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Augmented reality is doing what I expected: pushing the boundaries of consumerism. To no surprise, you and other savvy advertisers are intrigued—according to eMarketer, ad spending on augmented reality will grow from $166.7 million in 2017 to more than $2.6 billion in 2022. However, like any relatively nascent technology, the waters are murky, which may be preventing you from making the most of augmented reality advertising. So, let’s clear things up: 

What is Augmented Reality? 

Augmented reality is an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device, i.e., a smartphone. The easiest way to think about augmented reality is to think about Pokemon Go, which brought the technology to the masses in 2016. (We wrote about Pokemon Go and its unique opportunity to reach social users a few years back.)

It’s also worth noting the augmented reality is not the same as virtual reality. Virtual reality requires headsets and places users in a virtual world—think Oculus Go. For the sake of your advertising, you shouldn’t lump these together. 

Why is Augmented Reality Advertising Gaining Momentum?

From a user’s perspective, we can surmise why augmented reality is gaining traction. Frankly, it’s just cool. But what about from an advertising perspective? Why is ad spending on augmented reality expected to balloon to more than $2 billion by 2022? Part of the reason is that augmented reality is becoming less of a novelty, which makes its advertising capabilities easier to deal with—think about Snapchat’s Shoppable AR ads.

But if you ask me, the real reason augmented reality is going mainstream in the advertising world is because of the immersive, engaging experiences they create for consumers—they’re offering an unprecedented way to connect. In an advertising world ripe with parity, anything that can do this should be gaining traction. This is why Playable ads are so hot right now.  

How Can You Apply Augmented Reality Advertising to Your Digital Strategy? 

With a better understanding of what augmented reality is (and isn’t) as well as why its gaining steam in the advertising world, your next question should be clear: “how can I apply augmented reality to my digital strategy?” The best way to do this is by taking a step back and seeing what others are doing. 

The apparel brand, Zara, for example, is using augmented reality to revolutionize the way people shop. How? By launching the Zara AR app, which lets consumers point their phones at shop windows as well as in-store podiums, on boxes they receive, and dedicated images on Zara.com, to see clothing lines. From there, the app features a tool for social sharing as well as a way to order. Other retailers, like Target and Walmart, are making similar moves to up the shopping experience. 

Augmented Reality Advertising Zara

That said, augmented reality advertising isn’t confined to retail. Niki Minaj used Snapchat’s augmented reality capabilities to launch a new albumDominos brought pizzas into the future by giving users the ability to “create pizza” as well as the option to see its full menu, the latest deals, and track their order. Brand Networks is using augmented reality, too—we created a cross-device campaign for Acura that gave consumers the ability to see inside the new RDX model. 

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I get it, the advertising world is full of buzzwords and trends. Augmented reality and its advertising capabilities shouldn’t be one of them. When you consider the adoption among the population with the growing number of ways you can use it as part of your digital advertising strategy, augmented reality advertising is positioned to be a cornerstone digital tactic for years to come.