There’s lots of talk about upcoming tech like augmented reality (AR), and the ways it will change how we live, work, and do business. So all brands should be getting ready to embrace and invest in AR software and products – right?

The non-augmented reality is: The answer will differ for each brand – and the decision will be impacted by a number of variables over time.

What is AR, and who should use it?

Quickly, for anyone unaware, AR technology places virtual elements in context with real-world elements. Unlike virtual reality (VR) – which is entirely simulated – AR offers a blended experience that has endless use cases in fields from entertainment to medicine to accounting.

The early stages of AR are already here – think of Pokémon GO placing a character in your path while playing, or the way Snapchat’s filters track your face to augment pics and videos.

Our smartphones already put AR within reach, but as Forbes contributor Charlie Fink notes, “the long-term vision of the industry is a head-worn computer that eliminates the need for a screen, solving one of the most vexing problems of modern life.”

So how far should brands go to assimilate AR into their consumer experience? As far as their audience tells them.

Use one tech to understand the popularity of another

The potential for AR applications is undeniably huge – but every brand and business will use the technology to differing degrees.

Social media monitoring tools are the best way to learn what your audience expects from you as this technology takes greater hold.

Competitive intelligence with sentiment analysis is key here – especially as more brands get their feet wet in the AR arena. Here are some areas worth exploring with social listening:

What challenges are early adopters of AR tech having? It’s guaranteed there will be stumbles as this tech grows, but you can benefit by learning from others’ mistakes. Watch for consumer complaints and focus your efforts on solving them as you bring AR into the mix.

How do consumers feel about AR? If you’re wondering whether AR is right for your brand, start by examining how others in your category are using it. Are consumers in love with what they’re doing? Are they ambivalent? Do they hate it? Change is never easy, so be sure your audience wants AR to be part of their experience before going all in. Then use social analytics to guide your brand’s immersion so your customers are happy.

What successes are your competitors having with AR? As important as understanding the challenges, is understanding what’s working well. If your biggest competitors are succeeding, how can you “borrow” from them to command share of voice for your own brand? Keep tabs on sentiment analysis for a window into what consumers love – and act accordingly.

Is AR right for your audience? If you’re a gaming company, or educational brand, it’s almost a no-brainer there’s a place for AR in your business plan. But what if you’re, say, the AARP? Do Baby Boomers really care about AR use in marketing campaigns, or seeing their benefits in an AR setting? Maybe not.

Then again, don’t assume anything. You might have a tech-savvy contingent of Boomers who love new gadgets – and retirement gives them the time to enjoy them. You’ve got to listen to your audience – each varying segment – and give them what they want.

At the same time you have to keep up with the tech of the times, even if you’re the AARP – because the next generation to retire will have different expectations than the last. So it’s less about if/when, and all about how you introduce AR into your brand experience. Use predictive analytics to inform your strategy.

But remember other industries will do some of this work for you. So even if you’re not running to introduce AR to your retail customers, your audience may become familiar with it through workplace training and other use cases.

All you have to do is monitor how they feel about it all. Then make your move.

Image from Ian Hughes


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