028: Augmented Reality: The New Standard for Buying Art
Welcome to AR 101 – What Augmented Reality is, why it's a dream come true for fine artists and photographers, and how to offer it right through your website.
Coming up on today's version of The Art Marketing podcast, we're talking about what is augmented reality, AR, its history and some context. We're going to get into what it means for the future of selling art, both online and offline, and we're going to address why we believe all artists are going to want to know about it, and certainly, certainly, certainly be thinking about it.
Hey guys, Patrick with you today. Really, really just fired up back, been on a bit of a hiatus recently, been a way for a bit. Been a while since we released a new episode, why? We, basically, created and launched the biggest feature we ever had as a company, so it's been all hands on deck to get that baby out the door. We're calling the feature Live Preview with AR, Augmented Reality. On today's podcast I want to give you a large part of the why. Why this feature, why now, and what it portends for the hard-working artist out there, which we really do believe is a whole, whole lot. We believe fundamentally, as a company, that AR is going to forever change how art is previewed and sold, and not just art, how a whole tremendous amount of physical goods are bought and sold out there.
Let's get into the definition, if you will, of AR, of augmented reality. I think whilst defining that it's probably best to cover both of them because you hear about its older brother more than you hear about AR or at least in my role that's been the case. There's virtual reality, VR, and augmented reality, AR, otherwise known as the realities. What is the real difference? I read an explanation recently that I liked. When you're thinking through virtual reality versus augmented reality think about going scuba diving versus going to the aquarium. Those are the two experiences that'll help you understand it, I think. Virtual reality is being taken out of the world, the environment you're in, you put on a headset and you are transported to a new world, in this case, you're scuba diving in the water with the sharks, you're immersed, you're in there with them, you've left your world.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, gives you a virtual layer in the real world that you're in, so instead of scuba diving in the water with the sharks with augmented reality it's just like you're at the aquarium. You're sitting in your living room, but you've got a bunch of fish swimming around in front of you. You're not transported anywhere, you don't have a mask on. I think it's a helpful way to think about it, I hope that somewhat made sense. I think if you are making or selling physical art whether it hangs on the wall, sits on a shelf, or it's a sculpture in the garden it just makes such a tremendous amount of sense, it's so powerful.
Let me further explain because, obviously, this is a podcast and we don't have the aid of visual things to go over. One of the most obvious examples of AR that pretty much everybody's seen and can relate to. Yes, there's the movie version of a fighter pilot, or a race car driver, or a motorcycle die where he's looking out of his helmet or his windshield and there's a display, a heads-up display. It's telling you how fast you're going. Or, in the fighter example, that there's the helicopter on your six. Everybody's seen that in a movie, that's an example of augmented reality. It's a layer on top of the real world that you're seeing.
The one you've probably seen most frequently recently, if you're on social media at all, is when people take selfies and they put the bunny ears on, or the cat face on, or the crown, or the tiara, or the monocle. Or they're a rabbit and you're eating carrots, or you're doing the face swap thing, or the little dog where his tongue rolls out and comes back into his mouth. Let's be honest, I see just as many parents doing that as I do small children, that is augmented reality. That's the one that people see most often.
I think, if you have any doubts whatsoever about whether or not it's the future, it's what's coming, I think a good practice is to always look at what the 800 pound gorillas are doing. Who am I talking about? I mean the Facebooks, the Googles. What are they doubling down on right now? What are they hammering? To a large extent, it's AR. AR is certainly here, VR that's got a ways to come. Nobody likes wearing a mask, that's just too weird. For this augmented reality where it's a blend of the real life, what you see and you just get this added layer of value it's absolutely coming.
The recent examples in tech land these days, these big companies, Facebook, Google, Apple, they have a yearly or a bi-yearly event where they build their hype cycle, they announce everything, and you get a window into what's to come for the company. I believe somewhere in May Facebook, I think it may have been both of them, both Facebook and, excuse me, Google had their events, F8 and Google IO, and then apple just had theirs in the last week.
