Everywhere we look, glowing rectangles call to us from every corner. Billboards, TVs, laptops, phones, watches, in our cars, and even on our kitchen countertops, screens have become an inescapable part of our modern lives. What’s next?
This technology isn’t new, yet it is constantly evolving. Since the late 1800s, we have looked to screens for our entertainment, news, and education. In the time that’s followed, screens have become smarter, powered by even-faster computers, and ingrained into our lives on a multitude of levels. However, even with these advances, we still expect two-dimensional screens to interpret our three-dimensional world. This inefficiency means we must bring these screens with us, plant them in front our audiences, and drive audiences to them.
As technology continues to change our habits and preferences, marketers are now further challenged with adjusting how they connect with their audience. While many are still recovering from the PC, Internet, and smartphone revolutions, leaders in tech know that another shift is upon us. Digital three-dimensional technologies, like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, have suddenly become accessible to all of us. What was once reserved for military simulation or innovation labs is now available to companies, brands, and consumers alike, and how these immersive technologies alter our view of the world is quickly coming into focus.
Big players, such as McDonald’s, saw much success in implementing VR technology into their marketing strategy as they turned their iconic Happy Meal Box into a VR headset using a skiing game to attract customers and introduce them to a new activity. This experiential marketing tactic continually provides a new set of possibilities for companies to use immersive technologies to transform day-to-day experiences.
Digital marketers may be hesitant to add yet another approach to the long list of channels they use to create and produce content. However, marketers historically have been early movers in this space. Many have encountered or heard of VR at trade shows, retail stores, and events. Brands are looking for ways to help customers envision life with their products and services, whether it’s taking a virtual honeymoon to a remote island, parking a digital sports car in your real-life driveway, or admiring an imaginary watch on your real wrist. The technologies use devices like PCs, smartphones, and tablets to place digital objects in the real world by using cameras to scan and track our physical spaces. The resurgence of Pokémon, for example, took the world by storm as it used Augmented Reality (Pokémon Go) in a way that moved users from the couch to the outdoors to interact and explore, generating $600 million in revenue.
The future holds endless possibilities for this tech, such as special Augmented Reality glasses, but there are ways to leverage these tools, today.
Play to customer emotions
AR and VR allow marketers to tap into all five senses with these new immersive technologies. Emotional appeal is used to persuade a consumer’s buying decision, and this is where VR and AR excel. By improving the marketer’s ability elicit an emotional response, VR and AR now become more convincing in the customer’s journey to purchase.
Try before you buy
Marketers know that seeing is believing. However, viewing what a furniture set looks like in your living room before you make a purchase, or what a customized vehicle looks like in your driveway before you drive off, can truly seal the deal. This is where AR goes beyond VR in some respects. AR gives users the opportunity to integrate real and virtual scenes that allow customers to try on, or try out, products before they are purchased. Corporations like Wayfair, Ikea, and Porsche have all used this approach successfully.
Enhanced customer service
AR and VR have allowed businesses to make leaps and bounds in the area of customer service, as these immersive technologies are offering an improved experience. In the event of an unplanned outage Honeywell’s TechSight solution leverages smart glasses and a videoconferencing platform to connect on-site technicians with remote technical support experts who provide instruction via two-way audio and visual communication. The data from these connected devices provide marketers valuable information on not only a consumer’s preferences but commonly encountered issues as well. This information ultimately enables a company to better tailor service proactively to a specific person.
Moving beyond flat screens, this genuinely immersive technology is shaking up the way brands communicate. But, as with any new product launch, execution matters. Past predictions for emerging technologies have caused some skepticism.
Nevertheless, early indications show that AR and VR are a fresh and bold new way to attract, educate, and even inspire customers as they can visualize products and experiences in their own lives, further enhancing engagement. It’s estimated that there will be 171 million VR users by the end of 2018 and 28.3 billion by 2020. Marketers should be thrilled, as some activations have seen 400-500% improvements in time spent and recall after using immersive technologies instead of traditional touchscreens, digital signage, looping videos.
This new control and blending of physical and digital worlds have become a powerful and intoxicating experience for many. The situation will only continue to be dynamic with platforms, features, prices, accessibility, and discovery for years to come.