Many analysts gush that augmented reality (AR) marketing represents the future of engaging with customers, and they talk about how investing in it is a surefire way for companies to remain competitive.
However, when experts weigh in about AR, they often overlook many of the challenges that make it difficult or impossible for companies to take advantage of. Here are six of them.
1. Doubts About Potential Success
Despite what some people may think after reading about AR topics, the technology itself does not guarantee success or even necessarily offer a high likelihood of achieving it. That reality could seed doubts in the minds of anyone who might invest in AR. Some startups focusing on the technology have encountered challenges that remind people it does not have a built-in return on investment.
The issues dealt with by some AR startups should not cause marketers to shy away from it entirely. However, as they research to determine if they’re ready to put money toward AR, they’ll likely come across some news coverage that highlights how companies are still working out the kinks when exploring the capabilities.
2. Fears About Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities
Besides offering new ways for marketers to reach out to their target audiences, AR provides potential vulnerabilities for cybercriminals to exploit. A Deloitte piece looked at applications for AR, as well as virtual reality (VR), which is another emerging technology. It pointed out that AR requires more data points compared to some VR content, particularly concerning location or information related to health and wellness.
Most marketers collect information from the people who use their apps, and individuals are accustomed to giving up their details in exchange for interacting with the content. Analysts believe AR could become the next technology that captures the attention of hackers. If a cybercriminal has information about a person’s location, it may then be possible to track the individual’s movements and make educated guesses about what they’re doing.
Some experts also bring up that if an AR app automatically posts a picture of someone to a social media app like Facebook, the facial recognition technology used by that platform to assist with image tagging could identify someone by name. That could cause problems if several friends use an AR app to take a picture together, but only one of them wants to have their name associated with the image.
These kinds of cybersecurity threats to AR could have disastrous ramifications for the companies that choose to connect with target audiences via the technology. Then, something meant to offer fun or excitement to a brand’s customers could create unintentional data risks.
3. Return-on-Investment Measurement Difficulties
Another challenge could arise if marketers want to use AR but realize it’s more difficult than anticipated to measure the return on investment.
In January 2018, Boston Consulting Group conducted a survey to get more details about marketers’ experiences with using AR. When asked about the barriers preventing them from increasing their AR spending, 42% of the marketing executives polled mentioned that it was difficult to measure the impact or return on investment (ROI) regarding AR. Similarly, 27% said they did not have robust measuring capabilities.
Those findings are troublesome, especially if marketing team members are fully on board about working with AR but need to get nods of approval from their superiors first. If people admit they don’t have effective ways to measure the ROI, the decision-makers at a company could understandably assert that they need concrete proof of the payoff before allocating funds for AI investments.
4. Uncertainty About Which AR Investments Make Sense
Since AR is a relatively new technology, companies have few models they can use to emulate the success of past projects. AR hit the mainstream thanks to “Pokémon Go,” but it’s not feasible for dozens of other businesses to take the same approach as that app.
As such, some brands faltered with their AR investments because those efforts capitalized on the “wow” factor but didn’t deliver enough substance. Sometimes, companies make AR experiences that merely project an image into the real-world environment. However, it’s preferable to use AR in ways that enhance a person’s world and don’t use novelty as a crutch.
When they investigate how to make AR applicable to audiences, the marketing teams at many companies will likely have disagreements about how to proceed with a campaign. When that happens, companies may end up going with the concepts that look flashy and grab momentary attention but do not generate lasting impressions on a viewer.
5. The Perception That AR Is Too Expensive
A common belief about using AR for marketing is that it’s a costly option. If marketers believe that strongly enough, they might write off the idea of AR without looking into it further.
Indeed, some AR applications are expensive to develop, and the associated costs are too high for some companies. The good news is that there is a range of ways to use AR, and some of the possibilities suit companies with low budgets.
For example, one of the possibilities is for marketers to use an app that enables people to watch videos or see other interactive content after aiming their smartphones at a business card. Going with that approach only requires spending about $100 in some cases.
6. Lawsuit Potential
Marketers also need to be aware of lawsuits and other legal outcomes that could potentially impact AR usage. In one recent instance, county representatives in Wisconsin sued an augmented reality app developer regarding permits to play AR games in public parks. The county officials argued that people playing “Pokémon Go” negatively affected the parks by leaving trash in their wake.
They believed developers should get the same kinds of permits that event organizers do before hosting a summertime concert, for example. In that case, the development company was making a poker app that used AR, and it seems more difficult to argue such a game would have the same effect as “Pokémon Go.”
The parties eventually settled after the court agreed such permits violated the free speech rights of the development company. Marketers must anticipate future events like this one and evaluate how such legal proceedings might negatively affect them.
Augmented reality is all about helping people escape what’s real for a few minutes, and that means they’ll often get engrossed as they watch the technology at work. A broader example of lawsuit potential might be if someone engages in a smartphone AR app and gets so distracted they lose awareness of other people in their environment and cause injuries.
Perhaps that’s more likely to happen when people wear VR headsets, since they cover the eyes and often have immersive audio components.
However, it’s worth remembering that people are also trying to develop AR glasses. If those reach the point of mainstream use, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where someone uses them while walking in a busy area and collides with another person.
No Need to Avoid Adoption
When marketers consider these challenges, they should also keep in mind that any possible downside should not necessarily make them decide not to move forward AR. Instead, they need to take a broad look at the pros and cons to make well-informed decisions.
Kayla Matthews is a digital marketing journalist and writer whose work has been published on Outbrain, Marketing Dive, Contently and Inc.com, among others. To read more from Kayla, please visit her personal blog at
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