AR is the New QR

Walmart, according to Sarah Perez at TechCrunch, has begun adding AR to its in-store experience, with tags on select items that add price and other details to shoppers using the story’s mobile app.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s only a slight variation on what was promised years ago when companies and marketers were slapping QR codes on everything that didn’t run away from them. In that case the experience offered was slightly different, with users told they could access additional information about the product being displayed or advertised simply by scanning the code.

The problem, as I and many others have pointed out, was a lack of public education. This was the early days of mobile adoption and there wasn’t any one app or a set of clear directions on how to use the codes. Despite this, you see the QR concept being adopted by Snapchat, Amazon, Spotify, Shazam and many others, each of which has created their own proprietary code that works exclusively with their app.

It seems, though, that AR is headed in the same direction as its QR ancestor. There are so many companies offering AR experiences – each within its own app – that eventually the mobile user base is going to feel inundated by such requests and, lacking a common app through which to access them, some people will eventually choose nothing.

The only way to overcome that will be by offering the user something truly unique and helpful. It might be quick access to a deal, it might be exclusive content that actually enhances the experience they’re having, but it will have to be something they can’t find anywhere else. And it will have to be available quickly and persistently, or it will require too much heavy lifting on the part of the user.

Augmented reality advertising spending is predicted to grow significantly over the next few years, outpacing the more complex and hardware-reliant virtual reality. And the last couple years has seen some interesting experimentation with AR marketing efforts.

You can’t *make* anyone use the technology, though. If you could I’d have long since implemented rules stating everyone must be an RSS reader. All you can do is create experiences people want to have and offer content they want to consume. If you do that adequately and – and this is key – educate people on how to use it, adoption will follow.