Written by Rohan Bhaumik, MBA Candidate at the Schulich School of Business
The world today is changing, and so is the way consumers interact with traditional media to learn more about the products and services that they need. In order to capture the minds of the audience, marketers must evolve their media platforms. With the growing advent of mobile technology, and a shift to digital platforms, the time is right for marketers to look at pushing their strategy to the next level by leveraging advancements in visual experience design.
The emergence of augmented and virtual reality as media platforms is of vital importance to the future of marketing. These platforms enable the creation of a presence, which creates the sense of being in an environment. And this environment, which can be controlled, allows marketers to create tailor-made experiences that can help consumers identify closely with what marketers have to offer.
AR & VR – Building a Business Case
As we move further into the 21st century, technology will continue to become more human-centric. It will increase transparency between people, businesses and things. This relationship will become much more entwined as the evolution of technology becomes more adaptive, contextual and fluid within the workplace, at home, and interacting with businesses and other people.
Both augmented and virtual reality are innovations poised for aggressive growth. And the attraction they have for marketers is the ability to create targeted environments that can suitably engage a wide range of consumers. This provides brands an opportunity to create marketing campaigns that not only appeal to visual and auditory senses, but also leverage the innate capabilities of such systems to provide immediate feedback, personalization, language options etc.
This establishes an enhanced method for experiencing products, but also changes the way customers look at services such as hotel bookings, for example. Such services require a considerable degree of feedback between customer and business, and there is an opportunity to short circuit various rounds of feedback with augmented and virtual reality. Of course, brands that offer ’low experience’ purchases or services that do not require a lot of feedback, and investment in this technology would prove cost ineffective. However, for some companies this could be a tremendous way to enhance customer loyalty and experiences.
See below for experience attributes and their potential implications in industry:Virtual Experience AttributesExampleVisual
Clothing: Customers’ knowledge about a garment can be enhanced by offering consumers to try on clothes on their avatars with same measurements of them so as to see how the clothes will look on them.Audio
Book: Customers’ knowledge about a book can be enhanced by allowing customer’ avatar to go into a virtual bookstore. Once the avatar open a book, the content of the book will be read outInteractivity
Wine: A winery owner can ship the same kinds of wine to a group of people and they can discuss their thoughts about the wine in a gathering in a virtual world so as to enhance product knowledge and brand attitude.Visual & Audio
Electronic Devices: A technical support agent of a computer company can discuss with the customers about the problems of their electronic devices and display the solution visually in a 3D virtual world, such as showing customers how to install or operate a stereo system.Visual & Interactivity
Toys: A toy car which can be transformed to be a robot can be played in a virtual world. An avatar can play the car just as a real person play the toy in the real world.Visual, Audio & Interactivity
A singer can host a concert to promote his/her new album. The consumers can watch the singer’s avatar performing on stage and interact with the singer and even other participants.
(Lui, Piccoli, and Ives 2007)
Visual marketing through augmented and virtual reality media also help marketers reduce costs. Not only can virtual reality provide more accurate assessments of customer shopping habits, but it can also save companies a great deal of money. In 2013, US for-profit research companies spent US$10.7Bn on marketing research services, or between eight and ten per cent of most budgets. Although initial startup expenses are high, virtual reality has potential to greatly reduce these marketing costs, all the while increasing the bottom line.
One example of this in action is in UK supermarket Tesco. The company recently utilized Oculus Rift technology to create a virtual store. Initially, the store has been used for research and development projects to find faster means of re-shelving products, redesigning store layouts, and improving advertising. Tesco has hinted that they may be designing stores that enable customers to shop using virtual reality without ever leaving their homes.
Perhaps the most lucrative application for this technology, outside of healthcare and entertainment, is in retail marketing, with the market projected to reach US$1.6Bn by 2025. This indicates that technology vendors with implementation expertise should seek to target the retail sector. Any efforts to make headway in this direction should deploy the following strategy:
1) Educate: Brands need to be educated on the exact platform that they will use. Technology vendors must partner with marketers to understand their needs, and use their experience to convey the suitable value proposition from a technology standpoint.
2) Strategize: Work with brands to set financial and/or engagement goals to ensure that their virtual visual interaction campaign adds value to their business.
3) Innovate: Reviewing client feedback and end customer engagement data periodically allows vendors to make regular improvements, allowing the technology to evolve to suit the business.