Dragons crawled out of sidewalks. Alien ships landed on bus stops. Clothing models leapt out from store signs. (So long as you had an app-enabled device to view it all through.) In such instances, AR always delivered a spectacle. It did not, however, always deliver relevance.
AR + print = true integrated marketing
As Pokémon Go has shown, novelty has a short shelf life. Augmented reality is an exciting technology with great potential, but it must offer something practical to consumers if it is going to survive as a marketing tool. After all, the necessity of additional tech and applications to even experience it already create barriers of adoption (for many, walking around streets and stores with your smartphone held high is not the definition of everyday practicality). So until wearable tech becomes the norm, it’s likely that the biggest opportunities for AR engagement lie with print.
So how exactly CAN Augmented Reality be used to enhance print pieces?
The opportunities are nearly endless. A printed AR piece features coded images that trigger an interactive experience that overlays digital elements on the mailer’s physical surface, bringing further context, movement, and connection to the piece. This, at last, brings print and digital together in one user experience, allowing for some very cool dynamic content—as The New Yorker showed last year with its Christoff Niemann-created AR cover art.
Using augmented reality to drive engagement
But AR can do so much more than look cool. On a direct mail piece, for example, AR coded content can drive relevant engagement—and push consumers through your sales funnel. Images can be linked to dynamic content that reveals bonus offers. It can turn a static photo into a moving commercial for your product. Or simply link your print piece directly to your website or landing page, creating a true integrated—and interactive—marketing experience for your consumers, as Jaguar did.
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With AR, content remains king
As we mentioned, viewing AR content is not without barriers. Consumers must have a device handy, have an AR app installed or go to the extra trouble of downloading one—all before they can see what your designers, animators or programmers have slaved over. And many of your customers may have never heard of AR content, let alone know how to view it.
Don’t be discouraged. Just make sure your piece fully educates your consumers on how to engage with it. And make sure the content itself is compelling enough to encourage them to take the extra steps. In the beginning, you may want to use AR content only to deliver depth to your main message—and ensure all critical, actionable information remains within the static content. As consumers become more savvy, AR can be used to tease, reveal and push customers to act.
What’s most promising is that AR engagement is highly trackable—so you can use those metrics to guide your future efforts. As the use of augmented reality becomes more commonplace, it’s a sure bet that the businesses who already understand how to deliver meaningful experiences through this dynamic medium will be the ones that leap out from the pack.
Whether you're looking for new direct mail marketing ideas or simply how to produce your campaigns as efficiently as possible, download our direct mail production checklist to ensure your next campaign is produced on time, on budget and as efficiently as possible.