Blog Everything you need to know about augmen...

Everything you need to know about augmented reality for mobile marketing

The global augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) market is forecast to reach close to $300 billion USD by 2024, and the total downloads of AR apps are predicted to exceed 5.5 billion by 2022. AR for mobile presents numerous opportunities to optimize mobile marketing and significantly improve critical measurements such as retention and engagement. Moreover, using AR for mobile marketing enables you to innovate and optimize your user experience. In this article, we break down what augmented reality is, how it works and the benefits of using this technology.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality is a technology that lays digital information over the real world. This includes sound, images and text. The basic principle is to superimpose these elements in a way that augments reality as it is seen through a digital device. Even industry leaders, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, are excited about AR. During Apple's first-quarter earnings call for 2020, Cook said, “You rarely have a new technology where business and consumer both see it as key to them. That's the reason I think it's going to pervade your life.”

A well-known example of AR in mobile apps is Pokemon GO. Software development company Niantic created this gaming app to allow users to experience an augmented reality in which they can find and catch Pokemon by exploring their surroundings in real life.

YouTube requires that you accept marketing cookies in order to watch this video.

This augmented reality game became a global phenomenon that made $207 million in its first month — more than any other mobile game. In its first three months of release, Pokemon GO became so popular that it accounted for 45% of gameplay time among the top-20 Android games. But augmented reality isn’t just useful for gaming. Social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat show how AR can be used to enhance the user experience and increase engagement. For example, Snapchat introduced “City Painter” in 2020, which allowed users to virtually spray paint on the street’s shops to create murals. This also introduced Local Lenses to the Snapchat audience.

YouTube requires that you accept marketing cookies in order to watch this video.

What is mobile AR?

The concept of mobile AR is fairly simple — it is AR that you can take with you anywhere you go and use it on-the-go. This means having mobile AR hardware — usually a simple smartphone. Some smartphones include native AR apps such as AR Zone on Samsung mobile phones which provides features like AR Emoji and AR Doodle. There are also third-party apps like Snapchat that provide similar AR capabilities.

What’s the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality?

It’s important to know that augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) are not the same. Virtual reality is the creation of a digital environment, while AR augments real environments with digital information. AR usership is expected to grow to 17% of people in 2022, with 83.1 million consumers in the U.S. already using AR monthly. AR tends to be more popular than VR because of its accessibility through equipment most of us have in our pockets. The breakout success of Pokemon GO in 2016 is also given credit for the popularity of augmented reality mobile apps.

Augmented reality for mobile marketing

One of the advantages of augmented reality in advertising is that it can be used to increase engagement and create unique experiences with your product. Take IKEA Place for example. This app was among the first apps to use Apple's augmented reality framework, ARKit.

YouTube requires that you accept marketing cookies in order to watch this video.

IKEA Place uses augmented reality to show how IKEA products will look in your home. In 2018, IKEA Place became the second-most popular free app built on Apple’s ARKit based on downloads. Now, many companies have followed IKEA’s lead and created apps that help consumers picture products in their spaces. For instance, Benjamin Moore’s Color Portfolio allows consumers to see their rooms painted in any color.

YouTube requires that you accept marketing cookies in order to watch this video.

Whether or not augmented reality is useful to your marketing strategy will depend on your target market. This must be determined through market research and using your data to better understand user behavior. It is essential that you test your hypothesis to prove that augmented reality is a profitable addition to your overall marketing strategy.

How augmented reality works

AR simply identifies markers (such as a user’s face) and layers what the camera has captured with the digital assets that should be displayed. If you’re thinking, “But how?” there are tools to help you create great AR experiences for both iOS and Android audiences.


ARKit is Apple’s augmented reality development platform that shows content in front of or behind users using People Occlusion. It can track up to three faces at a time, enabling augmented reality experiences that are collaborative. Apple also offers tools such as Reality Composer and AR Quick Look to create augmented reality experiences. To learn more about ARKit, visit Apple’s page dedicated to augmented reality.


Google has also developed ARCore, which uses APIs to enable a user’s mobile sensors to detect its environment and interact with information. This includes motion tracking, environmental understanding and light estimation. To allow shared AR experiences, some of the APIs used are available across Android and iOS. To learn more about ARCore, visit Google’s documentation.

Tools such as Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore have made augmented reality experiences more accessible, while the early success of apps like Pokemon GO and IKEA Place has given developers an incentive to invest in this immersive technology. Mobile marketers can utilize augmented reality technology to increase app engagement — adding digital elements such as messages and objects with which the user can engage. For example, Volvo took AR a step further, to enable a mixed-reality test drive.

