Augmented reality (AR) is poised to significantly reshape the reality of advertising and shopping, with the consumer AR sector expected to reach $14 billion by 2021 – a 1,335% increase from 2016.

As brands begin to integrate AR into their ad campaigns, both consumers and advertisers will witness the benefits. By providing new and versatile ways for consumers to interact with products, such ads promote higher engagement, boosting advertisers’ monetisation.

A study by OmniVirt found that 360-degree virtual reality ads outperformed two-dimensional photos by 300% in click-through rates. Emphasising their receptiveness to such content, 86% of consumers opted to interact with interactive videos when presented with them.

Seeking to capitalise on AR advertising’s potential, platforms like Snapchat and Facebook have rolled out AR ads – and consumers have proven receptive. For example, a recent Foot Locker AR ad campaign with Jordan Brand on Snapchat attests to the tremendous potential of the format. Viewers watched the ads for an average of 45 seconds, and the campaign generated more than 4 million impressions.

To stay on top of industry trends and offer consumers the innovative experiences they have come to expect, advertisers can’t afford to ignore the AR revolution. Brands can leverage AR ads to demonstrate brand relevance and improve conversion rates, which in turn will make their ad inventory more attractive to buyers.

However, given that not all brands have the immense resources of Facebook, Google, and Snap, how can they best take advantage of the trend to ensure optimal user experiences and greater monetisation? Budget shouldn’t be a barrier to entry, so here are six actionable tips for brands of every size to start implementing now.

1. Determine the best AR timeline for your brand

Don’t think of AR as a one-time gimmick or a quick and easy way to spark the wow factor. AR should instead be incorporated into your brand’s long-term strategy and should be used consistently.

It’s essential to start planning your AR efforts as soon as possible. Given the rapid proliferation of AR-equipped devices and the technology’s growing role in the advertising world, ensuring that you have a plan in place today is the first defence against playing catch-up with your competitors down the road.

2. Use data to underpin the AR experience and enhance personalisation

Whether you use data from your own brand or a third party, make sure that you’re tailoring the AR experience to the reality of what consumers want and need. The more personalised the user experience, the higher the likelihood of conversions.

3. Take advantage of social media tools already offering AR

Start off with a Snapchat-based AR campaign now, or perhaps use Facebook’s coming AR News Feed service. Snapchat has lowered its prices, with cost per thousand impressions (CPMs) costing between $3 to $6. It’s an investment worth making for key audiences: the platform is mounting a comeback against rival Instagram, particularly among younger US users.

4. Ensure the ad is functional

An enticing lens or filter is a great start but you also want to ensure that it’s practical and functional. The ad must integrate with the physical world in a natural way while allowing consumers to become fully immersed within the branded experience – otherwise, there’s no genuine value-add.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Most smartphone users don’t download any new apps in a given month. Rather than moving heaven and earth to convince them to change their behaviour, integrate AR into your pre-existing mobile platforms or branded apps.

In-app advertising provides the added benefit of targeting users where they’re spending most of their time; not only are users spending more time than ever on their mobile devices, they’re spending nearly 90% of that time using apps.

6. Remain true to your brand while being original

Whether you’re an educational app or a beauty product, the AR branded experience you offer consumers should be unique while remaining consistent with your brand identity. This helps create added value over entertainment and will engender increased brand loyalty.

AR’s greatest impact in advertising may lie several years down the line but that’s no excuse for your brand to wait for others to refine the art before making your own move. By formulating your AR strategy today, you’ll position your brand to reap the rewards for years to come.