Now, Facebook's was really interesting because their AR implementations was through Sephora and through Nike that they showed off. With Sephora, you can grab your phone, hold it up to your face, and rotate through the Sephora colors of lipstick on your lips before you buy them, pretty cool. With Nike, similar thing, you could see the shoes, rotate them around, scale them up, scale them down, play with them. That with less cool for me, but still cool. That was on the Facebook side.
On the Google side they announced in a future version of Google Maps coming soon to a Google phone near you, you can hold your phone up when you're walking through a city using Google Maps and instead of what direction am I supposed to go here on 50th Street, is it right or is it left, north or south? I can't tell, the phone's rotated wrong and it's just weird. You hold the camera of the phone up and arrows will say go left here, go left on 52nd Street, so I think that's really powerful. They also have this thing called Google Lens, which is amazing. You can hold it up to landmarks, and buildings, and various other things in our real, natural world and it'll spit out layers information on top of it almost like a visual search engine. Instead of typing or talking something you hold it up, the camera sees what it is, and it tells you what it is. Those were their versions of AR, which are pretty impressive.
When you get to talking about technology there's the thing called the hype cycle, and the hype cycle says we tend to overestimate and over hype what a technology can do in its early days, and we tend to underestimate what a technology can do in the long term. I think that is just so true. It comes out that way for every single solitary technology. For example, podcasting. Podcasting was invented when that first iPod came out, the old school, giant hard drive looking one with the little click wheel. I loved that thing. That was when podcasting came out. Now, here we are, how many years later, and it's finally starting to see its genesis, so over hyped in the short term, under hyped in the long-term where it's really blowing up. I think that's a good way to think about it.
With AR when it was invented in 1968, all these technologies [inaudible 00:07:12] invented way back in the day and didn't come to prominence. I think, it's been invented, it's been out for a while where it was over-hyped, hello Google Glasses, those things failed miserably. Now, I think, it's finally set in where everything's about to change, it's just about to explode.
What does it look like in art context? You probably figured it out by now. You hold your phone, or your tablet up to the empty space that you have on the wall, your art is projected virtually onto that wall through the camera on your phone or iPad, you see it on the screen, and you could scale it up, scale it down, move it left, move it right, see if it fits, see if it works on your wall. You can rotate through your entire catalog of stuff that you have online and look at them one after another. Does it fit here? Does it fit there? You can screenshot it, and so look at the screenshot images, let's see if a 24 x 36 is going to be better in this space or a 12 x 6. Screenshot both of them and just go back and forth and look at those two things. It's an amazing, amazing technology. I gave the examples earlier some of them are novelty, in my opinion, but when you're selling a physical good in a confined space that you need to visualize, art is one of the tailor-made best, best physical goods that might possibly work for augmented reality. It's absolutely fantastic.
Now, AR's nothing new, it's been around for a while now, and it's not even knew for the arts community. Some of the biggest art sellers in the world, take your art.coms, your Fine Art Americas, have had apps for years and years running this technology. When you get into the app store and you look at the reviews on these apps, you see a lot of negative feedback, but I don't think it's their fault. You see a lot of negative feedback one, because the technology when these guys try to do it was really, really new. Two, building apps is not the core competency of either of those two companies. Three, it was so new everybody ran into bugs all over the place and the app was just not the best experience for it. When you got past those though and you started reading some of the reviews where this technology absolutely facilitated and helped create sales it becomes quite profound.
I think when you look at it like that, in totality, it's fantastic. Those apps were critically important, they represented AR version 1.0 and, I think, played a big, big role to usher in what, we're going to be calling, AR 2.0. To do that let's just take a little trip down memory lane. I was doing some Googling and when's the last time you guys heard this commercial, do you remember?
What's great about the iPhone is that if you want to check snow conditions on the mountain, there's an app for that. If you want to check how many calories are in your lunch, there's an app for that.
