What is Augmented Reality? Benefits for Your Small Business


What is Augmented Reality and How Can it Help Your Small Business Today?

Augmented Reality (AR) describes the practice of providing an enhanced version of reality in which the physical world is augmented with technology, namely superimposed computer-generated images, thereby creating a composite view of the real world.

What is Augmented Reality?

Unlike Virtual Reality, which produces computer-generated environments we can be immersed in and interact with, Augmented Reality adds, or augments, reality. By augmenting reality, AR generates the experience of a new, bolder natural world.

With AR becoming increasingly feasible for businesses, financially and otherwise, this technology presents a number of promising opportunities for small businesses.

Using AR to Get More Customers

All businesses share the same aim of attracting new customers and clients and retaining existing ones. From retailers to hairdressers, restaurants to service providers, one of the biggest challenges of running any business is attracting and retaining customers.

One of the leading ways AR is helping small businesses today is that this technology enables customers to try-and-buy experiences, which is particularly useful in the world of retail.

Whereas customers would have previously had to physically go to a store to try a garment on or browse through jewelry, furniture or artwork, Augmented Reality allows customers to try on items and preview products virtually. Reviewing products virtually and remotely means retailers’ customer bases are not tied down by geographical restraints.

By enabling customers to try-before-they-buy, small businesses can sell their items anywhere around the world with greater confidence, with less risks of items being returned.

With customers being able to interact and immerse themselves with products before they commit to buying, creates high quality levels of customer services, a leading contributor in helping small businesses attract new customers and retain existing ones.

What is Augmented Reality and How Can it Help Your Small Business Today?

Personalizing Products

As well as being able to try-before-you-buy, Augmented Reality allows customers to personalize their products. Through AR technology, customers can personalize items via videos and images, so they match their exact preferences and tastes, which enables them to make more informed purchasing decisions.

By offering such an advanced service, businesses are seen in a more professional, competitive light, which works in their favor as a means of attracting new customers and encouraging a loyal customer base.

Giving customers the ability to personalize products through Augmented Reality, also means the chances of having items returned are reduced, which is favorable for businesses, particularly small businesses which cannot afford to regularly have items returned.

Offering Instant Product Information

Another way AR technology is helping small businesses, is that it enables them to provide customers with instant information about products. Through AR customers can scan products on the shelves in shops with their smartphone and receive instant information related to the product, which, again, helps them make a more informed decision about the product.

By offering this advanced service to customers, small businesses develop their reputation as a tech-savvy company that has its customers’ best interests at heart, ultimately helping attract and retain shoppers.

What is Augmented Reality and How Can it Help Your Small Business Today?

Providing a Virtual Experience

Augmented Reality can provide clients and customers with an interactive, virtual experience, designed to encourage and promote a businesses services and tools. For example, a construction business or interior design company can take clients on an interactive 3D walkthrough using AR technology to show them what a renovation or home improvement project would look like when completed.

Such immersive, futuristic experiences can prove profitable in encouraging clients to use the services of companies like construction firms and interior designers.

Similar experiences are being offered by tech-savvy travel companies, which, through Augmented Reality apps. AR apps show travelers superimposed, computer-generated views of towns, cities, hotels, sites and other places they are thinking about traveling to.

They can also provide itineraries, maps of an area, recommendations about the best bars, restaurants and tourist attractions, to help persuade interested parties to book a travel trip and plan their itinerary, which enhances the whole customer service experience and helps travel companies become more competitive and reach out to new customers.

Using Augmented Reality for Advertising

Businesses of all sectors and sizes benefit from striking, attention-grabbing advertising. Augmented Reality advertising, designed to grab the public’s attention through the likes of moving images and realistic sounds, can help small businesses generate more successful advertising campaigns.

Such engaging, memorable and interactive advertising methods can work wonders in helping small businesses generate greater interest in their brand and ultimately sell more of their products or services.

Augmented Reality might be in relative infancy, but the smartest, savviest and most determined of small businesses are already capitalizing on this immersive, fun, engaging and augmented version of reality to stand out over competitors, attract customers and increase sales.

Augmented Reality in Training and Employee Development

Augmented Reality (AR) is transforming the landscape of employee training and development, offering immersive, interactive learning experiences that significantly enhance knowledge retention and engagement.

