A healthy dose of (augmented) reality for MICE

After spending years as little more than a novelty, augmented reality (AR) has finally broken through as a mainstream technology – at least for entertainment purposes. The technology’s potential as a serious tool, however, remains barely explored – even within seemingly obvious sectors as marketing, events, conferences and exhibitions.

Certainly, attendees at certain exhibitions recently may have encountered booths with AR technology used for photographic purposes, but its application hasn’t gone much further than that. But now, with the technology developed enough, available enough and cheap enough, AR is on the verge of exploding past the novelty stage.

Here are a few avenues being explored in AR for the MICE industry:

AR as a lure

One of the most straightforward of strategies is the use of location-based AR to draw customers into one’s premises.

For advertising and promotional campaigns, a similar result could be obtained through downloading a custom-made brand app with a location-based AR function. In this case, AR could take the form of:

  • Gamification: Offering users an ongoing, entertaining ‘scavenger hunt’ experience of collecting tokens or other AR objects in order to earn rewards at vendor locations.
  • Enhanced wayfinding to vendor locations, further augmented with product availability information for specific locations, and in-app product purchase function.

AR as a wayfinding aid and brand immersion tool

Similar ‘gamification’ to that described above could also be used to increase user engagement and immersion in a specific brand experience at exhibitions. The wayfinding potential of location-based AR can also be a useful tool in the exhibition setting:

Users who download an event app could receive ‘zone triggers’ when they’ve strolled into a client-designated area, or are in close proximity to certain booths.

  • App could also offer on-site registration.
  • For organisers, GPS data gathered via the app can give an up-to-the-minute view of traffic patterns that can be useful in planning future events.

AR brings the physical world to life by unlocking information and experiences

Already in use are apps combining AR with artificial intelligence (AI) to enable them to ‘learn’ user behaviour over time. Users can point their smartphone at virtually any object, and the app will identify and categorise nearly everything in the frame. When pointed at a brand logo, the app could open a ‘portal’ to the brand, enabling interaction with customers.

The possibilities of such apps go well beyond ‘images searches’, however:

By scanning their tickets with the a designated app, fans at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, for instance, gained access to exclusive content – peeks behind-the-scenes, match previews, stadium information, various brand-sponsored incentives, wayfinding information and more.

In another campaign, consumers could use an app to scan cans of Coke and bring the can to ‘life’ with AR – wearing headphones and playing music from Spotify playlist.

AR can be a mainstream tool for engaging audiences and adding a whole new layer to immersive brand experiences. The challenge now isn’t the technology; it’s in discovering ways to make it an effective marketing reality.

The writer is Daniel Wu, general manager at Epicentro.

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