Is augmented reality the way forward?

It seemed only yesterday when we were told that QR codes were set to revolutionise the way we accessed information by enabling us to scan the familiar grid onto our smartphone to either find additional product information or access a database, like your British Airways check in option for example.

Image representing metaio as depicted in Crunc...

Image by None via CrunchBase

Two years in internet terms have become like a day in politics in our times; a small change can revolutionise an entire process, dispatching a new process into premature obsolescence.  And this it seems is exactly what is going to happen to QR codes, to be brutally replaced shortly by AR.

AR? Well, Augmented Reality that is.  AR has been around for a while as a concept, but not that long as a viable solution.  Nevertheless AR is at the very heart of what Google is developing with its Google Glasses. But you don’t have to fork out the $1000 for a pair of Google Glasses to access AR these days – it’s already available in an app near you, Android or iOS.

So how does AR work?  Well, it’s really simple, you point your phone (or rather the camera phone) and that’s it, just like for a QR code, except of course you get much more.  For example, with the app developed for the teenage magazine Seventeen you can click on the fashion items you see in their mag and these are automatically added to your shopping cart, discount included.  If you don’t believe me visit their site here.  IKEA has gone a step further, with an app that literally adds furniture from their catalogue to your own room, so you can see immediately how a table, or a chair would fit into your surroundings.  Google Glasses are essentially based on the same principle so as you are walking down a high street you may get enhanced information about the reality that surrounds you, from shops reviews, to special offers and more.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Companies like Metaio from Germany have been at the forefront of innovation in this field for some years, as part of an EU funded project called Venturi, you can even take a look at some of the innovative tools this consortium is planning in theirYouTube channel.

AR is now accessible to almost every company, though at a premium for now.  But as technology becomes more widespread this tool will become much more accessible.  We can’t wait to do our first AR app.

(first published in on October 15, 2013)

Benchmarking social media – Wave two

First published in June 2012

A year ago the Chartered Institute of Marketing undertook the task of benchmarking social media among marketers (in-house and agency).  The first set of results, called Wave One, has been available online through an attractive infographic chart for a while and we’ve used some of the findings in a number of blogs we have been publishing on the subject since.
The results of Wave Two were announced at a meeting in London during June and these provide a more in-depth snapshot of the situation.  Usage of social media has increased considerably across all channels, including Google+, which moved from single digits to 22%.  Twitter is still ahead with 79% of marketers using it for professional purposes and in truth there is very little difference between the big ones (LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter), something that tends to point to a consolidation of these established channels.

There were mixed results regarding the various reasons why organisations invest in social media.  One would hazard a guess that a more in-depth analysis of B2B/ B2C results might  have revealed a much clearer picture, with B2C marketers more sold on the benefits of social media and less engaged B2Bs still lagging some way behind.  Encouragingly, most marketers rate their social media skills as improving, with only 11% thinking they are ill-equipped.  Continuous investment in training by over a third of companies, as well as a more pronounced engagement of specialists (66%), is also a positive step.

When asked to list barriers to improvement, marketers quoted the usual bugbears of today’s businesses, such as lack of time, limited budgets and low staff resources; essentially the now familiar dynamics of most business communicators, at times when everyone is asked to do more for less.

Other findings are less clear.  On the data regulatory front there is still a tremendous amount of uncertainty, but who can be blamed for that, given the tremendous pressure at national and international level?  Lawyers have been rubbing their hands with glee and trying to scare everyone about the possible risks of farming social media data.

Yet reasonably crude monitoring tools are still the norm (such as number of followers/comments) as opposed to more complex ones, such as sentiment monitoring.  One suspects this is due to a combination of the high costs of more in-depth data, a figure reflected by the fact that 43% of respondents said that they didn’t have enough budget to purchase the right tools.

It’s hard to draw clear-cut conclusions from this second wave of results.  At best, one can say that marketers are getting much better at using appropriate social media channels, though many barriers remain in place.  The lively debate at the end of the meeting revealed the sort of answers not often disclosed in a survey, such as a continued resistance at board level to embrace social media, with many companies still keeping their corporate heads firmly buried in the sand.

The argument of correlating social media with demonstrable returns was used, but this principle relies on organisations having instant access to real time quality data.  And while this can be the norm in B2C it is far less so in B2B, due to its convoluted sales completion processes.  In any event, even in B2B these few laggards will either be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century or will soon be confined to history.