Marketers are increasingly turning their attention to how AR technology might be useful for advertising purposes.

AR enhances your perceived environment by overlaying information or images over it either through displays such as HoloLens or through your smartphone’s camera which allows the two realities to interact in real time.

A Gartner report estimates that by 2018, some 25 million virtual and augmented reality headsets will be sold to consumers.

Before you rush out and spend truckloads developing AR apps it’s worth spending time figuring out how customers will respond. Research by Ana Javornik found that successful AR apps require: ‘a better idea of how consumers would use such technology; more collaboration among computer scientists, designers, and marketers; and a strategy for integrating the applications into the existing consumer journey’.

The real test for AR is does it add real value? Javornik argues that people ‘will only change their behavior if they perceive the value is worth the effort of adding another information layer into an already saturated digital space.’

AR must enhance the customer experience — making it easier, more fun, and more convenient.

Her tests consistently showed that when participants perceived an element of the environment to be augmented in real-time (for example, seeing a pair of sunglasses simulated on their face or seeing a virtual chair in an office), that created an immersive experience for them, significantly more so than if the sunglasses were just stuck on their online photo or if they saw furniture in a virtual room.

A successful AR app that she tested was one allowing people to put on virtual lipstick or eye-shadow:

Importantly her study demonstrated the need for a successful AR app to be useful as an aid for customers to make purchasing decisions rather than just a frivolous toy.

Customers saw the app as enjoyable and useful for shopping for make-up and that translated positively into purchasing intention.

AR doesn’t create an entirely new reality; it enhances the one that is already there. Virtual reality (such as Oculus Rift) transports you into a separate world whereas AR interweaves virtual elements with physical reality like holoportation. This is one of the reasons people like Snapchat’s AR feature, where users can play with different visual effects to transform ordinary videos into shareable stories.