Though native apps dominate mobile usage in general, there’s the feeling that they may not be the best vessel for AR. Breaking that down, apps account for 4 out of every 5 minutes spent on smartphones in general, as opposed to mobile browser-based experiences.
But will AR inherit that user behavior – particularly mobile AR, which sees the most traction today due to an established hardware base? The issue is that the “activation energy” of app stores and downloads may not be conducive to AR’s already adoption-challenged early stages.
So the question is if Web AR can sidestep some of that friction. This is AR that is delivered in more streamlined ways through the mobile browser. Its the topic of a recent ARtillery Intelligence report (our research arm) and episode of ARtillery Briefs (video and takeaways below).
First off, what is web AR? In short, it delivers AR experiences through the mobile browser, as noted. The thinking is that the app download process – though it’s become accepted in more established app categories – may be misaligned with AR’s serendipitous use cases.
Those use cases include social interactions or dynamic AR activations in a store aisle. And in these fleeting moments when AR shines, consumers are less likely to stop and spend 90 seconds downloading an app for an experience that lasts 30 seconds.
But the challenge for Web AR is that, again, AR inherits the broader mobile environment’s app dominance. And this rings true in AR’s early stages when the most popular experiences are indeed through apps. These include social AR lenses such as Snapchat.
Furthermore, the familiarity and sense of security around apps have attracted users versus the open waters of the mobile web. Lastly, apps have functionality advantages including fusion with mobile hardware, especially when using vertically-integrated systems like iOS.
By the Numbers
But despite apps’ early lead, there’s some evidence that web AR could start to gain ground. For one, web AR functionality continues to advance thanks to the work of innovators like 8th Wall, who are working hard to get their software to work on more smartphones.
That raises web AR’s other big advantage which is potential scale and device compatibility. One problem with apps is their platform fragmentation. The result is that developers have to choose a platform or a social app walled garden….or the costlier option (all of them).
Web AR on the other hand reaches about 3.1 billion devices according to ARtillery estimates. That’s about 90 percent of the global smartphone base that can run at least basic AR experiences. This is greater than any other mobile AR delivery channel or platform.
To put that into perspective, Facebook has 1.63 billion AR-compatible smartphones, followed by ARkit (1.25 billion), TikTok (1.1 billion), ARCore (891 million), and Snapchat (515 million). When adding up and de-duplicating these figures, AR active users total about 802 million.
In addition to quantitative benefits, web AR offers qualitative perks. This is especially true when viewing web AR through a marketing lens. These advantages specifically take form in three dynamics of web AR: dynamic activation, dynamic updates and dynamic analytics.
Starting with activation, web AR experiences can be launched from a variety of media including product packaging. In other words, because it takes place on the web, AR experiences can be activated through web links including physical markers like QR codes.
With dynamic updates, experiences can be modified and optimized on the fly via web updates. This contrasts the clustered app versioning and approvals required in app stores. As a result, web AR product rollouts and marketing campaigns can be more agile.
Lastly, dynamic analytics refers to web AR’s performance tracking. Since it takes place on the web, campaigns can utilize standard web analytics tools like Google Analytics. This contrasts the more basic metrics provided by native apps and social platforms.
All of the above just scratches the surface and you can read more in the full report, including breakdowns on campaign tactics, best practices, and case studies. The proof points are in the actual brand adoption, execution and campaign metrics taking place today.
In closing, it’s worth noting that web AR has lots of headroom – in both active use and functionality. Though it’s the most penetrated AR platform from a compatibility standpoint, it trails other platforms – such as social apps – from an active usage standpoint.
But as it catches up with other platforms on all of these counts, web AR could gain ground among developers and brand marketers. It’s certainly trending in that direction, and could continue to ratchet up as a delivery channel for the next era of consumer AR.
See the full episode below…