Today, every facet of our lives is governed by technology. With our increasing reliance on smartphones, we consistently have technology at our fingertips through all our waking moments, from ordering groceries, to booking a cab and managing our finances. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will redefine marketing experiences.
Smartphone ubiquity has instigated further research and investment into enhancing its potential, which has led to rapid advances in immersive technologies like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. AR and VR can be considered as real-world manifestations of the sci-fi movies we grew up with, which has led to many awe-inspiring simulations that may not have been possible in the real-world, for instance; from having dinner with sharks, learning to pilot a rocket, observing a dinosaur or conducting a heart operation.
It is no longer a preposterous presumption that AR/VR will soon become an integrated part of our daily lives including our shopping experience, gaming, real estate, hospitality, healthcare, entertainment and education industry.
AR/VR improvements are pushing marketers to evolve their strategies to make use of these technologies. Marketers use the concept of AR and VR to create “experiences” which attract more consumers and increase brand awareness. To illustrate this point, a successful example is the Coca Cola event in 2014 Soccer World Cup, held in Brazil.
At the Coca Cola fan kiosk, visitors were able to experience playing in a football match with their favorite players. The participants were physically ushered into a replica of what a real locker room looks and feels like, through a custom-made Oculus Rift head-mounted displays. At the end of the match, the participants even had the opportunity to perform a salsa dance on the virtual field. This adventure ended with Coca Cola cans/bottles and World Cup merchandise being handed over to the participants. This proved to be a very successful PR endeavor for Coca Cola and they were able to cement their position as a brand leader with this unforgettable experience of VR. Browse to https://youtu.be/gQt6Vw8nCjY for a sneak-peek into this unique experience.
Marketers stimulate brand awareness and communicate their brand values by creating identifiable “stories” around the product/service which can be enhanced with the aid of AR/VR tools; such stories and content are proving ever more effective at helping brands reach their target audience.
AR/VR has provided a host of benefits to help marketers differentiate their brand value, including:
- Promoting “experiences” over products/services: AR/VR helps marketers forge a memorable and positive connection with consumers, when they can visualize and empathize with the product/service image more seamlessly. For instance, in the annual North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) trade show in Orlando, FL, Franke Kitchens provided their customers a unique virtual customer experience in the kitchen, coupled with a virtual presenter “Que” modelled after Franke’s trade-show presenter, Callie Que Smith. The customers enter a 3-D kitchen world where they can interact with the items and change the colors and materials to finally decide on their dream kitchen. The customers are even allowed to virtually move around cupboards, appliances and kitchen sinks. Get a glimpse of this VR experience at https://youtu.be/HbkYmjhuGKg
- Enhancing the customer experience: Marketers can augment the customer experience by helping consumers feel, see and witness the personal relevance and impact of the product/service with the aid of AR/VR tools. Home Depot, a leader in the home improvement industry, uses an AR app to assist their customers make knowledgeable decisions on the color of the paint they want to purchase. Another example is IKEA’s, Augmented Reality furniture app. IKEA has developed an app ‘Place’, available in Apple Store which allows customers to preview the furniture in their home environment before deciding on buying. The customers, with the help of the app, can hold the smartphone/tablet to the desired place in their home and select the furniture they want to buy. With the help of AR, customers can see how the furniture will look in their home setting and make an informed decision. We have done similar work at Ness for one of the world’s largest art collection companies — an app was developed that allowed customers to select a painting from a wide range of art collections and virtually hang it on any of the walls of their homes to get a feel of how the painting would look at their wall. This assists the consumers in selecting the perfect painting for their home.
- Personalization: With the advent of the Internet, the consumer has the ease of searching for products from multiple websites, comparing prices with similar products in order to find their perfect item of choice. In such a situation, marketers can impact the consumer’s behavior with the help of “Personalization”. AR/VR can prove to be an effective tool in the arsenal of the marketers to personalize the offerings according to the customer’s preferences. Beauty product brands can amplify customer experiences by allowing them to visualize their image before and after using the products with the aid of AR/VR, helping them sometimes to identify a hidden need which the consumer was unaware about. This enhances customer satisfaction and also creates loyal customers for the brand. For instance, De Beers, one of the leaders in the jewelry industry, initiated a “My Forevermark Fitting” campaign. This campaign is a 3-D virtual try-on for ForeverMark diamonds wherein women consumers can visualize themselves wearing the ForeverMark diamond with the help of a webcam and make a decision to purchase without actually trying them on physically in the store. Take a look at the campaign https://youtu.be/ybf3LjanI5o
AR/VR will continue to pave the way for marketers to explore novel ways to express their brand image to their audience so as to create an everlasting brand recall value in consumers’ minds. Presently, AR/VR is used extensively in the entertainment and gaming industry, but as we can already see, it will continue to permeate many other industry sectors like communication, healthcare, training and simulation, travel, hospitality/leisure and home and personal security companies. With the usage of AR/VR increasing exponentially in smartphones and tablets, we can perceive a heightened usage of smart glasses, smart wearables (Gloves, watches etc.) by marketers to portray the brand image more articulately. With further evolution, AR/VR has the potential to be integrated with AI which will enable marketers to further improve “Personalization” of consumers and customer experience. Having AI integrated, products we interact via AR/VR will learn about our behavior and actions and will be able to predict our preferences before we even realize it. Few aspects of it are already functioning, in the case of large retail stores where consumers are guided by digital directions to the recommended products based on their preference and purchase history. Consumers can also checkout the product usage, reviews and product information before purchasing it by just holding the smartphone in front of the product. Another prominent example is that of Sephora’s “Visual Artist” which allows potential customers to experiment cosmetic products including lipsticks, eye shadows, and highlighting palettes. Using the app or website, Visual artist allows consumers to click their photos to try on Sephora’s inventory of products and the integrated AI suggests recommendations for the products and also an augmented image of how they will look with the product applied, helping them make a better buying decision (https://youtu.be/NFApcSocFDM)
Statista’s recent survey estimates that by 2021, the combined market size of the AR/VR is expected to reach nearly $215 Billion. Accordingly, we see a huge interest from a myriad of tech giants who are trying to develop new software that immerses you in an alternative world and truly build incredible digital experiences. As an early pioneer of AR/VR technology, Ness offers one of world’s largest fashion retail chains with a location based mobile mapping solution, and a Navigation app for an American Car rental company and much more. Ness has also done many recent Proof-Of-Concepts with a variety of clients, resulting in exponential business growth.