Taking a Look Through the Hololens – The Marketing Potential of Augmented Reality

As Commercial Director here at Coast Digital, I always aim to keep my ear the ground (or should that be the screen?) when it comes to technological development that might influence the industry, and our business, in the future.

So it goes without saying that I was hugely excited when Microsoft announced the Hololens last week. The Hololens is an exciting technological development in itself, but also serves to bring virtual and augmented reality back into the forefront of our minds.

While it may be exciting to see what something like Hololens can do already, the real intrigue lies in what this kind of development will allow us to do in the future.

But rather than me just giving you my opinion, I spoke to members of the Coast team to see what they thought. We talked about the commercial applications of the Hololens and how it might influence marketing.

Adrian Willings, SEO Specialist

“I expect you’ll see an expansion of some already existing features, like virtual tours of real locations. This could improve upon existing premises tours for businesses and storefronts, as well as growing to include holiday locations or resorts.

You can conceive of virtual previews for all sorts of items and objects. While you’re in the virtual storefront, pick up a 3D, to-scale object that you are thinking of buying. If it’s a piece of clothing, hold it up and get a better idea of the size. Even better, if it’s a piece of furniture you could try standing it in your front room!

The potential for CRO on a device like this is huge. If the cursor is based on eyeball tracking, then application developers will be able to accurately work out what is drawing the eye first, how people look around the app, where the stumbling blocks are. The possibilities on that front are massive.”

Dorota Kijowska, PPC Specialist

“I can definitely see this, or a device like it, being used by 3D designers. The ability to have multiple designers working on a single 3D project without necessarily having to be in the same room, or even the same country, has obvious appeal.

Plus, if you’re working on a design pitch then the ability to give your client a 3D demo long before completion could be very useful. You only have to think of something like an architectural pitch, where the client could see a holographic mock up of the inside of the structure.”

Michael Dravnieks, UX Consultant

“It seems likely there will be e-commerce applications for this kind of platform, and there will be teams of developers looking for ways in which it can make people’s lives easier. That’s what it will come down to – does it have useful applications?

I’m not sure if the take up will be high enough to warrant any true marketing approaches. It will certainly have gadget appeal, but its longevity and the size of its audience will be determined by its usefulness.”

James Clark, Online Marketing Executive

“With product placement in films and TV becoming more and more popular, you could expect to see a device like this making products a pull out, linking them to a storefront or some other e-commerce app, and allowing the user to interact directly from the film, or even a trailer or advert.

You look at the demo and you see different screens and apps affixed around the house, so I definitely see the potential for a live special offers feed collecting everything available from a particularly person’s wishlist, or perhaps collected from their search and media habits.”

Victoria Baker, Marketing Executive

“As augmented and virtual reality become more popular, you’ll see more sites like Eyes in Space that take full advantage of the immersion these headsets can provide. From a marketing perspective, I could see this expanding the field of experiential marketing, bringing virtual or holographic marketing experiences to people in their own homes.”

Darren Bond, Digital Strategy Director

“I see the potential for many businesses to add value in terms of customer service. The Hololens demo already demonstrated that possibility both with the sink fixing and light switching demonstrations. This can be pushed out to so many industries, including B2B applications for technical suppliers.

I understand concerns over whether a device like this will be popular enough to warrant the attention of marketers, but even if the Hololens only finds a handful of niche areas – alongside its gadget appeal – then that will drive development and innovation on the platform for the foreseeable future.”

The Hololens sparked some interesting ideas here at Coast, but in the end we kept coming back to Google Glass and its recently subtle push to the sidelines.

So why do I think Hololens will succeed where Glass failed? Well, firstly I don’t feel that Glass added enough value for consumers considering the downsides it presented in terms of being an everyday wearable, it’s appearance and privacy concerns.

Equally, while Oculus Rift might become popular with gamers it is unlikely to go beyond that due to the way it closes you off from the outside world.

The Hololens exists in a happy middle point between these two. The scale of applications and visuals is much greater than on the Glass, but it still allows you to see, and even relies upon and reacts to the real world.

As marketers we currently optimise experiences for each individual device, be it desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet, even TV. The challenge for us as marketers is to understand human interaction with all technology.

A brand’s view of a customer is fragmented when looking at devices that are shared (such as TVs or iPads). Google gives us a better view of customers thanks to its sign in mechanism across multiple devices. This allows for bespoke content relevant to the user, but this has its limitations.

The potential exists for the Hololens to provide this missing information, tracking when we switch across devices, adding a whole new level of information with which brands can effectively target us.

Whether it’s the Hololens, or something that exists a few iterations down the line from the current range of headsets and wearables, we’re on the cusp of a new way of operating that will open up whole new marketing channels and opportunities.