By superimposing digital information onto the physical world, AR creates realistic simulations and scenarios for hands-on training without the risks or costs associated with real-world practice. Here’s how AR is making a difference in training and employee development:

  • Realistic Simulations: AR provides employees with the opportunity to practice skills in a controlled, virtual environment that mimics real-life situations. For industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and repair services, this means being able to perform complex procedures or work with machinery without the immediate risks.
  • Interactive Learning: Unlike traditional training methods, AR engages users actively, requiring them to interact with their environment. This interactivity boosts learning outcomes and ensures employees are not just passive recipients of information but active participants in their learning process.
  • On-the-job Training: AR can overlay step-by-step instructions directly onto the work environment, allowing employees to learn new tasks or procedures as they work. This “learning by doing” approach is invaluable for onboarding new employees or introducing new processes and technologies.
  • Remote Assistance: AR enables experienced professionals to provide real-time guidance and support to employees in different locations. By sharing their view through AR glasses or mobile devices, novices can receive direct, visual instructions from experts, enhancing the efficiency and quality of remote training.
  • Customized Learning Experiences: With AR, training programs can be easily customized to fit the learning pace and preferences of each employee. This personalization improves the learning experience and outcomes, ensuring that training is relevant and effective for everyone.

Steps to Get Started with AR for Your Small Business

Integrating Augmented Reality into your small business operations may seem daunting, but with a strategic approach, it can be both feasible and immensely beneficial. Here are the steps to get started:

  1. Identify Training Needs: Assess your current training programs to identify areas where AR could have the most significant impact. Consider tasks that are complex, dangerous, or difficult to replicate in a traditional training environment.
  2. Research AR Solutions: Explore available AR technologies and platforms that cater to your specific training needs. Look for solutions that are compatible with your existing hardware and software infrastructure to minimize additional investments.
  3. Pilot Project: Start small by selecting a pilot project for your AR training initiative. Choose a specific task or procedure that would benefit from AR-enhanced training. This approach allows you to test the effectiveness of AR in improving learning outcomes and operational efficiency.
  4. Develop Content: Develop AR training content tailored to your pilot project. This may involve creating 3D models, animations, or interactive scenarios. Depending on your expertise and resources, you may need to collaborate with AR developers or use AR content creation tools.
  5. Train Your Trainers: Ensure that your trainers or supervisors are familiar with the AR technology and content. They should be comfortable using the AR platform and prepared to support employees during the training process.
  6. Implement and Evaluate: Roll out the AR training program to a small group of employees and monitor its effectiveness. Gather feedback from participants and trainers to assess the impact on learning outcomes, engagement, and job performance.
  7. Iterate and Expand: Based on the pilot project’s results, make necessary adjustments to your AR training content and approach. Once you’ve refined your program, consider expanding AR training to other areas of your business.
  8. Stay Updated: The field of AR is rapidly evolving. Keep abreast of new developments, tools, and best practices in AR training to continually enhance your training programs.

By following these steps, small businesses can effectively leverage Augmented Reality to revolutionize their training and development programs, leading to more skilled, confident, and efficient employees.

What is Augmented Reality and How Can it Help Your Small Business Today?

Exploring Augmented Reality’s Future

Augmented Reality (AR) has already made significant strides in revolutionizing various aspects of business, from customer engagement to advertising campaigns. As we look ahead, it’s clear that AR holds even more potential for reshaping industries and creating innovative solutions. Here are some exciting possibilities:

  • Medical Training and Education: AR can be used to simulate complex medical procedures, offering a safe and realistic training environment for aspiring healthcare professionals. This technology could enhance medical education and lead to better-prepared healthcare workers.
  • Remote Assistance: AR can enable experts to provide real-time remote assistance. Field service technicians, for instance, can wear AR glasses to receive guidance from experts thousands of miles away, improving efficiency and reducing errors.
  • Tourism and Cultural Preservation: Museums and historical sites can use AR to provide immersive and interactive experiences for visitors. Users can learn about artifacts, historical events, and artworks in a more engaging way.
  • Architecture and Design: AR can facilitate collaborative design processes by allowing architects, designers, and clients to visualize building plans and interior designs in a 3D augmented space. This can lead to better-informed decisions and more accurate project outcomes.
  • Gaming and Entertainment: AR is already transforming the gaming industry with games like Pokémon GO. As technology advances, we can expect even more interactive and immersive entertainment experiences.
  • Enhanced Navigation: AR navigation apps can provide real-time information about points of interest, traffic, and even augmented reality street signs. This could revolutionize the way we navigate cities and explore new places.
  • Enhanced Shopping Experiences: AR can extend beyond trying on clothes virtually. It can help shoppers find products in stores, read reviews, and compare prices while shopping in physical locations.
  • Training and Simulation: From military training to aviation, AR can create highly realistic simulations that prepare individuals for high-pressure scenarios without real-world risks.
  • Environmental Awareness: AR apps can provide real-time information about the environment, such as air quality, pollution levels, and sustainability practices of businesses. This can empower consumers to make more informed choices.
PossibilityDescription
Medical Training and EducationSimulate complex medical procedures for training healthcare professionals.
Remote AssistanceEnable experts to provide real-time remote assistance, improving efficiency.
Tourism and Cultural PreservationProvide immersive experiences at museums and historical sites.
Architecture and DesignFacilitate collaborative design processes for architects and designers.
Gaming and EntertainmentTransform the gaming industry with interactive and immersive experiences.
Enhanced NavigationOffer real-time information for navigation, including augmented reality street signs.
Enhanced Shopping ExperiencesImprove in-store shopping with product finding, reviews, and price comparisons.
Training and SimulationCreate realistic simulations for various industries, from military to aviation.
Environmental AwarenessProvide real-time environmental information to empower informed choices.

