We explore beyond the hype and show you how to use AR to its full potential for a spectacular event experience
AR is evolving - transcending its reputation for amazing yet shallow moments and blossoming into a platform that can provide a vast array of immersive experiences that add real value. That is precisely why it’s fantastic for events...and why endless industry blogs keep telling you that you simply must harness it.
They aren’t wrong - AR, when sensitively designed alongside our ‘Three Cs’ approach, can work wonders and engage audiences in new and exciting ways. But how do we make those experiences truly memorable? How can AR add real value specifically to your event? And why is it worth putting the creative energy into making sure it’s implemented properly?
Attention is precious
Whether it's an international networking mission to a huge tech event or desperately chasing couriers to make sure your latest product activation runs smoothly, events are a huge part of doing business. This is where your brand identity, team personalities and product functionality are physically laid bare - for potential clients, collaborators and media alike.
So what are we focusing on when we want our event presence to be a success? For trade events and exhibitions, the goal is getting people to spend as much quality time with your brand as possible. We want to capture an audience's attention, increase memory retention and lengthen dwell time through great content that attendees can re-engage with after the event. However, as any events manager will know, this is never straightforward in an often busy, noisy and highly competitive environment.
Exhibiting your wares is certainly not cheap either and current trends indicate that that’s not going to change any time soon. Last year, 80% of high-performing organisations were planning to increase their event budget for the coming year. Smart companies continue to see positive ROI and marketing impact from live events - but it’s all about making your bought space work harder. Fortunately, this is where AR really shines.
Why AR at your event is a really, really good idea
We've been connecting a diverse range of brands with unique events experiences for years. Here's what we love most about using AR.
From visitor to participant
The overarching benefit of a well-designed AR experience is that it transforms your event space into a hive of activity. Here at Zappar we often use the 'moth to a flame' analogy where attendees are naturally drawn to experiences that others are already engaging with. Why does this matter? Well, no-one likes to approach an empty stand and visiting journalists will be far more likely to check you out if they're seeing copious amounts of excitement and engagement. The added bonus is that it creates a far softer entry point, letting visitors explore your brand and product interactively at their own pace. More fun, less awkward sales chat.
Huge experiences, huge savings
The transformative power of AR is an amazing way to virtually transport prohibitively large products and expansive experiences directly to your event space. We partnered with Accuray to help create a room-scale MR version of their Radixact cancer treatment system, where users could look behind the casing of the machine to discover how it worked. We also created a take-home version for attendees to experience a virtual version of the product in full interactive 3D, in the comfort of their office. That’s a high quality experience attendees can take home in the palm of their hand, rather than an articulated lorry...
"Through the addition of interactive content made with ZapWorks printed materials grabbed attention - increasing dwell time, driving conversion and providing data capture opportunities".
- Birgit Fleurent, CMO, Accuray
A genuinely memorable experience
For any event or piece of marketing communication to be effective, it needs to be memorable. Luckily, AR is damn good at this too. Through insights garnered in the Layered report, created in conjunction with Mindshare and Neuro-Insight, we’ve observed how AR presents an incredible opportunity for brands to deliver really deep engagement at scale, offering exceptionally high attention levels. Neurological studies show that AR drives 45% higher levels of attention in the brain than other forms of media like TV viewing or general online browsing. What’s more, users are 70% more likely to retain the information they’ve learned compared to more passive experiences. So in short, if you teach your audience about your product at an event, there’s a chance they’ll remember - but if you let them directly participate, they’re more likely to learn, and that’s far more valuable.
More immersion with ZapBox
And if you really want to take active participation and interactivity to the next level, you can get your audience even more involved using ZapBox, our mixed reality toolkit. With an easy-to-use headset and cardboard controllers, it opens up an incredible range of experiences for your event, letting your visitors do everything from casting spells, to playing virtual instruments to putting together a car engine. As you’ll see from our Unibet x Supercars ZapBox experience, the increased physical interaction is a great way to raise the immersion, excitement and noise levels around your events space - creating a scene that visitors want to engage with.
Low barrier to entry
Smartphones capable of running AR experiences comfortably are ubiquitous and ~60% of smartphone users indicate that they’ll be actively using them at events and large social gatherings. Our smartphones are increasingly the lens through which we view our world and events have capitalised on this, from numerous CTAs for social media sharing to app-based event space navigation. AR plugs into these trends, giving your visitors an interactive, visual layer of awesome that makes their event experience more engaging and memorable.
