Introducing the 2017 Manchester Christmas Markets app

Paige Tucker | 28th November 2017

Manchester city centre’s Christmas Markets will have an extra dimension for tech-savvy visitors in 2017 thanks to their innovative new augmented reality mobile app. Free to download on both iOS and Android devices, the app has been developed in collaboration with CityVerve, an organisation which helps combine state-of-the-art tech with cities to create better-connected urban communities.

Christmas Markets entertainment for all the family

The app has been designed to offer visitors to the markets a host of surprise treats as they make their way around the stalls with the app in hand. A 3D waving Elf appears from the Mug when scanned with “We wish you a Merry Christmas” playing. There are rather more practical uses incorporated into the app too, allowing people to use their cameras to explore the markets and be alerted to specific stalls of interest, as well as nearby facilities such as toilets and cash machines.

The real jewel in the crown of the new Manchester Christmas Markets app is its Pokemon GO-style game which is aimed at the hordes of millennials visiting the markets with their families and friends. From 11th December, a fun augmented reality “Elf Chase” game will be available in the Cathedral Gardens to play; giving visitors the chance to do their bit to catch enough elves to help Father Christmas deliver gifts around the world. In and around the stalls, virtual elves will pop up on the app’s screen and users can throw snowballs at them in a bid to capture and round them up ready for Christmas Eve.

Councillor Pat Karney, spokesperson, Manchester City Council, said of the markets’ bold new app: “Our world-famous Christmas Markets will enjoy a futuristic makeover when they open this week. Be transported in the online festive world through the ‘buzzin’ app and you’ll be fully immersed in our markets.”

Manchester Christmas Markets: Recognised throughout the continent

The Christmas Markets are open from 10th November to 20th December, with the Albert Square venue closing its doors to visitors from 6 pm on 21st December. The markets are free and available to all residents and visitors alike, transforming Manchester city centre into a festive wonderland for six weeks each year. The event was established just before the turn of the Millennium in 1999 and was initially marketed as similar to traditional German Markets, as the UK’s first spin-off the German Christmas tradition. Fast-forward almost 20 years and the Manchester Christmas Markets are now regarded as one of the top 20 in Europe, according to a recent survey by European Best Destinations.

The markets are now spread far and wide across Manchester’s city centre, with around 300 different market traders selling festive gifts and fresh food and drink to keep visitors entertained throughout. The authentic ‘German zone’ on Albert Square is where you can get a real flavour of a typical German Christmas market, with toasty gluhwein served by the glass and foot-long bratwursts on offer for hungry revellers. The centrepiece of the event is the ice rink on Cathedral Gardens, which draws in the crowds most evenings in December.

Augmented Reality is adding a new dimension to attractions and everyday life

Augmented reality – technology which fuses real-life environments with virtual entertainment – is fast becoming the technology to watch. Unlike its state-of-the-art cousin, virtual reality – which requires the use of a headset to transport us into another world – augmented reality enables users to utilise their smartphone or tablet device and transform the world around them into a canvas that can be enhanced by virtual reality objects. It is a technology that’s trending in the mainstream markets thanks largely to the success of Snapchat’s Lenses and the worldwide sensation of location-based augmented reality game Pokemon GO. Aside from the technology which made Pokemon GO such a hit, downloaded 500 million times globally in 2016 alone. According to an article from Betway the familiarity and nostalgia of the Pokemon franchise resonates well with that of online casino games which older users in particular engaged with, transforming them back to a sense of familiarity and branding. The comfort of familiarity and nostalgia is what makes games of all types appealing, from slots to other types of video games, including Nintendo’s recent releases of the NES mini and the SNES mini. Psychologically, gamers are more in tune with long-standing, tried and trusted gaming franchises than brand-new titles.

Only a couple of months ago, Snapchat rolled out its augmented reality lenses to global brands, allowing Snapchat users to integrate Warner Bros. and Bud Light 3D objects into their real-life posts. Aside from the app’s 3D World Lenses, brands are also being empowered to create campaign-specific augmented reality experiences through Snapchat, similar to the ones brands have already been creating via Apple’s own ARKit.

Even Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg predicts that smartphones are going to help cement augmented reality as a mainstream consumer marketing platform, due to its ease of accessibility, rather than having to wear a headset or pair of glasses. There is plenty to be excited about regarding augmented reality marketing in 2018, with many leading brands operating in Manchester and across the UK beginning to innovate. IKEA’s new augmented reality furniture app allows consumers to place a piece of furniture in their home to see how it looks before buying; while major department store, John Lewis’ 360-degree shoppable video Facebook Ads are also trying to demonstrate products in real-life home settings before consumers have to part with their cash.