Augmented vs. Virtual Reality: Marketing Applications

Augmented reality and virtual reality are similar technologies that offer users two entirely separate experiences.

Augmented reality layers computer-generated visuals over an existing reality in order to alter how we can interact with it. AR doesn’t change the user’s environment; it only juxtaposes and alters it with 2D or 3D visuals.

Virtual reality, on the other hand, allows a user to interact, explore, and completely immerse in a simulated environment via headset. VR is a 3D experience (that can sometimes include changes in audio as well).

Both augmented and virtual technologies serve to enhance or enrich a user’s experience of their reality. They are often blended together to create an even more immersive experience. However, from a marketer’s perspective, both technologies are not always applicable for every situation or industry.

Augmented Reality

Smartphones and tablets are relatively well equipped to provide users with AR experiences. Many retail brands have ventured down the road of developing AR apps, specifically to help customers visualize their products in use. For example, IKEA launched an AR app in 2013 for iOS and Android that enables shoppers to simulate how furniture would look in their home.

Other examples of AR being used for retail include:

  • The Shisedio Makeup Mirror: This tablet takes an image of a shopper’s face and allows them to try the latest cosmetics, in order to find the right tones and application styles to achieve their ideal look.
  • Forevermark Fitting: This app allows shoppers to try on jewelry pieces to see how they would look in certain lights and against certain skin tones.
  • Converse Sampler: This iPhone app allows users to virtually try on any shoe, just by pointing their phone at their lower leg.

Virtual Reality

VR Marriott

Due to the requirement of a headset or VR viewer, virtual reality is not as commercial of a retail option. Still, there are some brands taking advantage (such as Tommy Hilfiger and their virtual fashion runway).

However, it’s definitely an ideal option for event, destination, and entertainment companies looking to push the limits of what’s possible. For example, Marriott Hotels ran a virtual reality campaign that “teleported” guests to different destinations, including beaches in Hawaii and downtown London.

Because VR headsets are not as readily available as apps, virtual reality marketing is not yet a mainstream channel. But, virtual reality does allow for advertising. Ad networks such as AirPush now offer virtual reality advertising, targeting, and delivery at scale through platforms like VirtualSKY. These ads are primarily visible with VR mobile apps that can be used with smartphone viewers.

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