In the advertising niche, it’s safe to say that artificial intelligence gets more attention than augmented reality. For marketers and consumers alike, AR has great value and is proving a valuable technology. As AR is integrated into social media advertising, competition in the space is increasing. Snapchat has long been a leader in AR, but Instagram and TikTok are catching up.
Since its genesis, Snapchat has made huge steps with consumers and as a brand. What started as a platform for friends and family to share ephemeral pictures has become a complete experience with stories from brands and celebrities, and even pseudo TV. Despite this, Snapchat has remained true to itself, with filtered snap exchanges and fast entertainment.
As part of its evolution, Snapchat has lent more and more heavily on augmented reality. This has been a helpful addition for companies like Foot Locker, which used the ‘Ad to AR’ feature to create a special lens for users. With the AR overlay, their new shoe featured in a short animation and the brand got massive exposure. The results were four million impressions, an average play time of about 45 seconds and high engagement.
After the success of the new AR ad feature, Snapchat expanded, which eventually led to the shoppable AR program. With this, brands could set up an ecommerce system within Snapchat. If a user liked the look of a product, they could click and order the product without ever leaving the Snapchat app.
On New Year’s Eve 2018, AR lenses were viewed about 700 million times. As a result of the exponential success, large brands have gotten onboard including Nike, the NBA and Gatorade. In particular, it has found a home with special events. For example, Nike created a Michael Jordan lens for fans while the all-star weekend was on. With a Snapcode, fans could also play around with a LeBron James lens. You might not be a Nike or a Gatorade, but the brand awareness, reach and engagement generated by Snapchat AR is clear to see.
As another feature, users can scan a barcode or physical item they own so they can explore similar products available on the market. Let’s say we have a particularly robust chopping board that is some years old; we can scan it into Snapchat and the platform will search for something similar. Thanks to a partnership with Amazon, Snapchat can display reviews, price and a buy button. Again, users are purchasing products without closing the app.
Snapchat is a leader in AR lenses, advertising, visual search and a number of other fields. Now, it seems that Instagram and TikTok are motivated to break the monopoly that Snapchat has over the market.
Towards the end of 2019, Instagram started to experiment with AR ads, and certain brands had access to AR ad features for the first time. With this addition, they could launch ‘try on’ ads where the consumer uses the camera on their device to virtually test and try on specific products. In 2020, this feature is still rolling out. If you can’t already, you will eventually have an opportunity to add an AR try-on feature to product pages too (assuming you already sell products through Instagram!).
At first, it was Ray-Ban and some other brands who could test the feature. Soon enough, consumers were trying on Ray-Bans virtually. From a marketing perspective, this has tremendous value because we can get our target market to test our products. After years of testing products in a physical store and not having this option online, AR ads on Instagram are effectively a middle ground. Although consumers don’t get to touch and feel the product in person, they get the next best thing rather than just taking a risk based on pictures alone.
Facebook users will recognize this feature since it was introduced some time ago. Michael Kors was a brand that leveraged this, allowing consumers to try on sunglasses. In our opinion, the Instagram version of this technology takes it one step further compared to Facebook. Using the Spark AR platform, it’s a more refined experience, which is likely due to the extra development time.
Given the interactive nature of Instagram, we expect AR ads to find success and a new home here. Consumers love brand stories and other interactive content, so it makes sense that they’d enjoy trying on clothing, sunglasses, furniture in their home, and more. There will be a requirement for increased expertise, but the potential and reach of these ad campaigns will surely make the investment worthwhile.
Ultimately, this is the next step in a new ecommerce-focused era for Instagram. Given engagement levels on the platform, this new AR system from Instagram has potential. If Instagram can keep the creation options simple for all users, it will become accessible to brands of all shapes and sizes.
TikTok is also investing in augmented reality. The information on this isn’t entirely known just yet since the news was only revealed a couple of months ago, but it seems TikTok wants to compete with Snapchat using their own lenses and AR ads. Once implemented, users will be able to create their own videos with overlays and other visuals made available by various brands.
Using the camera on the user’s device, rumors suggest that the effects will actually interact with the environment around the user, as we see on Snapchat. For example, a drinks manufacturer could introduce an AR ad where users ‘pour’ its drink into an empty glass. Alternatively, it might be a car manufacturer with a lens of a car racing along the user’s desk or kitchen counter.
Depending on the ad selected, there will even be music and audio clips to play overtop videos. What’s more, TikTok is planning a new release in the third quarter of 2020. While this is good news for marketers and businesses because it provides more options, it’s especially positive for mobile marketers who can make a more immersive creative on the TikTok app.
We saw the success that Snapchat had New Year’s Eve 2018, but the positive results are continuing year after year. Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, noted that three-quarters of people engage with AR content on a daily basis. For marketers, it’s a desired feature because AR content is one that encourages prolonged exposure to a brand. Rather than a brief glimpse, users are spending upwards of 30 seconds playing around with brand lenses and brand names. Not only does this stick in their mind, potential Snaps are then sent to dozens or hundreds of people in stories. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Instagram and TikTok are entering the market.
With all these additions and advancements, we want to finish with some advice. Regardless of your chosen platform, how do you take advantage of AR ads?
Firstly, we recommend taking a step back and considering your position before jumping in. Far too often we see people following marketing trends rather than the solutions that will help their business to grow. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, decide whether AR suits your products and business before then deciding which platform will best contribute towards your goals.
Our next bit of advice: don’t try to do too much. Often, it’s the simplest ideas that make the largest impact. Especially when reaching out with new technology, encourage engagement by choosing a straightforward concept. We’ve said this before about AR, but don’t be afraid to offer instructions and clear CTAs because this is new for everyone. Furthermore, don’t abandon your branding for AR. Instead, stick to the brand image that consumers have come to know and love.
As long as you do this, while also testing and assessing the performance of campaigns, you’ll soon find success with the feature that all consumers and marketers are talking about!