Getting started using Augmented Reality with your direct mail

December 1, 2019

avo blog

What is Augmented Reality?

To put it simply, Augmented Reality (AR) is digital content placed in the physical surroundings and generally viewed through a phone's camera. Think Pokemon Go, 19 Crimes wine bottles or the Ikea app that lets you place virtual furniture in any room.

AR has enjoyed plenty of hype in the last decade or so, but not much mainstream success. The problem is that AR generally enhances experiences but rarely solves a larger problem. Augmented Reality has also been very difficult to create and manage — needing you to create specific AR content and add technology to your app, or else create a brand new app just to power your AR campaigns.

This probably explains why only the top 10% of companies use this technology. Interestingly enough, 90% of companies generating 100 million to 1 billion in annual revenue are already implementing this technology. Large companies continue to hold the power as they are the only ones that can afford the emerging technologies that differentiate their brands from others.

Even still, Augmented Reality has the potential to completely disrupt the print industry if it’s a simple, inexpensive, turn key solution that doesn’t rely on downloading an app.

Why Use Augmented Reality?

There are two answers here. The first is that connecting print to a digital channel is a no brainer and increases engagement. When using a platform like AVO, brands are able to tell their story digitally from a direct mail piece. Allowing a print piece to transform into video gives customers an extra touchpoint through which to know brands better. Video produces higher click through rates than any other content — so why not put the brand’s video on mail?

The second benefit is tracking. Direct mail is obviously a static, physical, non-digital asset. But if we could somehow convert that physical piece into a digital asset we could open the door to more in-depth metrics.

Augmented Reality does this perfectly, because its entire job is to blend the physical with the digital. This is a complete game changer for direct mail. Putting mail into the omnichannel and being able to track conversions across devices using something like the AVO pixel is an exciting prospect for any company that sends direct mail.

Right now it;s possible to direct the mail’s audience to a website to fill out a form or make a purchase, but we all know it’s rarely that simple as most people click away at the landing page. Most people simply need multiple touches before they convert. This means that the problem is understanding direct mail conversions over the customer’s lifetime.

What happens when someone views the direct mail piece, heads to the landing page, abandons it, but 28 days later sees a Facebook ad and clicks through to make a purchase? Currently direct mail doesn't receive any credit for being a touchpoint in such a scenario. There is no way to understand that 28 days ago that person viewed the direct mail piece, and that it stayed top of mind for them when they saw the Facebook ad.

There’s no question that this is a massive drawback for direct mail. Direct mail deserves its credit in the omnichannel! So how to fix this?

With a platform like AVO, it’s easy to set up a pixel similar to a Facebook or Google pixel that tracks the user across their lifetime. When someone views a direct mail using AVO, a pixel will fire an important event. Now 28 days later when that person becomes a conversion, AVO will fire another pixel connecting the fact that this was a mail user who 28 days later became a conversion.

Now, using the AVO pixel one can track mail audiences across the internet and take credit for purchases, donations, email submissions and all things conversion related.

Why is Now the Right Time?

Over the last couple of years Augmented Reality has really picked up steam in emerging technology. More support, easier implementation and most importantly browser based AR is finally ready to go.

The biggest problem with AR use in the past was having to use an app. However now it’s possible to power AR campaigns directly in the browser (such as Chrome, Safari or Firefox) without having to download an app.

This creates a frictionless experience without having to use a third party application to power your AR campaigns. Add in the fact that Apple and Android have now also made it possible to scan QR codes from phone cameras and the need to download a QR reader app is also eliminated. Simply take out your phone's camera, scan the QR code and the AR experience starts. No app required.

Now take all of that and bear in mind that millennials have told the United States Postal Service that their preferred way to engage with mail is by using Augmented Reality. It’s important to note that millennials are now engaging with mail more than any other demographic, so if you’re not focused on getting this new digital generation to engage, you risk missing the boat.

To summarize, millennials love direct mail, but why are they being forced to view mail the same way as past generations? We now have the ability to enhance the mail experience for the demographic engaging with it the most — now it’s the brands themselves that need to start thinking differently about mail.

Lastly, one more no brainer: you save 2% off postage if using AR on your mail.

How Do I Know If This is Right for My Brand?

This is a question we often get. Companies are unsure their audience will respond to this new way of thinking. Our advice? Test it. Just like any other marketing tactic it needs time to be tested and optimized. The good news is that costs for AR have dropped dramatically, allowing brands the time necessary to learn and adapt without budgetary pressures.

Brands who benefit most from a platform like AVO are those that generally send direct mail frequently. This typically includes monthly mailers in the hundreds of thousands that have a consistent audience that already engages with their mail, and have come to expect it every week or month.

B2C brands who have direct relationships with their customers are a great fit since consumers love engaging with their favorite brands and look for new ways to experience why they love them. If you want to distinguish your brand from the competition and build a better relationship with your mail audience, then AR is undoubtedly something to explore.

Getting Started

There are a few options to get started. You can build your own app and dashboard to power your campaigns, or use a custom platform like Blippar. If you are looking for a turnkey solution you can use a platform like AVO. The beautiful thing is that you can sign up at AVO and start uploading your campaigns in less than 60 seconds — all completely free!

To test it out and see the value first hand all you need is a print piece and a video. It’s that easy. If you want to build a stronger relationship with your mail audience, give AR a shot and let us know what you think!

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