Making all that paper work harder for you
How often have you returned home from an event with a complimentary tote bag stuffed to the brim with literature? AR transforms disposable print assets - adding value by turning static print into collectible, interactive objects that are memorable long after the event. And lets’ not forget - they’re all trackable now too, meaning your print collateral becomes a digital discovery channel for your users to enjoy that’s all tied back to your website or e-commerce store and 100% accountable through Zapalytics.
Organic, highly shareable experiences
Having a beautiful events space is certainly shareable, with the right messaging and brand association. But AR integration adds a whole other dimension - one that’s curatable and full of variety. Encouraging people to experience your event through a digital lens brings visitors a step closer to sharing your content by default - and once inside, the opportunities to share on social media can be seamlessly added. A well designed AR experience allows the creation of shareable content at the touch of a button, including social media icons and pre-defined brand hashtags. This can be encouraged in lots of fun, genuine ways - from enabling visitors to take a picture with a virtual brand mascot or custom face filter, to securing bragging rights by sharing a high score after an interactive mini game experience.
Valuable data capture
Entering your email address into an iPad to “keep in touch” may be a well-known and awkwardly polite events experience, but it isn’t particularly exciting. AR provides an intuitive and less invasive way of capturing user data - incentivising users to share contact information in the relative privacy of their own device, as part of a rewarding, immersive experience. But beyond contact information, in-built analytics functionality (such as Zapalytics) can track interactions with your AR experience in real-time, both during and after the event. We’ve seen some fantastic results with this approach for sporting events, collaborating with English soccer side Manchester City on an AR-connected match programme which sparked over 5,000 scans and 2,500 interactive selfies in the first few weeks alone. It’s a fantastic way to track performance, assess dwell time and justify future budget expenditure with useful data.
How to successfully implement AR at your next event
No prizes, then, for guessing that we really, really love AR. But like all exciting tech propositions, there’s a temptation to think of it as a magic bullet - a simple element that, when added, teleports your events strategy to the next level.
But the truth is...most people don’t actually care about augmented reality. Certainly not on its own.
What they do care about, though, are useful, fun and immersive experiences. The first step to successfully integrating AR into your event, is realising that it’s not a box to be ticked, but something to be considered as part of your wider events marketing mix. It’s got to be relevant or it’s simply not worth doing.
Our mantra for fantastic AR experiences is the Three C’s and they’re really important to keep in mind when creating (or briefing) your ideal AR events experience.
Context - CTA - Content
Context is all about making sure your AR experience is tailored specifically to your event space. Will you have access to good data or Wi-Fi connectivity? If not, can you provide it via a Hot Spot or closed-loop network (event attendees are significantly more likely to spend time in your space if you’ve got decent Wi-Fi and can combine looking at your products with a discreet social media sweep!). What’s the lighting like? AR more often than not means scanning a code and if the camera cannot distinguish it, people cannot engage with your carefully crafted experience. Likewise, is it going to be noisy? There’s little point integrating an audio narrator or high-quality music if it’s just going to be drowned out by crowd noise and the adjacent stand’s obnoxious PA system. If AR is one element of a visitor’s journey around your space, are you able to accommodate the enhanced dwell time? For example, a five-minute experience in a narrow space with heavy footfall can end up creating a bottleneck. Consider your space, plan your experience accordingly and test, test, test!
CTA is your Call To Action - the messaging you create to get people to engage with your AR experience. Even with a perfect Context, users need to know that the opportunity is there and how to engage with it. For example, if your experience is accessed through the Zappar app, people need to know clearly where and how to download it. More importantly, you need to clearly incentivize people to join in because (trust us on this), most people won’t just scan things for the sake of it. Got a really fun AR mini-game for people to play? Then invite them to beat the high score for an exclusive prize. Got an amazing AR portal that shows off your brand’s heritage? Let people know that a quick scan will have them transported around the world to an incredible interactive experience. Always re-visit your CTA ideas and ask yourself - if I had never used this experience before, would I know what to do? And would I want to scan this?
Content is the wonderful stuff that you’d like your visitors to experience with AR. First and foremost, make sure that this is something genuinely enhanced by the medium. Product visualisations are a fantastic use of the technology, letting users explore and customise your products in 3D with touch functionality, which really adds to the immersion. Likewise, an interactive mini-game that transforms your events space into an arena is truly valuable and exciting. But don’t be afraid to ask - could your idea work better on a mobile-optimised website? Is this an experience which AR makes better?
How to get started and make your AR events experience happen
Having considered the Three Cs and put together some ideas about how you want to inform your event attendees with AR, where next? A good place to start is to ask yourself, what problem you're trying to solve and which ideas are going to work best to meet your end goals. To help you get started, we've created a handy AR events checklist...
