There’s growing sentiment in the mobile AR world that apps aren’t the optimal vessel. Yet the technology lives on a device where apps rule. 90 percent of mobile users’ time is spent in apps versus the browser. Can AR break that cycle? And if so, could web AR be the answer?
What is web AR? In short, it delivers AR experiences through the mobile browser. Advantages include dynamism for AR’s serendipity and short sessions, versus the friction of app stores and downloads. There, “activation energy” dampens already-challenged AR adoption.
For example, will consumers spend 90 seconds downloading an app for an experience that lasts 30 seconds? Consider this in light of dynamic AR activations within a store aisle or real-world social interaction. These scenarios happen fast and need AR formats that can be the same.
But how will web AR reach that potential? What are best practices for web AR experiences and marketing campaigns? And who’s doing it right so far? Our research arm ARtillery Intelligence tackled these questions in its recent report, which we’ve excerpted below.
Native App Calculus
Picking up where we left off in last week’s report excerpt, what benefits do apps generally hold over web-based mobile experiences? For one, there’s benefit in having easy access to apps on one’s home screen. But practically speaking, this only applies to a few daily-use apps.
In other words, native apps’ home-screen benefit only applies to a handful of popular apps. Unless you plan on competing with Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter for home-screen position – which you likely won’t accomplish – native apps’ inherent home-screen benefits don’t apply.
“Say you’re a new company that wants to do something in AR,” said 8th Wall CEO Erik Murphy-Chutorian. “You build a native app and put it in the store. How many downloads do you get? People struggle to get their apps downloaded… their reach and visibility are much smaller.”
So for the vast majority of developers building mobile experiences today — especially in the still unproven AR category — native apps have distribution challenges. This can be a disadvantage given that app access is weighed down by the “activation energy” of app store downloads.
Sidestepping that friction is where web AR has an edge. Brands can plant universally-operable web links as scannable markers wherever they have a presence. That includes product packaging or any other media. In fairness, Snapchat has shown similar potential through Snapcodes.
“Any source of traffic you have becomes an opportunity to show AR,” said Murphy-Chutorian. “Another great area for reach is people who own restaurants, stores or sell goods that are printed on anything. It’s AR on the back of the toy you just bought, or the cereal box, or Starbucks lid.”
In moments of dynamic activation (think: store aisle), AR formats that can launch quickly and with minimal friction will gain the most traction. These factors will grow in importance as brands and retailers increasingly plant AR activation markers on products and spaces.
Finally, web AR can inherit all the things that the web does. For example, you can connect AR experiences to your payments processor or tools like Google Maps’ API and Google Analytics. The latter offers more robust performance analytics than what’s possible in native apps.
“Those kinds of web combinations let you build much more powerful things than what you can do on AR apps and social networks,” said Murphy-Chutorian.
We’ll pause there and circle back in the next report excerpt for more…