What is Augmented Reality and How Can it Help Your Small Business Today?

Overcoming Challenges in Implementing Augmented Reality

While Augmented Reality (AR) holds immense potential for small businesses and various industries, its successful implementation comes with its own set of challenges. Addressing these challenges is crucial for businesses to fully leverage the benefits of AR technology:

  • Costs of Implementation: Developing AR applications and acquiring the necessary hardware can be expensive. Small businesses may face budget constraints, making it essential to carefully assess the return on investment (ROI) and long-term benefits before committing to AR adoption.
  • Technical Expertise: Creating effective AR experiences requires technical expertise in areas such as 3D modeling, computer vision, and software development. Finding or training employees with these skills can be a hurdle for smaller businesses.
  • User Experience Design: AR applications must provide a seamless and user-friendly experience. Designing intuitive interfaces and interactive content that enhance rather than hinder the user experience can be challenging and time-consuming.
  • Compatibility and Hardware Limitations: AR apps often rely on specific hardware, such as smartphones, tablets, or AR glasses. Ensuring compatibility with a wide range of devices and addressing the limitations of each platform can be complex.
  • Privacy and Data Security: AR apps can collect and transmit user data, raising privacy concerns. Businesses must implement robust data security measures and comply with privacy regulations to protect user information.
  • Content Creation and Maintenance: Developing and maintaining AR content can be resource-intensive. Regular updates and improvements are necessary to keep the AR experience fresh and engaging.
  • User Adoption: Convincing customers to embrace AR can be a challenge. Some users may be unfamiliar with the technology, while others may have concerns about privacy or data usage. Educating and incentivizing users to adopt AR solutions is crucial.
  • Integration with Existing Systems: Small businesses may have existing software systems and processes that need to integrate with AR applications. Ensuring a smooth integration can be complex, requiring technical expertise.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Depending on the industry and location, AR applications may be subject to specific regulations. Staying compliant with these regulations is essential to avoid legal issues.
  • Scalability: As businesses grow, they may need to scale their AR solutions to accommodate a larger customer base. Planning for scalability and infrastructure upgrades is essential for long-term success.
ChallengeDescription
Costs of ImplementationDeveloping AR applications and acquiring necessary hardware can be expensive. Small businesses must assess ROI carefully.
Technical ExpertiseCreating effective AR experiences requires expertise in areas like 3D modeling and software development.
User Experience DesignDesigning user-friendly AR interfaces and content can be challenging and time-consuming.
Compatibility and Hardware LimitationsEnsuring AR apps work across various devices and platforms with specific hardware requirements can be complex.
Privacy and Data SecurityAR apps may collect and transmit user data, necessitating robust data security and privacy compliance measures.
Content Creation and MaintenanceDeveloping and updating AR content can be resource-intensive to maintain engagement and relevance.
User AdoptionConvincing users to embrace AR technology may require education and incentives, especially for those unfamiliar with it.
Integration with Existing SystemsIntegrating AR applications with existing systems can be complex and may require technical expertise.
Regulatory ComplianceAR applications may need to adhere to industry-specific or regional regulations, requiring compliance efforts.
ScalabilityBusinesses must plan for scalability as they grow to accommodate a larger customer base and infrastructure upgrades.

Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of Augmented Reality are significant. Small businesses that carefully plan their AR implementations, seek strategic partnerships, and stay informed about evolving technology trends can overcome these obstacles and position themselves for success in an increasingly augmented world.

Photo via Shutterstock

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Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a staff writer for Small Business Trends based in the United Kingdom. Since 2006, Gabrielle has been writing articles, blogs and news pieces for a diverse range of publications and sites. You can read "Gabrielle’s blog here.".

One Reaction
  1. I love how creative people have become with augmented reality. I think it can change the way we use technology.

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