5 Do's and Don'ts of using Augmented Reality with direct mail marketing

March 21, 2020

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As Augmented Reality moves out of an app and into an app-less experience more and more companies are utilizing this technology to provide more information in tight spots, like direct mail.

Direct mail is confined to its corners but often people want more information about the offer. You have a few different response mechanisms to choose from but there is only one that enhances the mail moment, Augmented Reality. AR has the potential to bring a new experience to direct mail but has always been held back from an app. Now in 2020 AR is starting to be born again, without an app!

Working at an Augmented Reality company (AVO Insights) I helped companies create over 300 AR campaigns last year. Throughout the year I saw great execution and not so great execution so today we are reflecting on the top 5 do's and don'ts of using Augmented Reality with direct mail.

5 DON'TS when using AR with direct mail

1.) Extravagant ideas

Extravagant ideas are a nice way of saying don’t complicate things. It's no secret direct mail can be a labor-intensive job and when you add an extravagant AR idea to your mailer two things happen, cost and time skyrocket. The best campaigns integrate simple AR into their mailers and use it on every mailer. This keeps cost's down and allows companies to easily and scalably use AR on their mailers. Your 3d mascot is not making people buy more.

2.) Using AR as the hook

One of my favorite things to tell people is "if AR is your call to action, you've already lost". Nobody cares about AR. Unless you're selling to technologists nobody cares about how elaborate your AR is. Your call to action should represent what's on the other side, the WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Is there a special message from the non-profit? Is there an offer that I have to scan to unlock? Is there something I can win? Why should I take action and engage with your mail piece? It's certainly not to view Augmented Reality.

3.) One-off implementation

It's a bummer more companies don't look at AR as a scalable tool. Many times companies come to us wanting an elaborate AR campaign for one mailer. Building an audience takes time but if you're able to add AR to your weekly or monthly mailers over time you will see a strong audience who engages, shares, and takes action within the AR.

4.) Using an app

How many people have used an Augmented Reality app on a mailer only to see dismal results? You're not alone but often people are sour about AR because of it. Now in 2020, you can use AR in the browser meaning there is no need for an app to power your Augmented Reality. You can easily use your own domain or a look-alike domain (mymailwebsite.com) and when people use that link the camera will open in the browser letting your audience get creative and receive more information! If you're interested in using an app-less solution try Zappar, 8th Wall, or us AVO Insights.

5.) Giving up to early

There is an odd stigma, possibly because of the hype AR has/had that if you use AR direct mail conversions will sky rocket. Yes, we have case studies that show a significant lift in sales using AR but that is not across the board. People will often get disappointed when AR doesn't magically increase their numbers and quit after the first mailer. These companies are usually the ones who spent thousands of dollars and 1-3 months setting up an elaborate AR campaign only to see minimal results. It's a lot easier to see ROI on something that’s $99/month versus $20,000. Start simple and build from there.

Now to bring some light to using AR with print I'm going to share the top 5 things you should do!

5 DO'S when using AR with direct mail

1.) Start with video

Everyone has or can easily create a video that will play on a direct mailer. The reason I say start with video is more to see the response before investing in content. What's the point of spending money on 3d models if no one is going to see it? Understand how people engage, if they enjoy the experience and if they want to use it again before investing heavily in content.

2.) Compare benchmarks

Customers often ask how many people will view the AR. I respond with how many people view your mail now? For example, if you use a response mechanism, let's say a QR code, how many people are scanning that QR code? Until people understand this is repeatable AR doesn’t help much with responses. We tend to see an increase in conversions , not an increase in responses.

3.) Scalability

Unless you need very custom AR, find a tool that is scalable and easy to onboard within your organization. Learning a new tool can be time consuming, frustrating, and difficult. Try to find a platform that is easy to upload, manage, and measure your Augmented Reality campaigns.

4.) Publish your AR to existing platforms

Did you know you can use existing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tick Tok to power your AR? The same face filter you're adding to your mailer should also be published on existing platforms to get more bang for your buck.

5.) Limit expectations

Using AR on your mailer should be thought of as a new marketing channel that needs time to be polished and optimized. Think of it as social media, PPC, SEO or any other marketing channel. You need time to experiment, test, receive feedback and iterate before optimizing your campaigns. Give AR a shot and stick with it for a few months before throwing in the towel. On average companies hit a stride 3-5 months into using AR on their mailers. The opportunity lives in the uncertainty, there aren't too many marketers utilizing AR on their mailers which means the marketing channel isn't saturated yet. Remember when PPC was pennies per click?

The Takeaway:

When thinking about adding AR to your mailers, start small, use an app-less solution, strategize your call to action and give your audience time to engage with a new way of experiencing mail, at the very least it will save you 2% off your postage.

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