For the past 20 years or so, businesses have steadily shifted in what might qualify as a major paradigm shift: They've adjusted their marketing and advertising campaigns to focus on digital, online experiences in addition to physical ones.

Strategies such as content marketing and a presence on websites and social media platforms have become normal today, and even more popular than traditional tools like billboards and brochures. Now, thanks to augmented reality (AR) technology, we're entering an era where marketing can hybridize physical and digital experiences.

Bridging the Gap Between Physical and Virtual

The key to effective AR marketing involves blurring the line between physical and virtual experiences. Virtual experiences are convenient, fast, and technologically impressive, but they are also fairly impersonal and hard to connect with.

Physical experiences, on the other hand, are immersive, gratifying, and memorable, but lack the sophistication or efficiency of digital tech. Your goal, when you choose to market with AR technology, should be to capitalize on all these qualities and make up for the weaknesses on both sides.

Marketing Ideas

Try some of these ideas to take advantage of the AR trend:

1. Make your products scannable.

Most stores and warehouses are already using barcode scanning systems to keep track of their inventory. Scannable AR items would function in a somewhat similar manner, albeit with the consumer in mind. The approach would entail allowing consumers to scan your products in the store, which would enable them to gather more information about what they're looking at, or possibly engage with them in other ways. For example, taking a picture of a given product might give them the ability to pull up customer reviews or purchase items directly on their phone.

2. Piggyback on AR apps that already exist.

You could also advertise your brand directly by capitalizing on AR apps that are already popular. Rather than having to develop your own AR technology, which would be expensive, you'll ride the coattails of trending apps to draw in AR fans as customers. You could make special offers to users of a specific AR app, for instance, or make your place of operation a hot spot for an AR game that attracts new business.

3. Reward people for checking in.

You could give people incentives to enter your physical store by rewarding them with digital or virtual goods in a kind of "check in" process. Let's say you run a digital ad that encourages people to stop by your store at a certain time to receive a digital coupon or gift certificate, or even a free product. To be honest, this approach isn't much different from running a traditional special, but it's a good way to get customers familiar your app. If you plan to pressure users to rely on more digital transactions in the future, this could serve as a great stepping stone.

4. Give your customers an easier in-store experience.

You can also use AR apps to give your customers a more immersive or pleasant in-store experience. You could give your customers access to maps and directions on how to navigate within the space, the way Walmart tried to do with its mobile app a few years ago. You could also make your store more digitally engaging with helpful tips or promotions that pop up as your customers explore your physical location.

5. Offer visualization and product trials.

You can also use a custom AR app to give your customers more in-depth forms of visualization or product trials. For example, if you sell home décor, you might allow customers to use their mobile devices to project what a piece of décor might look like in a specific area of their home. Alternatively, you could offer users the chance to see the full dimensions and a three-dimensional view of your products in store (if they aren't already on display).

6. Feature interactive ads.

Finally, you can use AR ads to increase engagement with your audience. There are practically unlimited possibilities here; you can give your users a chance to "scan" your ad to receive digital goods, you can play an interactive video or display content when your users are in close proximity, or you could even create a full-on digital experience in the physical world. As always, the key is to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds.

Augmented reality technology is still in its early stages of development, but you can start taking advantage of it today. Whether you create your own app, take advantage of apps that already exist, or just harness publicly available technology, if you can give your customers more immersive, impressive experiences, you should be able to reap the benefits in customer acquisition as well as retention.

Stay ahead of your competition by adopting this early, and try to give your users something they need rather than resorting to cheap gimmicks.