Augmented Reality’s (AR) use in a broader retail setting has been established, but is it finally within reach for SME owners?
Businesses such as IKEA have grasped the power of AR tech to effectively extend the retail experience well beyond the physical store, removing the doubt of online purchasing (ie – “Will this look good next to my couch?”).
Until now, AR’s been available to larger businesses with the tech departments and budgets to throw at such experiments.
But, the cost curve and tech knowledge base needed to create a great AR experience is coming down.
One company trying to pitch AR to a new generation of small business owners is Plattar, which is attempting to create the “Wordpress of AR”.
“The problem with AR was that it would cost you tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars to do and required developers with expertise and skills,” Plattar founder Rupert Deans told The Pulse.
“So we identified a need to create a self-service platform that really functions as the WordPress of AR.”
By leveraging tools like Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, it’s aiming to create a platform where business owners can essentially use drag and drop tools to create an AR experience.
Companies such as Lightbox are working to create in-store AR experiences for retailers using a standard projector.
So the tools are within grasp of the savvy and curious SME – but just having the tools and services available aren’t enough to bring it into your business.
Before you think about bringing AR into your business, you need to think about how you will use it in your business.
MYOB’s in-house futurist Keran McKenzie told The Pulse the approach SMEs should take in approaching AR should be the same as approaching any new tech on the horizon.
He said SMEs would be well served by asking three key questions:
“Do they better understand my brand or my product? Is there something of value that, intrinsically, this technology brings to my customer,” said McKenzie.
“At the end of the day, we’re there to serve the customer.”
“Often in other areas we can say it’s business efficiency, some data process that removes some time – but it’s important to think through whether any particular piece of technology can make your life easier as a business.”
“It’s easier to see disruption when it comes to technology like artificial intelligence or machine learning – but in the case of AR or VR it could be that your competitor starts offering a better customer experience where you’re not.”
Meanwhile, Deans said while the technology is still relatively new for SMEs, bigger retailers had started to think of AR as a way to extend the customer experience beyond the store or ecommerce store.
“I think it solves a problem in that you can’t physically carry a product with you when you’re out with a potential client,” he said.
“So if your product is too big, like a coffee machine, but your customer still wants to see how it will look in their environment instead of a showroom…that’s where the value is.”
But, AR’s and VR’s potential extends beyond retail alone – think about real estate, where savvy companies have started designing walkthroughs in VR.
The fact is that AR is still a very new technology, particularly for SMEs. While the cost and accessibility-curve has come down tremendously – it’s still not common practice.
But it will be.
That’s why for McKenzie, curiosity about new technology will set you up for the future.
“For example,” he said “Mercedes was the first to put airbags in their cars and everybody thought they were nuts. It was ridiculously expensive for them then, but today you simply don’t buy a car without airbags.
“Start thinking about how this tech could be applied to your business to help your customer, you and a potential disruptor, and then when the cost curve starts to come down you’ll be half way there.”
And that’s all about becoming curious.
“Give yourself permission to be curious – we often get caught up working in the business rather than on the business,” said McKenzie.
“If you’re able to get your processes down so that you’re not spending all your time in the business, you’ll have the time and space to be curious”