Augmented Reality (AR) involves using technology to augment or enhance parts of our surrounding reality through computer-generated sensory input - as opposed to Virtual Reality (VR), which creates an artificial, immersive environment. Within AR, there are various executions ranging from basic recognition AR which reads items similar to QR codes, to location-based AR which uses the surroundings and incorporates the element of GPS.
In Pakistan, AR has been deployed primarily by FMCG brands as a mechanism to attract people to their BTL activations and encourage them to interact with their brands; for example, Glow by Warid created an environment where a group of dancers came to life the moment the user started dancing. With Cheetos, holding a smartphone over the packet gave rise to an animation corresponding to the flavour. In addition to BTL, AR is used to create engagement around products themselves; for example, Sunsilk’s recent AR campaign allowed one to scan the bottle, learn more about the product and take a selfie with actress Mawra Hocane. In this way, AR is starting to become part of the integrated marketing communication strategy of some FMCG brands.
So can AR benefit financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies? The question is posed because such organisations have demonstrated a willingness to adopt digital avenues to reach out to their customers and give them a better experience. Here are a few examples about what could possibly be done.
Snapchat uses filters and lenses to enable users to add modifying elements to photos and videos, so that you can have rainbows pouring out of your mouth or turn yourself into a bunny with animated ears. It is frivolous entertainment, but it can be put to good use by insurance companies. The job of an insurance sales agent is to identify areas that resonate most with prospective customers. Many people buy life insurance policies as a means of saving for a large, one off expense, such as a child’s wedding. So, what if, instead of the sales agent walking the prospective client through a host of potential future needs, an app could bring the achievement of that one off expense to life, by for example, pointing the camera at their child and using filters to visualise them as happy brides or grooms, or graduates flinging their mortarboards in the air. Follow up by with a simple call-to-action asking, “Are you ready for this moment?”Surely that is half the battle won?
Banks offer multiple products that can benefit from AR. In 2011 Standard Chartered in China introduced the Breeze Living AR app whereby deals and discounts come in the shape of kites floating in a sky. These kites (discounts) can be can be caught, converted and shared with friends. In 2014 Westpac Bank in New Zealand, released an AR app that enabled customers to check recent transactions and spending trends in 3D imagery.
Federal Bank in India used the idea of a calendar that when scanned with the bank’s AR app, showcased surprises to the bank’s customer on specific dates. Halifax Bank in Spain created an app called Home Finder, which allowed users walking on a street to obtain data about houses for sale in the area.
Clearly, a number of banks in the global market are inclined towards AR; the question is will the same banks that have executed such campaign globally execute them in Pakistan as well? In my view despite the fact that there are talented local developers equipped with the technical knowhow to create such apps, it will take time for AR to find its way into the financial institution industry of Pakistan because whenever a suggestion to incorporate AR is made, it is the effectiveness of the technology that is questioned, rather than the cost or whether it is doable or not. A simple yet effective AR app can cost between one and two million rupees, financial institutions prefer bumping up the benefits to their sales agents through cash bonuses if they reach their targets, because what they really worry about are the numbers related to the outcome.
Sadly, there aren’t many figures that can support the idea of using AR to increase sales. Moreover, the age bracket which is more tech-savvy mostly comprises youngsters who are probably not ideal for high-value sales. This audience can already be reached via digital marketing avenues, so adding AR to the mix might not seem like the best idea.