Augmented Reality: A Sustainable Marketing Tool?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Entering into a toy shop and being able to see the contents of a box 'assembled' on a screen in real-time only by pointing the box to a webcam and even interacting with the 3D representation by moving the packaging is surely an unforgettable experience (Web-Strategist, 2009). This type of application and many others have invaded the world of marketing in the last one and a half years (Woodsa, 2009) due to what is known as Augmented Reality (AR).

Originating from military aviation (Lamantia, 2009), this concept has been defined in numerous ways by practitioners and academics, however all agree that it incorporates a series of technologies which allow a real-time mix between the real world and digitally-generated layers of information and imagery enhancing the specific reality (Clawson, 2009; Lamantia, 2009; Shute, 2009)

The use of augmented reality (AR) as a form of experiential marketing during the past two years has been raising numerous controversies regarding its long-term benefits, extending from AR being only a promotional tool (Grimes, 2009 cited in Woods, 2009), to AR effectively contributing to a positive customer-brand relationship (Owyang, 2010) and to customer satisfaction through the creation of perceived experiential value (Chou, 2009; Yuan and Wu, 2008).

The way in which AR has been used in marketing campaigns can be seen as a form of experiential marketing because it focuses not only on a product/service, but also on an entire experience created for the customers (Yuan and Wu, 2008; Schmitt, 1999). This is further supported by Tony Effik (CSO at Publicis Modem) who argues that "AR has the potential to provide consumers with an experience they want and they will tell their friends about" (Benjamin, 2009, p.41).

Although more marketers are inclined to consider AR experiential marketing (AREM) a serious direction for their brands' future, the lack of any research studies in this area, complemented by the rapid adoption of this trend (Woods, 2009) and the expected increasing value of the AR market (ABI Research, 2010) urge the need for a prompt clarification of the effects of this form of experiential marketing.

With the launch of the first experiential marketing campaigns incorporating AR technology, brands and agencies have been rushing to explore the possibilities of augmented reality in a bid to catch the consumers' attention (Clawson, 2009). Big international companies like Procter&Gamble or Wal-Mart have been using this technology to promote their brands (Farhad, 2009). And this trend is not expected to stop--according to ABI Research (2009), the total market for AR marketing applications is projected to grow from $6 million in 2008 to more than $350 million in 2014.

Nevertheless, there is little understanding of the long-term effects of AR marketing due to scarceness in benchmarks, measurable elements (Farhad, 2009) and research studies. Based on these findings, this paper aims to explore the ways in which AREM leads to the creation of perceived experiential value, and thus contributing to the development of customer satisfaction. Glasses Direct (Appendix 1) is the brand chosen for this research because it is one of the few companies that uses AR as an ongoing marketing process, not just as part of one particular campaign (Woods, 2009), being very often given as a positive example of how brands should undertake AR technologies to enhance customers' experience and drive long-term brand benefits (Owyang, 2010; Clawson, 2009; Woods, 2009).

Focusing on a particular case also makes the abstract concept of AREM operational in terms of participants' understanding of the subject and the researcher's analysis of the results. Therefore, the aim of this study is to look at the ways in which AR experiential marketing is beneficial for companies and brands not only on short-term--the "shiny object" syndrome (Owyang, 2010) but also on the long-term, contributing to the creation of customer satisfaction, as other forms of experiential marketing have done (Yuan and Wu, 2008), which can lead to an increase in customer loyalty, intention of repetitive purchasing, positive word of mouth (WOM) or a greater market share (Bearden and Teel, 1983; Fornell, 1992; Fornell et al. …