The Era of Experiential Marketing Powered by AR/VR
Necessity has been the engine of change throughout the COVID -19 crisis. Last year, when the virus was officially labeled a pandemic, marketing teams went back to the drawing board and quickly began implementing new and necessary techniques. While the complications of the pandemic posed a threat to every industry, traditional marketing quickly hit its limits; the tools and technologies developed to draw people into stores, to generate enough interest to engage consumers in a personal shopping experience, now had to be completely rethought.
It didn't take long for the brainstorming of new tactics and techniques to find some early winning strategies. Chief among them were virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). And while the AR /VR field is certainly not new - 78% of people were familiar with virtual reality technology in 2018 - usage has skyrocketed since then. According to March data from Statista, there are currently 150 million AR /VR users in the U.S., and AR /VR investment has added $49 billion to U.S. GDP.
Before the pandemic, companies were wavering on the AR /VR-investment equation. The benefits were obvious, but there were many consumer touch points, and companies were rightly weighing their priorities in terms of impact areas. But almost at once, the virtual world was the only space for consumer interactions. The choice quickly became clear, and a new age of digital marketing had dawned.
Augmented Reality - Try before you buy
Think of the traditional rooms where buying decisions were madebefore COVID - fitting rooms, makeup chairs, test drives in cars, etc. These spaces quickly fell off the customer experience map. AR is the best way for brands to fill that void. By offering virtual try-ons of high-end products - displaying a pair of glasses on a customer's face, simulating a lipstick color, or demonstrating how a piece of furniture would fit into a room's existing décor - brands were able to give their customers the hands-on experience they needed to feel confident about their purchase without risking in-store returns.
The success of point-of-sale AR also made it a popular option for indirect marketing strategies, and many brands have since invested in AR to enhance their customer propositions at scale. AR technologies can be used for various branded content including text, images, videos and print materials to provide a modern and personalized brand experience. QR codes on flyers or brochures can be scanned and linked to engaging video, a company's social channels and additional information. AR business cards can help extend a customer's attention span and lead them to a greater brand experience.
AR technologies have moved beyond the world of retail to become a cornerstone of marketing in numerous other industries. Sports stadiums, concert venues, and museums have used augmented reality to recreate the magic of these in-person experiences. Automakers have replaced clunky car manuals with easy-to-use, AR -supported virtual manuals that can guide a user through the necessary steps. Starbucks offers AR tours of one of its cafes, Pepsi has developed an interactive AR campaign available at a bus stop - the list goes on, and this trend is just beginning.
On the horizon: Extended Reality (XR)
As the new normal continues to update, the best of both worlds - pre-pandemic and post-pandemic marketing - are being combined to create the new industry standard for the future. Extended Reality, abbreviated as "XR", is a term that is gaining new recognition. Extended Reality stands for the combination of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality. XR Technologies that come from all three areas are designed to augment the reality that consumers or users experience by merging the real world and the virtual world in various combinations.
The potential impact that XR technologies could have on consumer marketing both in-store and out-of-store is limitless. Use cases often transcend industry verticals and field specifications. For example, augmented reality can be used to both test and sell major purchases - home appliances, capital equipment, high-end fashion, cars, etc. Brands can use XR to offer fully immersive experiences, design special experiences, develop branded video games, and create upscale shopping experiences. These same technologies can also revolutionize healthcare by helping with physical therapy and even serving as a distraction method to supplement or replace anesthesia. In the manufacturing industry, they can pave the way for safer training and operation. And across all industries, XR can change the way professionals interact with their teams - once we hold brainstorming sessions in a shared virtual space, the remote vs. return-to-office debate could fade into the background.
Don't forget to drop us a line if your brand is looking to explore the potential of future immersive digital campaigns, let's leap into the future one digital campaign at a time.