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The Extra Layer

The Extra Layer

Why now is the time for brands to embrace AR

Jeremy Pounder
Futures Director

While both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can be considered part of the fourth wave of immersive computing (after the PC, the internet and mobile), AR holds more sway right now because of its immediate impact on brands. This is for three main reasons:

  1. Infrastructure - The growth of a developer ecosystem that includes Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore will act as a catalyst for creators and innovators to create valuable AR experiences for the masses
  2. Device scale - AR is now available on more than 700 million devices through ARKit and ARCore, and through third-party apps like Shazam
  3. Consumer readiness - Around 27 percent of UK smartphone users have already used some form of AR. The success of Pokemon Go and Snap Lenses has primed consumers on overlaying digital content over the real world

The future of AR in four trends

With greater consumer interest in AR, and developer access to AR content-creation tools improving almost daily, we fully expect AR to permeate our everyday lives in the next couple of years. Earlier this year, Mindshare Futures launched “Layered” an exploration of the future of augmented reality carried out in partnership with Zappar. We used a range of techniques including qualitative self-ethnography, quantitative research and neuroscience to assess AR’s likely impact from a marketing, brand and consumer perspective. The report identified four emerging trends:

1 – From ‘surprise and delight’ to everyday utility

Until now, AR applications have largely been used to give people a bite-sized dose of fun through face filters, games or playful print and packaging activations.

Whilst these applications will undoubtedly remain, there is untapped potential for AR to fulfil wider needs and solve specific problems. Throughout the “Layered” study, our respondents identified a range of currently unfulfilled areas where AR could provide everyday utility, including going to the gym, house buying, on-pack information and DIY tasks.  

Brands need to continue to use AR to create immersive brand experiences that truly surprise and delight customers. But they also need to think about how they can help solve everyday problems in the consumer journey using AR.

2 – Layering

People will start to expect the physical surfaces around them to be embedded with additional layers of interactive content. Over half (55 percent) of smartphone users agreed that “it would be a good thing if you could point your phone at any object and get additional information”.

Brands should be thinking about adding extra layers of content to their owned assets. For example:

  • They can change a passive touchpoint with huge reach, such as product packaging, into a fully immersive experience
  • If they already have an app with a substantial user base, they can amplify the in-app experience through AR
  • For bricks and mortar retailers, the in-store environment provides a varied canvas for delivering engagement experiences or customer service through AR

3 – Surfacing

AR will increasingly enable the proactive “surfacing” of personalised, contextual content without the user initiating it. Over two-thirds (68 percent) of smartphone users believe AR would be most useful if it “can figure out the right information to show me at the right time all by itself”.

This could encompass:


  • Overlays pointing out restaurants serving your favourite food in an unfamiliar street
  • Automatic translation of foreign text within your field of view
  • Way-finding services pointing out contextual information

As Google’s computer vision product, Lens, begins to be integrated into the phone’s camera, we expect the surfacing of contextual content to grow significantly.

4 – Flowing

This describes how AR will become a tool for assistance, reducing friction within the customer journey and more generally helping life to flow more smoothly by ironing out small inconveniences.

We expect AR to take a more prominent place at the moment of purchase by enabling consumers to purchase direct from an AR experience, as we’ve seen with retailers such as Zara and Ikea, as well as platforms like Snap.

Key learnings for brands

  1. Maximise the power of immersion

AR can help brands deliver deep engagement at scale. Our neuroscience work found that AR delivers 45 percent higher levels of attention in the brain than other forms of media, like TV viewing or digital display.

  1. Identify moments of assistance

AR will be a visual medium that brands can use to deliver utility and assistance. Brands need to identify specific points of friction within the consumer journey where AR can offer a solution. A third of consumers believe AR would help them narrow down their product choices.

  1. Add additional layers to your ‘owned’ assets

There’s a growing expectation that physical objects will have extra layers of content. Brands can use AR on the product itself, packaging, the retail environment or their apps to create a fully immersive experience that can increasingly be personalized.

  1. Prepare internal capabilities for always-on AR

AR activations will become less ad hoc and campaign-based and more strategically focused as AR is used in more of an “always on” way. Brands will need to think about their own internal capabilities and processes to enable that to happen.  

  1. Optimise content for computer vision

As computer vision, particularly Google Lens, gains traction, brands will need to think about SEO for image recognition and how searcher intent applies to the real world – ensuring the right context overlays are available when physical objects are recognised.

The full “Layered” report is available at: https://www.mindshareworld.com/uk/layered-future-augmented-reality.