Predictions2021: The camera, by Snap’s Vishal Badiani #Marcomms360

2021 will be the year AR moves mainstream, predicts Snap’s Vishal Badiani

By Vishal Badiani, creative strategy lead for MENA at Snap Inc.

The myth that augmented reality (AR) is little more than dog ears and rainbow vomit is evaporating fast. Consumer-first marketers and agencies are realising the use cases for AR go well beyond fun and entertainment. Through AR-led campaigns on Snapchat, many brands are experiencing first-hand:

1. How versatile, capable and accessible the technology is;

2. The unprecedented engagement at scale AR offers;

3. Impressive, tangible return on ad sales and brand-lift results.

Along with some of the brightest minds in marketing and innovation, in 2021, we predict AR will establish itself as one of the most powerful ways to connect and communicate with consumers across the Middle East and North Africa.

Just to give a sense of the magnitude: In the MENA region, Snapchat’s monthly addressable reach has grown 38 per cent year over year, up to a community of 67 million unique Snapchatters. More than 85 per cent of MENA Snapchat’s daily active users interact with AR Lens experiences every day. This proves how AR is now a normalised daily behaviour for millions of potential customers, offering a huge opportunity for brands and savvy marketers to reshape their storytelling and rethink how they connect and engage with consumers.

2021 will be the year when AR goes beyond helping brands celebrate a moment with consumers or launch a new product in a way that’s interactive and participatory, and becomes an always-on strategy being deployed to help remove frictions in the customer experience, both online and in-store – thereby short-circuiting the traditional purchase journey and moving customers from browsers to buyers in the moment. When online, 3D products in AR can help bring an entire product catalogue and standard website to life and allow a shopper to see the product in all its glory, in their own home or even on their own feet. When in-store, AR provides brands with the opportunity to engage and entertain shoppers if they need to wait or if they want to learn more, with persuasive cross- and up-sell opportunities. It enhances the overall brand experience, strengthening the chances of winning at every key point along the customer journey.

Perhaps the most exciting part about AR, certainly from an advertising effectiveness point of view, is that the interaction is entirely voluntary – consumers are engaging with brands because they want to.

They’re choosing to actively participate in the branded AR Lens experience, rather than simply passively viewing a branded message. Video adverts popping up mid-video or in the middle of a social feed simply don’t offer this type of opt-in brand interaction, which as a result means advertising via AR Lenses is much more likely to garner positive consumer affinity – whether the goal of the Lens experience is to drive reach, time spent with brand or shareability. This is a truly unique and powerful ad format that marketers can now leverage for almost any marketing objective, with almost guaranteed engagement at mass scale.

We see this fuelling three major shifts that we anticipate in 2021:

1.Brands, agencies and marketers rethinking how they evaluate digital media, moving towards quality interactions. We need to find a way to better measure meaningful attention, to supplement CPMs and CPIs.

2. AR Lens experiences will join agencies’ campaign asset lists alongside traditional advertising formats, because they are entirely opt-in, drive real engagement, build advocacy, enhance performance and reach highly valuable audiences.

3. Form, function and purpose are often cited as key factors that affect and influence consumer purchase decisions. Advertisers will also start to look beyond pure function and efficiency – they will start to evaluate the form and purpose of the media owners with whom they invest. Do they share the same values around privacy and authenticity? Do they have a community that really cares about the platform?

To sum up, with engagement from such a diverse audience and almost limitless scope, AR is very much a current medium that should be considered a mainstay of marketing in 2021. If your agencies aren’t proposing AR for your 2021 briefs, it’s time to ask why. There are clear use cases, tangible commercial impact, and a relatively simple idea-to-market path to prove it, all of which elevate AR from being a technology for tomorrow into an opportunity for today.