Alice Through The Looking Glass: Augmented Reality in the Real World

  |  October 28, 2013   |  Comments

Like Alice Through The Looking Glass, we become visitors navigating through the real AR world, which is not unlike charting visitor conversion paths in a website from the home page to the checkout confirmation page.

shutterstock-98596652What if I told you there is technology coming available today that can increase customer engagement, revenue and customer LTV by an order of magnitude? Pretty interesting? Read on.

Have you heard of Google Glass? It's a type of augmented reality/vision application that I believe can do just that.

We all know that web analytics has given us the power to optimize web pages and sites around behaviors leading to conversion events, either small or large. One page to the next; one form field to the following, and then on to purchase and checkout. We know how social and mobile analytics has allowed us to gamify social and mobile and to encourage user engagement based conversion events like shares, Likes, leaderboard scores, purchases and points. We know about the success of game companies like Zynga, in analyzing behavior to monetize games.

Today, with a new generation of AR apps, we can capture what the user is seeing and subsequently their behaviors, through the lenses of Google Glass or your smartphone camera. We can then optimize their engagement, as we do in games.

Like Alice Through The Looking Glass, we become visitors navigating through the real AR world, which is not unlike charting visitor conversion paths in a website from the home page to the checkout confirmation page. The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sensory enhancements over a real-world environment in real-time.

Since we can capture so much AR data from the cameras in our phones, I've begun to think about how we view the real world through our mobile device screens. From an analytics perspective, I believe it's similar to the way we view a web page as a visitor on a computer screen. The biggest difference is that since the viewer is in a mobile app (assuming they opt in) they are giving us significantly more information.

I've concentrated on understanding how vision actions/metrics and behaviors captured by the lenses can be coupled with conversion metrics from the app to increase engagement. Ultimately, we need to understand how it affects customer LTV, another form of convergence analytics we've been writing about.


We need to be able to optimize the experience like we optimize a website experience. 

Retailers are beginning to ask customers (through a physical sign or display) to look at and engage with this product, display or sign, then capture and share a picture of the item on your social media.

We tell them that if they share the picture at checkout, they'll get 10 percent discount. Do it again at another time and get 20 percent off. More Facebook Likes, bigger discounts and more badges. We may ask them if they want to visit the website for more information, buy it now or perhaps watch the new episode featuring the product on their favorite Hulu show.

Today, big data driven analytics, coupled with augmented reality applications and key metrics, gives us the ability to create "analytics for the real world." There are many companies besides Google leading the charge in AR and vision applications.

But AR is not just for the biggest technology companies, as other small companies, like Metaio and ARPA Solutions, are entering the fray and producing stunning products and software that can recognize objects, people,  and colors.

Combine those capabilities with user profile information and the many other phone signals (like GPS) and you have built a very powerful solution for effective marketing.

Homepage and article images courtesy of Shutterstock.

Editor's Note 11/01/2013: Portions of this article have been redacted at the columnist's request.

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Rand Schulman

Rand Schulman is a pioneer in digital marketing and new media. He was founder and CEO of one of the first SaaS-based web-analytics companies, Keylime Software (Yahoo) and lead products and strategy at Webtrends; was CMO of WebSideStory(Omniture/Adobe) through its IPO; was general manager of Unica's Internet Division (IBM); and is a co-founder and board director, and is an emeritus board director of the DAA. He's been a trustee of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation and is an executive-in-residence at the University of the Pacific for New Media and Marketing and was managing partner at SchulmanThorogood Group.

He is currently board member and advises numerous mobile and social media companies and is a managing partner with Efectyv Digital. You can contact Rand at or follow him on Twitter at @randschulman.

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