There's an app for that. By the way, that commercial's from 2009, that's how long ago that was. There very well might be an app for everything, but things have changed, the problem is that nobody's downloading those apps anymore. Aside from the major apps, the big dogs, the Googles, the Facebooks app downloads in general, the data on it, is just absolutely plummeting. People are using them, downloading them less and less. Most everybody is stuck in this small little ecosystem of the major apps and that's all they really get, all they really download, all they really live in. You take that aspect of it, you couple the fact that apps are really expensive to create and constantly update. New iOS comes out, new Android comes out, if your stuff working? Do you have to update it? Hire the programmer, get them back out? You would think that if somebody really wanted your product it's not that much friction to get them to download an app, but the data just says otherwise. It just does, it's super, super clear.
Moreover, most people they're going to come to your website even if they would download the app they're not going to know you have one, they're not going to expect it. Further, what would an individual artist or online merchant do? Are they all going to go and pay to get an app developed, so that they can have augmented reality on their site, as well as keep it up-to-date? No, I don't think so. There's a myriad of reasons why the app level experience was 1.0, we should all be extremely grateful for those pioneers getting that out and shipping it out the door to let people touch and taste it, but it's time for 2.0. It's time for the next generation experience.
As you think through what that might look at we certainly were asking ourselves what does the ideal art buying experience look like? What would that look like? What is the number one way people would love to buy art? In a perfect world, your king, you're sitting in a chair, you're sitting in your castle, king of the castle, how do you want to buy art? I think, for most people, they would say something along the lines of, "I'd like to be sitting down on my couch, looking at the empty space on my wall," perhaps have a glass of wine in your hand, I'd probably have a beer, but it's neither here nor there, "The artist themselves would come over to the house and that they would start putting the pieces up on my wall, letting me look at them, moving them down, moving them up, rotating them out, rotating them back in, and I get to experience all of that with an adult beverage on my couch, and get to pick out the one that I like the most, that fits in my space, that has the right vibe, that goes with my decor." That's probably the ideal art buying experience for most people. The visual piece there is just so insanely critical.
The problem with this experience is while ideal, it certainly does not scale. It's neither practical nor possible for artists to that at scale, and augmented reality, just absolutely, it solves this problem. It solves this problem in the most unique way that you could. The concept of projection selling is not new. The photographers have been doing the hackey version of this for years. Excuse me, they ask the clients, "Will you send me a couple of pictures of your wall and I'll go ahead and pull those things into Photoshop, grab the painting, maybe do some tweaking to the corners, or grab the photograph do some tweaking to the corners, get it to fit right on that wall with the right angles, and send a couple of them back you can visualize it on your wall." Great hack, super awesome when it works, but again it's sub-optimal because it doesn't scale, and you can't be doing it 24/7.
I think, that ideal experience that we mentioned some artists, I should say, have been doing that. Like the first episode of this podcast we interviewed Kim Vergil who sold five pieces just by doing this. Client came to the house, wanted to buy one, she's like, "Let me hand deliver it," showed up with 5 or 10 other ones, rotated them through, he bought five more. It's the way to do it, that visual ditch and it's not new. How often has this been used in other industries? How much have we all felt this before? If you're selling cars, what is the mantra? Get them to test drive it, get them to test drive it. Get them sitting in it, and test driving it. Let them hit the gas, smell the leather, roll down the windows, stopped at a light is the hot babe who's next to you and she checks you out in your car. You visualize you in the car, get them to the test drive.
If it's jewelry salesman are ever so eager to have you try on that ring, or necklace, or earrings, or whatever it might be because they want you to visualize that piece on you, see what it feels like to touch it, taste it. If it's a house they hold open houses, they want you to walk through it. Why? Quite literally, so you can visualize owning it to yourself, so you can touch and taste it, create the emotional connection of you in it together, to facilitate those subtle changes in your brain chemistry that ever so effectively and biologically grease the skids for the buying decision.
