AUSTIN, TX: Office Depot, the retail group, believes augmented reality (AR) could serve a variety of purposes when it comes to engaging consumers and making products increasingly interactive.

Emery Skolfield, Office Depot's senior director/digital marketing, discussed this subject at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

Drawing on the experience gained during two back-to-school campaigns conducted with Aurasma, HP's virtual-reality tool, he expressed optimism about the role such technology may soon play for brands.

"We see a lot of different potential and use cases for this in the future," said Skolfield. (For more, including details of a campaign involving One Direction, read Warc's exclusive report: Augmented reality helps Office Depot beat the back-to-school blues.)

One way to leverage the digital capabilities offered by AR is by deploying it as a storytelling medium which enhances wider cross-platform initiatives.

"Customers: they like it; they dig it; they use it; and when they do, they think a little bit differently about our brand," said Skolfield.

Enabling consumers with smartphones to access content like viral videos and how-to guides by hovering their devices over an image has more thoroughgoing possibilities, too.

"There's a definite play around making a product more interactive in general, or building tutorial-type content into very technical products," added Skolfield.

For retailers, augmented reality thus holds out the promise of bringing together merchants and marketers – a task that is not always easy to achieve – by activating campaigns in stores in engaging ways.

"There's a big play here with merchants … Marketing people and merchants don't always hang out, but this brought us together because they started to think, 'Hey, that looks really interesting'," reported Skolfield.

With such an experimental approach, brand custodians must ensure they find meaningful metrics to track the impact of augmented reality, and then spread the word.

"As you build these experiences, you've got to tell people about it so that they use it … and create great use cases and really build energy around mobile and interactive retail," said Skolfield.

"If you are a retailer, you're undoubtedly thinking about that."

Data sourced from Warc