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Is Augmented Reality Finally Getting an ROI?

There is little doubt that augmented reality is an up-and-coming technology that marketers eager to try. But beyond the sex appeal and brand awareness that these campaigns deliver, is there a solid ROI case for AR? Or is the case for ROI merely its sex appeal and the brand awareness it creates?

Judging by some campaigns, it would appear that marketers have concluded the latter is the best they can do. Consider a recent campaign by Panasonic for its 3D televisions.The company gave away T-shirts embedded with AR marketers that can be rendered using a free iPhone app. If you actually finds someone wearing one of the shirts - and happen to have your iPhone loaded with the app - you will see animated animal heads sticking their heads of the a Panasonic television.

Justifying AR

It is not surprising that it is a global brand such as Panasonic that would try out a campaign that does not seem to be poised to go viral very easily or to spread word of mouth marketing about the product. For any technology, it is the global brands that tend to be the early adopters and absorb the costs of the early mistakes or miscalculations. The fact is, a campaign based on AR technology is not inexpensive and requires expertise to develop and deploy.

There is a business case to be made for AR - but it has not been realized yet, and advertising is not the primary one. Juniper predicts AR will morph into three primary revenue streams: pay-per-download, incremental revenues (including subscriptions and preinstalled apps and browsers), and advertising. Incremental revenues are predicted to provide the largest share of revenues and pay-per-download the smallest share. (via MarketingCharts).

Some Sales Metrics

Slowly, though, some of AR campaigns are reporting back that their endeavors have resulted in sales. Brand-e.bizĀ  (via Brand-ebiz.). Acer and Dabs.com recently used Total Immersion technology in an AR campaign, according to Brand-e.biz. TI director Myles Peyton told the publication that 70% of people who went to the Dabs.com site "prompted by an ad in T3 magazine chose to live the AR experience and of that group, 13% then purchased the project, compared to an industry standard website conversion of around 0.5%."

Tissot's AR campaign also did well, Brand-e.Biz reported. Tissot's AR app allowed shoppers to see what a watch will look like on their arms using a paper-based version that, when waved in front of a webcam, rendered the watch. In-store sales of its watches rose by 85% on the back of its AR ads, Brand-e.Biz said.

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