By David Ripert, CEO and co-founder at Poplar Studio (www.poplar.studio)
Halloween – usually a fiendishly busy fixture in the hospitality calendar – is only a couple of weeks away and promises to be frightfully different to previous years.With tighter lockdown restrictions spelling the end for traditional trick or treating and fancy dress events, business owners will need alternative ways to engage customers, maintain brand engagement and generally get the party startled.
One way businesses can get ahead of the carve and differentiate themselves from competitors is through augmented reality (AR). Across many industries, AR’s ability to create an immersive, interactive consumer experience is changing the way brands and companies present themselves.
WHAT IS AR?
Before we go further, it’s worth taking a moment to establish exactly what AR is. AR changes the way customers perceive their physical environments by using virtual features like video and sound. It differs from virtual reality (VR) – which places users in a completely virtual world – in that it enables individuals to experience an extra layer of information in addition to what they see around them.
Usually accessed through a smartphone,AR’s capacity for storytelling allows businesses to enhance each customer’s experience. In the hospitality industry,AR is becoming a crucial technology for strengthening customer engagement. From promotional effects on social media to augmented menus,AR enables business to reinvigorate physical environments otherwise limited by social distancing measures.
Halloween – with its links to the supernatural – represents an eeriesistible chance to explore the opportunities AR can bring to hospitality businesses. Below, sink your fangs into some practical examples of what that might look like across various hospitality sectors.
INTERACTIVE HOTEL ENVIRONMENTS
AR can let guests explore new dimensions to their hotel rooms, a particularly valuable feature as outdoor movement continues to be restricted by lockdown measures. At Halloween, who knows what might be lurk- ing under the bed or behind the wardrobe – possibly an ancient Egyptian mummy or a ghoulish spectre.With AR, guests view their room through their smartphones and find out.
Launching a new product without being able to hold a physical launch event is a challenge. One alternative way to engage customers is to create interactive games which draw attention to the product.
Eerie AR experiences like this ‘The Thing’ hand – released along side the 2019 ‘The Addams Family’DVD- can be really powerful when promoting new products.With Halloween, the possibilities for spooky Halloween-themed games – maybe involving carving pumpkins or collecting sweets – are truly endless.
With COVID-19 restrictions making physical menus a thing of the past, many restaurants are turning to augmented menus instead.These are an interactive way for customers to explore menu items from the phone, enabling them to find out ingredients and calorie information without the need for excessive contact with a waiter.
As well as enhancing COVID-security, the integration of augmented menus into a mobile ordering app is a great way for restaurants to stand out from the competition at Halloween. Children love content which is interactive – menus with witches flying across or spiders crawling down the side are an ideal way to make the process of ordering food more fun.
Interactive maps – where guests can point their smartphones at a map to access information about retailers or restaurants with special Halloween promotions – are another great way for hoteliers to integrate AR into their product.
As well as maps, hotel rooms could be equipped with AR-based guides, which could inform guests of Halloween-themed activities or points of interest in the local area.
Finally, one really effective way AR can be used to educate customers about products is through the use of portals – like this Jack Daniels campaign which transported users to its Lynchburg factory to learn about the manufacturing process behind the whiskey.
Portals can instil a real sense of brand loyalty as customers find out more about your product. Halloween presents an opportune moment to get creative with portals – with travel still restricted, customers need alternative, spookier ways to discover background information about companies – perhaps they could be taken back in time to witness a company’s origin story unfold firsthand.
However AR is integrated, the technology can really set businesses apart from their competitors. Customers – particularly those who are younger and more tech-savvy – are increasingly aware of the power of AR to improve experiences by enhancing their physical surroundings. Halloween – where everything is not as it seems – represents a great chance to (trick or) treat your customers to the future of hospitality.