Once hailed as the future of online advertising, banner ads have since sunk into a state of functional utility. They’re a must-do, of course, but no longer exciting or driving huge conversions. And their click-thru rates are minimal: A recent report from Smart Insights puts it at 0.05 percent. But augmented reality might be just the thing to give them a second life and drive consumer engagement with the new technology. A recent AR ad campaign for the 25th anniversary of the Power Rangers TV show reported a CTR of 2.1 percent, and that number is expected to climb higher as more ads hit the market.
AR banner ads are still few and far between, but the numbers are starting to grow. The New York Times, which has been experimenting with augmented reality for the last several months, ran a piece about David Bowie’s costumes that featured an augmented banner ad for BMW. In that experience, users could “walk” through a portal into another dimension then turn around to see the real world behind them. The Wall Street Journal also ran a story with an AR banner ad from Nespresso, which allowed consumers to place the coffee machine in their kitchens or offices (or really anywhere there was a flat surface).
As with every new technology, nailing the experience can be difficult. One common mistake many advertisers make with AR and VR is to let the technology drive the story rather than putting the story first and focusing on how the tech can provide additional utility or excitement. With that in mind, here are some tips to make sure your AR banner ad delivers a win.
Give the user something to do
The CEO of ModiFace, which allows users to try on makeup in augmented reality and was recently purchased by L’Oréal, reported an 80 percent conversion rate from people using the app. And it’s easy to see why. Rather than passively consuming the content, users interact and are prompted to not only spend more time in the experience but get real results. It can be easy to spend ages in the app trying on different shades and combinations, and the more users have to do, the more likely they are to remember the product and commit to making a buy. A Mindshare report found that the AR experiences delivered almost double (1.9 times) the levels of engagement compared to their non-AR equivalent across the series of cognitive function measures.
Make the experience functional
Nespresso’s example is also excellent for home furnishings or appliances. Letting consumers try before they buy is key, and seeing something in their space has a powerful psychological impact on conversion. Houzz, an online shopping app with an AR component, reports that 2 million shoppers have used the augmented reality features in the app since it launched a year ago, and those who do are 11 times more likely to make a purchase.
Add some magic
Portals are a fantastic way to introduce the magic of AR and let people move around, and the portal can take the user almost anywhere. Brands can either create high-quality 360 content for the portal or license from any number of platforms. Brands can also create interactive AR experiences where users can ask questions of an augmented character in their space or deliver basic information in a simpler and more contextual way. As we live in an increasingly multilingual world, brands can use AR to reach users who don’t speak the language of whatever market they happen to be in. Images are universal and a powerful way to reach an underserved audience.
Beyond driving sales and clicks, online banner ads are the perfect way for brands that want to build AR experiences to get in front of a large audience. The biggest factor holding AR back is that, as of now, it can only be accessed in an app and getting consumers to download yet another app, especially with one use, is difficult. While WebAR is expected to launch later this year or early next, AR banner ads can act as a great interim step. The brand can partner with a media app that has a wide user base and get their content in front of millions of people without having to ask them to download anything.
Now is the time for brands to start building augmented reality experiences, otherwise they risk being left behind as the technology explodes. Banner ads are a great way to experiment with the technology and get it in front of a mass audience in a relatively frictionless manner. We are moving toward the world being painted with data, in the words of journalist Charlie Fink, and agencies and brands need to get ready for that new reality.