Apple Vision: should marketers now take Mixed Reality seriously as a performance channel?

Next big thing or Google Glass? Introducing Apple Vision Pro, Apple CEO Tim Cook claims we have entered a “new era for computing”, but what about advertising? Is mixed reality about to become a viable performance marketing channel driving sales and conversions in a blended physical and digital world? The experts have their say.

Apple recently unveiled Apple Vision Pro - it’s first spatial computer - which blends digital technology with the physical world “while allowing users to stay present and connected to others” and – crucially to marketers – interact with digital products in the real world.

Vision Pro is an mixed reality (MR) tool that acts as a canvas for apps and has moved beyond the boundaries of traditional display technology with the introduction of a three-dimensional interface controlled by a user’s eyes, hands and voice.

The product is priced at an eye-watering $3,499, similar to its closest competitor the Microsoft Hololens 2 and more than twice that of the VR-based Meta Quest Pro, which retails at around $1,500. But Apple is hoping its game changing technology offered and reputation among fans for delivering high quality experiences will bring in enough paying users – meaning that marketers will follow.

Worn by the user much in the same way as a more traditional VR headset, Vision Pro features what Apple claims to be the world's first spatial operation system, visionOS.

VisionOS allows users to interact with digital content as if it was physically present in their space.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, said the innovation “marks the beginning of a new era for computing”.

He continued: “Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing.”

Will AR soon become a viable performance marketing channel?

This isn’t the first time Apple has cried wolf on both augmented and mixed reality’s future success however, with Google Glass famously failing to hit the mainstream back in 2014.

So what does Vision Pro mean for marketers? Are we looking at technology that will finally make AR a viable performance channel? Or is this simply Google Glass 2.0? PMW asked the experts.

“The ‘burps’ of mainstream, novelty interest’

Amy Wright, Head of Creative Strategy at Automated Creative believes Apple may have finally cracked the code on a version of AR that has the capacity for longevity within the mainstream, going beyond what we’ve seen before.

She said: “It’s important when asking these questions not to forget that it’s less about the tech itself and more about the application. So far, in terms of AR, we’ve seen ‘burps’ of mainstream, novelty interest - Niantic’s Pokémon Go or Pikmin mobile games; ABBA Voyage: the AR concert experience and Google Glass to name a few.

"What’s been lacking, so far, for wider adoption, is genuine entertainment value. But Apple is a company with a proven track record when it comes to driving mass technology adoption. It has the data from its existing infrastructure and entertainment properties that drive consumer interest. So, watch with interest as the entry price point stabilises after early adopters: Apple Vision Pro – its first spatial computer - could indeed be the next iPhone. And Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO may not be wrong when he describes it as ‘the beginning of a new era for computing’.”

In terms of specific application for marketers, James Mortimer, Paid Social Director at iCrossing said: "Part of the Vision Pro demo included the examples of 3D models being displayed in the headset, potentially this could be used to show consumers actual products before they buy."

Jed Just, Creative Technology Lead at SharpEnd, added: "It is most effective when providing a contextually relevant and useful offering to the consumer, i.e. using physical product packaging as an anchor for AR experiences, or delivering transformative content in a physical environment like retail spaces."

“Nothing beats being able to feel the content as if it were yours already”

Marc Fischli, Executive Managing Director of EMEA at Criteo, is similarly buoyant on the potential Vision Pro has to one day make it into mainstream advertising, citing consumers' propensity for shopping in stores as a particular opportunity.

He said: “Our research highlights that most consumers in the UK still opt to go shopping in stores when they have the time. In fact, 83% of shoppers report making a recent purchase in a retail store having browsed relevant products online first because they prefer a blend of online-and-offline shopping experiences.

“AR offers brands and retailers a chance to take this a step further into immersive brand experiences. Nothing beats being able to feel the content as if it were yours already; from trying on digital diamonds, to wandering around your potential new kitchen.”

A move towards ‘commerce media'

However, he warns that AR still needs to find a way to secure enough consumer data to accurately identify what products will have enough demand to fit within an AR campaign.

“While this gives reason to trust in the viability of AR as a performance channel, any AR ad product needs to be rationalised against demand. This is where commerce data comes in — to focus product recommendations on what millions of purchases are telling the business,” he continued.

“We’re seeing an accelerating trend in advertising towards what we call ‘commerce media’, where advertising campaigns across the open web are centred around this kind of transactional shopping data. AR will need to take a leaf from commerce media’s book to unlock its true potential.”