By Jeff Ridgeway, VP of Biz Dev for Zappar in the US
Augmented reality can look to cloud computing to learn a very, very important lesson about packaging and marketing to drive effective adoption and experiences.
Way back in September 1979, the IEEE Computer Society’s flagship Computer magazine published an issue that focused on the theory and execution of network protocols, which were an important facet in establishing the reliable inter-computer communication capabilities that would eventually evolve into the internet. The cover illustration was fitting—it represented the network as a vast network of nodes interconnected across a wide stretch of land, extending all the way to a horizon covered with clouds.
The decision to use clouds wasn’t purely aesthetic—it was a nod to cloud computing, which, at the time, was a platform quickly gaining ground among engineering circles as a potentially disruptive force for IT. But it took over 30 years before the cloud manifested into what we know it as today—the magical force that allows us to listen to Spotify’s hundreds of thousands of songs without wasting any disk space.
Part of the reason for the long adoption lead was that the technology was underdeveloped, but by the mid-2000s, it had been market ready. Only very recently cloud adoption has taken off. So what did it take for that ‘cloud moment’ to happen?
The answer? Effective marketing. Companies started figuring out that the technology, in and of itself, wasn’t sufficient for people and businesses to adopt it—it needed to be packaged, branded, marketed and sold the right way before its adoption would skyrocket.
And augmented reality is just ready for its own ‘cloud moment:’ The technology is there and has been proven—it just needs effective, clear positioning, packaging, marketing to become the deeply disruptive technology we all know it will grow to be.
In the late 1990s, delivery of software over the cloud began with the Application Service Provider (ASP) model. Basically, ASPs were companies that would license commercial software from a company and host it on their own servers, then deliver it to customers over the internet. While it was a unique deployment of software over the internet (the cloud), ASPs didn’t experience explosive growth because they didn’t allow for much in flexibility and cost customization, rather relying on the innovation of the cloud itself to be compelling enough to drive sales.
It wasn’t until about a decade later that the cloud revolution really began with the “as-a-service” (-aaS) model. The as-a-service model used the same cloud delivery method that ASPs were using, but instead of acting as a middleman delivering software or services licensed from another company, they delivered their own flexible, proprietary solutions. In other words, while ASPs were relying on the novelty of the cloud itself to sell software, as-a-service companies were taking it a few steps further and developing their product, of which the cloud was only one part—an important part, sure, but not the sole “wow factor” they relied on to convert sales.
So rather than selling a ‘cloud solution’ as ASPs had, companies using the -aaS model were effective because they were able to package and communicate the benefits of specific, diverse offerings that they could piece together themselves to respond to the market demand. They weren’t just selling a virtual software solution—they were selling a virtual software solution that was designed to match the specific needs of their client base.
This is essentially what we’re doing with ZapWorks. We’re not selling AR, we’re enabling the use of AR against some specific execution that matches an organization's goals. For us, that kind of standardization helps escalate AR from a cool novelty to a truly experience-enabling product. Our approach has been to create an AR platform that’s structured enough to be easily adopted, but leaves enough room at the top of the funnel for some truly creative executions, helping organizations, brands, and marketers match their objectives.
We love the technology and are excited for it, but practically, we see the need to stress it as more than just a cool technology. And that’s what we’re in the business of doing—we’re not selling AR, we’re selling awesome experiences.