Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) offer a powerful glimpse into the future of content. Immersive technologies bring a new dimension and perspective to storytelling. Like with many new technologies, many CMOs will find themselves having to ask their teams where and how to integrate AR and VR into their brand’s marketing strategy. Here are five things every CMO needs to know about how AR and VR are changing the marketing industry.
A Different Customer Experience
Emerging technologies, like VR and AR, offer marketers the ability to add utility and deeper context to the customer experience. VR gives marketers the opportunity to create ‘on brand’ worlds. In most instances, AR enhances the customer experience only visually — like, placing furniture in a room or virtually trying on a watch.
AR can even change the environment around the person as they try different clothes on to see how they might look in the office or out on the town. It makes the experience about the customer and gives them a chance to make their own story with brands. As haptic feedback and more sensors are integrated into our smartwatches and clothing, augmented reality won’t just show what something looks like but how it feels. “When it comes to working in XR, marketers need to start to dimensionalize their thinking. It’s no longer about a conversation between customers and brands, but instead, marketers are given an interactive, 360-degree palette to create meaningful digital customer experiences,” says Samantha G. Wolfe, founder of PitchFWD and the co-author of ‘Marketing New Realities.’
AR and VR: The (Present and) Future of Social Media
Between Snapchat and Instagram’s AR filters and lenses, and Facebook’s investment in virtual reality, it should be no surprise that AR and VR are deeply connected to social media. “Augmented reality has entered the mass market consciousness by showcasing its potential through social media,” notes Sam Wolfe. “Not everyone knows the term ‘AR’ but most likely you have seen it or used it.” Facebook introduced a new technology that requires marketers to rethink shopping online. Facebook Shops offers users a new way to take pictures of their items for sales with “multi-dimensional panoramic views” and “a state-of-the-art 3D-like photo capability.” Intelligent closets, systems that automatically detect colors and materials, and software predicted product details are all part of the future of eCommerce.
Virtual beings mean big business
Virtual beings are human-looking, digital characters brought to life with machine learning and artificial intelligence. They are designed to mimic real-world behaviors which creates a whole new model for interacting online. Consumers are no longer interacting with websites; they will interact with characters who seem like they could be human. Sam Wolfe adds, “Brand managers should think beyond brand voice and identify about ‘who’ their brand is and how it could and should be embodied.”
There are virtual influences like Lil Miquela on Instagram. Virtual characters like Lucy from Fable Studio, build a two-way relationship with people she interacts with. Virtual beings give companies more control over their brand’s image while still maintaining a sense of authenticity.
Customer Meetings & A Whole Different Shopping Experience
AR and VR are tools brands are using right now to bring their shopping experiences online. E-commerce is no longer a webpage. Consumers are on their smartphones which are the perfect avenue for deploying high-quality, 3D, 360-degree experiences. Companies like Obsess turn a company’s storefronts into virtual showrooms that immerse brands in the buyer experience. Augmented Reality can bring a volumetric capture of a product right into your living room. Both are value-add solutions for customers and business partners to meet, interact, and/or purchase. “Companies are only beginning to understand the commercial utility of these emerging technologies. Those who deploy advanced creative shopping applications will have a distinct consumer advantage over their competitors.”
Using AR and VR to recruit, train and retain your own marketing team
Companies are turning to AR and VR to recruit, train, and retain their teams. In manufacturing, VR is being used to test potential employees on different parts of a virtual line and how they react to the environment and tools without physically putting them at risk. Marketing teams can make use of AR and VR in the same way. Augmented reality is faster than flipping through a handbook. These tools require a different type of thinking and can be attractive to younger employees.
These technologies are impacting the sales funnel and how consumers behave. Many brands have already started adding AR and VR into their marketing mix, but many more will need to take a closer look at them in order to stay ahead of the curve.