YouTube requires that you accept marketing cookies in order to watch this video.

4 types of augmented reality

Before spending resources on AR, it’s essential to learn the different types of augmented reality available to mobile marketers. Here’s a breakdown of each type and what makes them unique.

  1. Marker-based augmented reality
    This is when a device’s camera is used to identify visual markers, such as a barcode, in order to provide information relevant to the object on the screen. For this type of AR to work it’s important for the image captured by the device’s camera to have distinct points that can be marked. An example of marker-based augmented reality is Hector & Karger’s interactive catalog.

  2. Markerless augmented reality
    With the use of data sources such as a device’s accelerometer and GPS tracking, markerless augmented reality is used to determine measurements such as location and speed. This enables the device to show objects in a way that matches the camera’s environment. Markerless AR has become particularly useful for maps that allow users to find businesses in their area and other mobile apps that help users by accessing their geolocation.

  3. Superimposition-based AR
    This is when object recognition is used to replace or alter the appearance of a real image. Object recognition is critical for this type of augmented reality to work successfully. Placing a virtual sofa in a living room with IKEA Place is an example of superimposed augmented reality.

  4. Projection-based augmented reality

    This type of AR projects artificial light onto real environments. This is more commonly used for large-scale events and is, therefore, less relevant for mobile-focused marketers. This video from Microsoft Research shows how projection-based augmented reality, which is also known as spatial augmented reality, is experienced.

YouTube requires that you accept marketing cookies in order to watch this video.

6 Benefits of augmented reality for mobile marketers

Like any marketing strategy there are pros and cons of using augmented reality in marketing. However, AR offers several benefits over more traditional marketing methods. By gaining the advantages of AR advertising detailed below, you can get an edge over your competitors and make a big impression on your target market.

  1. Optimize the customer experience
    Making use of augmented reality in your mobile marketing strategy is a smart way to give your users a unique and highly engaging customer experience. Take IKEA Place for example, which saves users the time and energy of calculating whether their desired product will fit within their house and giving the user a better understanding of how it will look in their home. Mobile marketers should consider the ways AR can simplify the UX. By giving users an optimized way of planning their purchases, IKEA Place gives them more confidence in their purchases and builds brand loyalty. This can also result in fewer product returns.

  2. Increase engagement

    By including augmented reality in your mobile marketing strategy you can boost user engagement. The interactive nature of augmented reality marketing keeps users coming back for more. You can also improve engagement by using AR marketing to allow users to try before they buy. For example, much like IKEA, Wayfair allows customers to visualize products in their spaces and even stand in front of them to enhance the realism.

YouTube requires that you accept marketing cookies in order to watch this video.

  1. Boost retention rates
    Another benefit to the interactivity of augmented reality marketing is that users can be retained for longer. This can be useful in spreading brand awareness and increase monetization opportunities. According to Wall Street Journal’s Sara Castellanos, augmented reality offers “particularly useful tools for visualizing data because they engage the spatial awareness part of the brain that allows humans to understand complex concepts more quickly and promotes greater retention.”

  2. Geo-targeting can be used to increase sales
    Mobile marketers are already using geolocation as a tool, and AR can take that one step further. For example, mobile marketers who use geo-targeting for their augmented reality marketing can help users find stores while making that experience more engaging.

  3. AR presents personalization opportunities
    With the right data, augmented reality allows mobile marketers to offer potential customers a personalized experience. Personalization can make a big impact on campaign performance, with 59% of shoppers claiming to have purchased something as a result of personalization. Moreover, only 18% of mobile apps are personalized, so this is another way to stay ahead of your competitors.

  4. Improve brand awareness and brand loyalty
    Augmented reality is a great way to spread the awareness of your brand and build brand loyalty. This is because AR experiences are well-suited for sharing on social media. For example, Gucci used augmented reality in its app to allow users to try different shoes.
    Augmented reality can also be a valuable B2B marketing method. For example, project demos can be shown using AR to give businesses a better understanding of what’s on offer. This is a great way to stand out from the crowd at conferences and expositions where you need to attract passersby to your stall.

With augmented reality app downloads predicted to exceed 5.5 billion by 2022, it’s smart to test this marketing method with your target audience now, before you fall behind the competition. To learn more about mobile marketing, subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with Adjust’s blog. You may also be interested in “How to monetize your app” and best practices for driving growth with marketing automation.

Want to get the latest from Adjust?