By the way, side note, my wife and I were looking at houses yesterday and there are some nude builds in the town that we're in so re they're empty, they're still doing some of the finishing touches. The realtor was discussing about how big of a problem he's having because it's a hot real estate market and he's having to show them a bunch, but he's not getting a bunch of offers. He said is usually the case because until the stager comes in and all the furniture is put inside of the house buyers have a problem visualizing what the house is going to look like, and it's just a house at that point, it doesn't shift gears to a home. I was like, whoa, that was profound. Boy, is that the case because most people can't visualize it until it's full of furniture and that's when they fall in love with it.
Let's talk about augmented reality 2.0. As I mentioned earlier ... Or did I mention earlier? 1.0 was the app experience, 2.0 is the seamless on your website experience. It'll just work on your website, with your camera, or your iPad, no apps to download, no friction. You visit a website, you press a button on your phone or iPad and it just works. You ... or a customer I should say can come to your website say, "I want to look at that piece of art, I want it on my wall, they can project it onto their wall in AR, size it up, size it down. They don't like that image they can rotate to the next, rotate back, take the screenshots, close that little AR experience and then they're right on your shopping cart, and they can click 'buy now.' That's how the 2.0 works, and it is as close to a friction free experience, which is very, very nice for conversion rates, as it gets.
Let's talk about some experiences as in how you would actually use it. I'll play out three different scenarios. Let's say you're Bob, what's up Bob. Now, Bob is a photographer represented by a gallery. He's got a bunch of his work in the gallery. Potential customer walked in, liked a piece, they were in a hurry. The gallery owner let them know that they could see it in augmented reality of home and emailed them a link. Now, the buyer, goes home is having the aforementioned glass of wine in the night, pulls out their phone, looks at the piece on the wall, sees that it's the right size, sees that it matches their decor, and goes right back to the gallery the next day and buys it. Awesome, good job Bob.
What about Jackie? Let's talk about Jackie, what's up Jackie. She's a watercolor artist and she specializes in the beaches of Southern California, some beautiful beaches. She exhibits up and down the coast at art fairs, she's got a show in San Luis Obispo, a couple were close on a few pieces but they needed to go home and measure, they don't know if it fits on the wall. Jackie says no problem, tells them to her website when they get home, and they take a card that's got her website address on it. They go home, the family together looks in augmented reality at the various different pieces, in various different locations of their home, realizes that it's a great fit and they order directly from Jackie's website.
What about Rita? You've been following Rita on social media for a while now, you really liked her stuff, and you're tired, you're just tired of that empty space on your wall. You pull out your phone, you pull up Rita's website, and you start rotating around on the wall. You screenshot a whole bunch of them and you wait for your husband to get home, when your husband gets home the two of you are going to discuss, he's going to take a look at the screenshots, you're going to rotate through them back and forth and say, "You know what? This is the piece for us, let's go ahead and buy it." You go to the site online and you make the purchase.
Those would be three scenarios where it would potential really be difficult without the use of augmented reality to be able to visualize that art, on that wall, in that period of time, and get the job done in a compelling fashion. It's just such a profound thing when you actually see it. It's amazing. Let me tell you, if you're an artist that sells high-end art, AR is going to be your best friend. Expensive, original, or limited editions, the types of buying decisions that are high dollar, high ticket amounts you guys are so stoked because it gives you the try it before you buy it scenario, which is so key. They're going to be making big investments, they really want to love that thing on their wall.
Even if you don't sell online, if you never plan on selling online, all good. Even if you don't do any marketing online at all, fine, but if you're allowed just one piece of digital technology in your business it's a great one to pick because when you're selling in person, [cons-ult-at-ively 00:19:27] or otherwise you can rotate through the pieces, and show it on the wall, and to get that visual piece taken care of. The one piece of technology that you could potentially use no website person. Even if you have to call the people up and let them know that it's a feature, if they want to use it on their own. It's just so powerful in so many different facets.
