By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Today’s interactive print methods extend beyond traditional quick response (QR) codes and personalized URLs (pURLS) into sophisticated augmented reality (AR) tools. As print becomes more interactive, print providers take notice and invest in these solutions to remain relevant.
To successfully implement an interactive print method, it’s important that print providers first consider mobile application (app) and design capabilities.
Interactive print methods began as early as when the first person put an email address or URL on a business card. Since then, interactive print has extended into AR.
“It all started when people recognized the value of digital assets that can help an end user explore further and act faster,” says Ryan Kiley, director, strategic production services, commercial & industrial printing business group, Ricoh USA, Inc. Today, printers work to bridge the gap between print and digital assets.
For Kiley, it’s a question of the evolution of that bridge and how new and faster ways are created to get from A to B. This includes QR codes, a machine readable code used for storing URLs or other information read by a smartphone camera.
“QR codes changed the landscape by ubiquitizing the process of pointing your phone at something and knowing a related digital interaction would ensue,” comments Kiley. Today’s smartphones include integrated QR code-reading capabilities, enabling anyone to use this form of communication regardless of how tech savvy they are.
According to Kiley, AR is the next generation to bridge the gap between print and digital assets. “It’s a better, faster, more nimble, more flexible bridge between the digital content and the printed piece,” he offers. AR is an interactive experience of a real-world environment. Combined with print communications, it creates interactive and engaging experiences that bring products to life.
“AR could be considered the most interactive and exciting technology that is in its early adopter phase,” says Mary Ann Rowan, chief sales & marketing officer, Solimar Systems. She expects the AR experience to overtake QR and pURL for most engaging interactive print applications due to the ability to load a number of AR experiences on top of a printed communication without needing multiple things on the page that would require design changes.
Considering Interactive Print
The market is moving towards interactive print, therefore it should be a serious consideration for print providers.
“Our print needs to remain relevant, and to do so we have to increase its value and shelf life,” admits Kiley. One method to do this is by connecting the physical and digital worlds through interactive technology. “We turn our print into a portal to more—whatever more is.” This includes buying more, learning more, and finding better directions. “By adding these capabilities, the print piece now has more intrinsic value to the solution provider because it’s more valuable to their customers.”
“Using interactive print enhancement within your communications can help forge a connection with your audience for improved brand loyalty and positive recall,” adds Rowan.
Often, using an interactive print method doesn’t require a considerable number of extra steps. From an AR perspective, Rowan says print providers can take an already designed and printed document and enable an AR experience without changing the layout. “You can load a number of AR experiences on top of a printed communication without needing multiple things on the page that would require design changes or a change in the look and feel of the piece,” she says.
As interactive print methods grow in popularity, additional organizations offer benefits to those utilizing these methods. For example, Rowan says in 2017 there were several postal discounts from the USPS for mailers who leveraged technologies like QR codes and AR. “AT&T saved over $1M just by putting an AR experience for ‘don’t text and drive’ on their mailers.”
Interactive print is suitable for all applications and industries including book publishing, education, signage, and direct mail. “They all have tremendous applicability when it comes to leveraging AR to complement print,” says Kiley.
From an AR perspective, Rowan sees the most traction in publishing and retail applications. “You will see AR leveraged in catalogs for clothing and furniture, as well as in high-end magazines.” In fact, one of the test cases for AR was included in Top Gear Australia’s magazine covers. According to Rowan, the covers on each issue would come alive with video when the cover was scanned with the Top Gear App.
Another area she sees traction in is print and mail. As previously mentioned, AT&T offered discounts for those using QR codes and AR, and soon those discounts will be back, says Rowan. “This means people should be preparing for including AR in their mailings, so they can leverage the additional two percent discount program for what is likely to be in 2018,” she advises.
To achieve an effective interactive communication method using printed communications, several general tools are required such as mobile apps and design capabilities.
For most organizations starting out, Rowan suggests they consider the technology driving and managing the AR assets and experiences, the app for the mobile device, whether they are starting a new app or trying to embed AR capabilities into an existing app, and the creative that will be used as part of the AR experience.
For many print applications, AR is triggered from the app using a mobile device camera. “The image recognition technology will pick up a mark on the page that will launch the AR experience,” explains Rowan. As part of the document design, she says print providers should consider how they will let people know that there is something they can experience since AR is still an evolving and growing technology. “Not everyone will think to check the printed page to see if there is something that can be done on the app,” she adds.
While it’s important to select a mobile app and find a method to alert consumers that the printed piece includes interactive print, Kiley believes the most important aspect is the content. “If you have the right mobile app lined up and the right technology to bridge the print-digital gap, none of it matters if your content doesn’t entice users to learn more,” he explains.
Too often, Kiley says communicators look at interactive print solely from their own perspective—how they can offer it to more people, how to harvest more data, and so on. By definition, he says interactivity is a two-way street. “You need to have content worth clicking. Ask yourself, why would someone click through, and will they be happy they did?”
While print providers can make just about anything clickable, he suggests focusing on creating good content to meet the client’s unique needs.
The Future of Print
While print is a traditional method of communication, its power is amplified by modern, interactive technologies.
In part two of this two-part series, we provide a roundup of tools that support interactive print.
Sep2018, DPS Magazine