"It has been a significant learning curve": Cambridge University Press on its new AR catalogue

"It has been a significant learning curve": Cambridge University Press on its new AR catalogue

This month, teachers, booksellers and institutions around the world got a bit of a suprise when they received their 2019 ELT (English Language Teaching) catalogue from Cambridge University Press - with added AR.

Using the new Cambridge Experience app, customers can scan the pages of the catalogue to see octopuses morph into hot air balloons, exploding colourful powders, smoothies being blended and more. They can also sample course video and audio, flip through teacher and student book pages and meet the authors.

Why bother applying AR to a publishing catalgoue? Do readers really care? Is this just the start of an augmented reality rush from CUP? We spoke to Rupert Daniels (below), global marketing director of ELT, for the inside scoop.


Why did you decide to incorporate AR into the catalogue?

The main reason we are doing this is to enhance the customer’s interaction with Cambridge and give them a better and more complete experience. 

The Cambridge Experience app breathes life into the traditional print catalogue format and initial feedback from customers has already shown that people are really enjoying exploring the additional digital content and have found it beneficial when deciding on potential product choices.  

As all of our key products contain large amounts of multimedia material, this allows us to showcase the wide range of resources we have to offer. By adding this extra digital dimension through augmented reality, we are also trying something different. It brings our print to life for customers and gives them a pathway to a world of digital content.  

How did you scope out demand from/value for your target audience?

In the past we have run some trials on augmented reality classroom posters, as well as a few other areas, on a limited basis. This time we thought we would go big. As far as we are aware, we are the first ELT publishers to include Augmented Reality in a catalogue. This is something of an experiment – using new technology to get closer to our customers – so we really are excited to find out their initial reactions and understand how we can improve on this going forward.

What are some of your favourite/ most powerful features?

We have been able to make AR very accessible to those who may never have interacted with this technology before. The format is easy to use and customers simply need to download either the Android or IOS Cambridge Experience app to access the bonus catalogue features.

Overall, we have inserted over 20 ‘trigger images’ into the catalogue.  These are signified by a bespoke logo, so when customers hover their device over the image, a specific product-related animation will play – they’ll be able to see octopuses morph into hot air balloons, exploding colourful powders, smoothies being blended and much more.

These animations are like the opening titles which lead into a menu of rich digital content, such as: sample course video and audio, student and teacher book pages, interactive songs, interviews with authors, and downloadable resources etc.

All-in-all, across the 20 different products that feature AR in the catalogue, there are over 50 downloadable PDFs, 20 videos, and a selection of songs and audible resources too, all accessible simply by hovering a phone over the catalogue. This brings to life our promise to deliver better learning experiences for teachers and learners around the world.

In addition to our latest catalogue, we also sent an AR Christmas card to our customers. Apart from being a fun chance to thank our customers, it was also a novel way to promote the app and encourage downloads of Cambridge Experience prior to catalogues arriving.

What’s the reaction been so far?

As it is a new feature, we set out to demonstrate the app’s capabilities within our local markets such as EMENA and Asia. The app received high praise in our regional sales conferences and our colleagues are enjoying promoting the new feature.

The catalogue is now starting to reach our expansive customer base around the world, and we are only just starting to receive on-the-ground feedback for Cambridge Experience. This year, we have circulated close to 200,000 AR-enabled catalogues. So far, the response has been really positive.

What were the greatest challenges in incorporating the AR?

This is something completely new for us. We have worked closely with an agency to design and integrate the new AR features and it has been a significant learning curve for us all. The more we have experimented with this, the more possibilities we can see for the future.

What would you do differently next time?

We’d like to add more AR triggers within the catalogue so that more products can be added to the digital experience. We now have an opportunity to experiment further and see what else can be done with the technology, enhancing the customer experience.

What do you think are the biggest disruptions on the horizon for ELT publishing over the next 12 months?

Technology such as AR is not so much a disruptor, but an enabler. Technology giants such as Apple and Google have made big bets on AR being an important way to join up the analogue print experience with a rich, immersive digital experience. Unlike virtual reality, which requires a headset, this form of interactivity is accessible to a wider audience. It is simple to use and looks like being a really useful tool for bringing content to life and communicating better with customers, worldwide.