Will (Can) Augmented Reality Replace Sales Representatives?

SEAT, an automobile manufacturer based in Spain, is using augmented reality technology, from Blippar, in its showrooms to help promote and sell the company's new Leon range of motor cars. Here's how it works.

Blippar markers (icons which instruct/entice shoppers to scan) are placed on various parts of a Leon car and, when one of these markers are scanned using a smartphone which has the Blippar app installed, an augmented reality session begins and the car shopper can learn more about that particular part of the Leon. For example, when the Blippar marker on a Leon's headlamp is scanned, an augmented reality session begins on the shopper's smartphone and detailed information about the car's LED headlamps appears. Scan the marker on the hood of the car and information about the car's new badge is given.

While this is a great way for shoppers, automotive or otherwise, to be able to learn about, interact with and remember (just as critical) a brand and/or product, I have a question, what's the sales representative suppose to be doing while the shopper interacts with the augmented reality markers? In a situation like this, do markers make sales representatives obsolete? Do shoppers alienate the sales representatives and simply flock to and rely on the markers for information, facts and figures? I believe most would find the augmented reality sessions of use, value and benefit to the shopper, but at what cost to the sales representatives?

As with QR Codes, I'm all for making use of other marketing channels, mediums, technologies, etc. to increase a marketer's chances of success (i.e., to sell product, win loyal fans, generate word of mouth, etc.), but at what point does a company ask itself, should the technology we use have more answers and information than our live sales representatives? In all fairness to SEAT, maybe the company did make an investment in sales training, and the showroom sales representatives are just as informed as the augmented reality sessions but, for some deep dark reason, I tend to doubt it. And, if that's the case, at what point does the brand suffer? Meaning, at what point do poorly trained sales or customer service representatives impact the brand in a negative manner? Think of walking into an electronics box store retailer and ask a sales representative for deep product information, technical or otherwise, and you'll know what I mean.

In the bigger picture, I raise this point only from the perspective that, I believe, it needs to be discussed among marketing, sales, customer service, operations, etc. personnel, as technology like this is being considered and/or rolled out into the field.

Lastly, back to the campaign itself, it would be interesting to know how many shoppers actually purchased a Leon after scanning the markers versus those that didn't scan, and how many shoppers moved that much further along the purchase decision path after scanning the markers versus those that didn't scan.

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