We live in an interesting time for small business. With our economic booms and busts, new generations taking over the consumer market, and the rapid advancement of technology, small businesses must continually adapt in order to stay relevant.

One newer realm of possibility for small businesses is the area of augmented reality technology. Once considered a pipe dream for science fiction enthusiasts, augmented reality has worked its way into our daily lives through innovations like Google Glass and 360-degree video. The best part is, a small company is the perfect space to dive into the use of augmented reality in its daily processes.

Here are some ways that augmented reality can give small businesses a well-deserved boost.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is a way to use existing technology, like mobile devices and headsets, to augment elements of our real-world environments. The user looks at his or her real life surroundings through the lens of a device like a smartphone, and that device adds computer-generated sensory input like sounds, videos, or graphics to add to the experience.

This is different from virtual reality technology, which replaces the real world with a simulated one. In other words, an augmented reality device would allow you to see your surroundings with certain digital additions (think Pokémon Go), while a virtual reality device would replace your real surroundings with digital ones (like virtual reality movies).

Augmented reality has boundless opportunities for companies to integrate digital imaging into people's experiences, which is an exciting frontier for small businesses. And with the fact that the mobile augmented reality market is expected to grow more than 65% in the next four years, this technology isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Advertising

Attention-grabbing advertising is one of the main ways small businesses can use augmented reality to their advantage. As competition gets more heated for the attention of the public, being able to add moving images or sounds to an otherwise static advertisement is a great way to stand out from the crowd. Certain companies have already gotten on board, as spending on augmented reality advertising in 2017 is expected to reach $12.8 billion.

With augmented reality ads, companies can make their marketing strategies more interactive, engaging, and realistic. For instance, Pepsi recently used augmented reality in a marketing campaign in London; they designed bus shelters that acted as augmented reality lenses and showed lifelike animals and objects jumping out at people in the street.

Smaller companies can use similar augmented reality strategies to boost advertising pushes, such as allowing viewers to virtually customize products, creating flyers that give coupon information when viewed through a device, or even setting up a billboard with images that move when a user looks at it through augmented reality technology.

Customer Immersion

Another great way small businesses can use augmented reality to their advantage is by fully immersing customers in the experience of the company's product or service. New platforms, like my own emerging product Blendar.io, are coming to the forefront to help businesses of all sizes launch fully immersive customer engagements that take people deeper into brand experiences and storytelling.

For example, a real estate agent could give clients a virtual tour of a property without stepping foot out of the office, allowing those clients a more comprehensive view than what they'd get from static photos on a computer screen. Even further, a furniture store could allow visitors to "see" what a sofa would look like in their home, or a makeup boutique could use augmented reality glasses to help identify what cosmetics would look best on a particular customer.

All of these experiences will improve customer satisfaction, as they will be able to more fully engage with what they're buying before they buy it.

Even better, this technology is growing increasingly widespread--worldwide augmented reality headset sales could hit $1.2 billion by the end of 2017--so it will steadily get less expensive for small companies to buy their own.

Employee Training

Last but not least, a small business can greatly benefit from the in-depth training augmented reality can facilitate for its employees. With 40 percent of employees who receive poor job training leaving their positions within the first year, small companies will do well to make sure their team members are comfortable with their jobs.

Unlike in the real world, trainees can go through augmented reality training simulations as many times as they need to master a process. It's difficult and expensive to repeat certain tasks, like taking apart and rebuilding an engine, in real life, so being able to virtually complete these tasks is a time and money-saver small companies' training processes.

It's no surprise that the business world is excited about the potential of augmented reality. Luckily, small businesses can get in on the fun--and turn a profit.

Published on: Aug 31, 2017