The AR events checklist
How does this experience add value to a user’s time at our event?
How is the user rewarded for engaging with the experience you’ve created?
Are your events staff savvy and prepared to use the experience, to troubleshoot and guide participants if needed?
Is the experience something that truly benefits from AR - would it live in the same way on a mobile webpage or in-app?
What is the purpose of the experience and is it tailored to the audience you’re trying to engage?
What kind of data are you hoping to capture (if any)?
Does the experience work seamlessly in the context of your events space/stand?
What does success look like?
Five ways you could use AR at your event tomorrow:
You’ve got your eyes on the benefits but you’re lacking a bit of inspiration? We’ve got years of experience of integrating AR into events in pioneering ways, so here’s some of our favourites to get your creative juices flowing:
Everyone’s giving out freebies, so why not give visitors something genuinely exciting? You can transform anything from a key ring to a postcard into an AR portal, offering up navigation information, video content and links to social media for attendees to access with a tap of their finger. It’s a relatively simple way to really add value to a static piece of events collateral while capturing crucial attendee data in a non-invasive way.
Raise the value and profile of event sponsors
When you’re expanding the scope of your event, sponsorship can be an absolutely crucial source of both funding and credibility. An AR experience is a great way to maximise their visibility, providing an easy access digital channel for attendees to engage with their brands. What’s more, analytics captured from these AR experiences are a highly attractive way to show off the benefits to future sponsors and why your event will leverage their brands far beyond the usual clutter of pop-up banners.
"...Augmented reality was a value-add for potential sponsors. The key objective was a combination of a "hook” for potential sponsors and to offer key sponsors a new and innovative way to gain exposure at the event through delegate engagement".
-Johan Walters, NMPi Labs
AR scavenger hunts
Transforming an events venue into a digital playground isn’t as chaotic as it sounds! Scavenger hunts are a really great way to build engaging content into the user journeys around your space - making transit time between experiences more rewarding or even guiding attendees towards different areas of the venue in a particular order, enabling them to tick off interactive items as they go. Again, a great way to make your brand more memorable by asking attendees to learn about your brand/product or service in an active way. Or from the event organizer’s perspective - another value-add for exhibitors, allowing attendees to explore the show floor outside of the traditional exhibitor show guide. One particularly effective use of space is to utilize floor stickers that once scanned activate alpha video content which explains who the exhibitor is and what they're all about.
It's not an events stand...it's a portal!
An innovative way to integrate AR into your events space is to transform your entrance into a transportation device. Using AR-enabled stand design, users can explore a whole new world just by stepping forward. If you’ve got a wonderful brand heritage that's worth shouting about, tell that story visually with a trip through history. Proud of the provenance of your materials or ingredients? Take visitors to the source - enable them to walk around your vineyard, meet your coffee farmers - the options are vast. Our collaboration with Rotogeek is a really fun example - transforming the entrance of their events space into a fully animated, interactive vault where visitors could learn more about Rotogeek’s range of services. Where would you love to transport your audience to?
Bring the whole showroom to your events space
The ability for users to visualise your product in personalised situations with custom aesthetics is a key driver for sales - building engagement with your brand and effectively offering a virtual ‘try before you buy’ deal to your visitors. Got a cool homeware product like the Nespresso? Our in-app AR enabled people to visualise the product in their own home, choosing a pre-defined set of colours and providing an easy route to purchase. As discussed, the beauty of AR is that huge physical products can be virtually scaled down into a virtual experience that’s fully 3D and interactive. BMW’s Zappar-enabled AR experience for the G-32 model is a wonderful example of this - letting users explore their latest vehicles simply by scanning a flyer.
To sum up, AR is a brilliant way to engage audiences at your events and extend dwell time, if the experience is crafted with care in-line with the Three Cs. The fundamental task for events personnel is deciding who takes practical responsibility for making that vision a reality. Your budget, available time and production skill level all come into play here and there are plenty of options. At Zappar, we offer the opportunity to collaborate, using our years of industry expertise to advise, discuss and ultimately realise your AR events experience with the support of our in-house design studio.
Alternatively, our ZapWorks tools are a fantastic way to take on the creative challenge yourself, enabling you to create AR that’s activated through our free Zappar app or embedded into your, or your client's app. Whether you’re a novice with a grand vision or an experienced creative who needs a robust and versatile toolkit, we’ve got lots of documentation and video tutorials to make your journey as smooth as possible, with an active and supportive Forum community primed to share tips and give inspiration. Because AR should be for everybody. If you’d like to chat about your personal AR events journey, drop us a line.