You get to the end of the road of this and you're like, "Okay, is that it?" As it turns out, no, that's not it. It seems to me that AR is the gift that keeps on giving. What do I mean? It just affords the creative artist out there the opportunity to be creative and either a) record your screen or b) take screenshots of AR in the wild then share those videos and images in your various different marketing channels.
One of the continuing themes that always pops up, what do I share on social media? I don't know what share on social media? Should I take video? Should I take still shots? Should I show my studio? What can I talk about? Should I talk about things that I do with my art? Should I talk about things that are connected to my art? The answer is yes to all of that. I think a lot of artists struggle, not all, but a lot of artists struggle with what they should be putting out there in social media. Oh my gosh, does AR do well. Let me qualify that.
One of the guys that works here on the marketing team is Taylor. Taylor lives in Chicago, we have a distributed team, and I was like, "Taylor, I love," any Ferris Bueller fans out there? I love that Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, I don't know if I'm pronouncing that right, by Seurat. I was like, "Taylor, take your phone, go down to that museum, and see if you can't pull it off right next to that painting." Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Goes down to the museum and he holds his phone up, don't worry I'm going to put a video in the show notes you get to see this one, and he's projecting Art Storefronts' customer's art right next to Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. That's a killer video for Instagram or Facebook, that's amazing.
You ever see the HGTV show, Fixer Upper, or whatever? My wife loves that one. They have this painted fake façade of the house, or maybe what it used to look like, and they pull it apart, and you get to see what your fixer-upper looks like. You can do that if you're a landscape artist, or a photographer, or whatever of any kind. You can show what it was when you shot it and then move the AR away and show what it looks like in real life, and then show when you shot it, or you painted it, you could do that. Or walk into the Four Seasons in your town, or the Ritz, or the Belmont, or whatever nice hotel you have in your town and go and protect your art on one of the empty walls and say, "Huge thanks to the Four Seasons for featuring my collection this month, if you want to see it just come visit the Four Seasons. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha #nobigdeal."
There's so many different things you can do. If you're a photographer or a painter that does portraiture you can go ahead in augmented reality, the guys in the office have a blast at this, they take the portrait and then they just put it on each other's bodies inside the office. You could do that, you could put your portraiture on top of a celebrity's body, or a statue, or a basketball player. It just gives you some really creative light, and fun ways to show your art in a [inaudible 00:22:41], [non-market-y 00:22:41] way that works really well on social media. Oh by the way, all of that is shot on your cell phone or your iPad, so it's already in great shape for social media as well as any other traditional digital marketing material. It's really profound what you can do with it. I absolutely believe it's going to be the future. Yes, it's still a little bit early in the game, but when you see it working in the wild I think you're totally, totally going to be blown away.
If I piqued your interest enough to take a look, good. I'm going to put some links in the show notes or you can just Google Art Storefronts, you can go to the site. We've got a live version running there that you can check out, that I think is really impressive. I think you'll enjoy it.
Moreover, to celebrate our prestigious launch, as it were, we're going to do a giveaway of sorts, which I love. You've seen or heard this podcast for any amount of time, you see me talk about the Facebook giveaway contest with messenger and mini chat, we absolutely love running those. What are we going to do? We're going to run one and we're going to give away a free five year subscription to Art Storefronts with, you got it, the Live Preview with AR baked in standard. We're going to be starting that giveaway on Monday, so if you're listening to this a couple of months down the line then the contest is probably over, but for the rest of you guys if you want to enter this podcast is going to drop on a Thursday, the weekend we'll go through, and it'll be ready to go on Monday, which is June something or other, June 18th. If you want to enter that, you certainly can. We'll have details on our Facebook page about that, highly recommend you check it out, and I'll leave it there.
I want to say thanks again for listening, really fired up about AR, and thanks for listening. Have a great day.
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We help artists & photographers open and run their own art gallery business online.