Why Most Marketers Should Care About Virtual and Augmented Reality
Marketing is a pretty interesting career, at least for those who love it. And the journey to become a great marketer is an interesting one too.
Who wouldn’t want to know how the human mind works? Not for the sake of becoming a psychologist, but for you to know what to tell someone so as to get more results from your campaigns.
At the same time, marketing can be very challenging.
As a marketer, unless you are just getting started, you have definitely experienced some challenges.
And although there are challenges in every industry, marketing seems to be going through a challenging phase.
Whereas technology often brings benefits to many industries, the latest tech advancements have caused marketers to be somewhat divided.
Should the new technology be embraced or shunned?
The new technology referred to comes in two shades.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
Though they started off as science fiction materials, they are quickly being adopted. And soon enough, they are going to be mainstream.
These technologies have been utilized in the gaming industry but have recently found usage in other industries too.
As you will see later, many different industries have taken these up for a “Test Drive” and they are glad to have done that.
Before getting deeper with the marketing perspective to the technology, let’s first differentiate the two.
Virtual Reality defined
Virtual reality is the use of technology to display things which aren’t real in a manner which makes them seem real. When viewing virtual reality content, you will experience some form of transportation into a different place.
Your reality, i.e. your physical environment, gets switched and you experience life in a different environment. This is mostly experienced through the wearing of Head Mounted Displays (HMD).
These are special glasses which are able to give you the impression that you are in a different location.
The glasses block your view of the physical world and usher you into a computer-generated one.
In the new environment, you can move and interact with objects as though interacting with a physical world.
Augmented Reality defined
Augmented reality is where your physical environment gets supplemented by additional computer-generated images. Your reality basically stays the same only that you have objects added to it.
This is meant to be an enhancement of your environment. The additional objects could be anything from the projection of information to something like an animal appearing in front of you.
In some cases, you can literally interact with the additional objects which appear alongside your physical environment. The best examples of these are the game Pokemon GO and Snapchat’s face filters.
Augmented Reality can be as real as seeing a whale come up from underneath a gymnasium floor and dive back into the temporarily-created ocean.
The most notable aspect of these technologies is the fact that they open you up to a totally different experience.
Whether it is Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality, you will experience something that you wouldn’t have imagined being possible some years ago.
HOW TO VIEW VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY
Considering that these realities are not natural, you generally need a way of viewing them.
This is especially the case for Virtual Reality which is a completely different environment that has been created.
This is also the challenge VR device manufacturers face in getting the technology to the masses. For many people to adopt it, it has to be convenient and cheap.
The very things which the devices are not.
Let’s look at some of the most common ways of accessing these technologies.
The Oculus Devices (VR)
Oculus VR was independent until it’s acquisition by Facebook in 2014. The Facebook subsidiary has released three Virtual Reality devices aimed at drawing as many people as possible into the VR world.
Although they are all VR headsets, some differences exist to distinguish them.
The Oculus Rift is intended for gaming though it can also be used for social VR. It is purely a headset which must be connected to a gaming PC. It has controls and sensors for positional tracking. The data from the sensors is used to reflect your movements inside the virtual world.
Oculus Go on the other hand is used primarily for media consumption and not necessarily for gaming. It comes in two variations of memory size: 32 GB and 64 GB. You can either make use of the apps included in it or transfer files from a PC and watch on the device.
Oculus Quest sits somewhere in between. It is powerful and intended for gamers. Like the Go, it is a standalone. It doesn’t require any connection to a PC. Unlike the Go and like the Rift, it has positional tracking.
Quest’s tracking is however different from Rift’s. Whereas Rift uses sensors, Quest makes use of cameras.
Using Smartphones and Relevant Apps (AR)
The best example of Augmented Reality is the use of smartphones and apps capable of providing the experience. This is the most advanced application so far of this technology.
The availability on the smartphone platform makes AR very accessible as it means virtually everyone with a smartphone could interact with AR content.
From a marketers’ point of view, this is the best thing to happen since the dawn of social media. Although increased mobile penetration meant more people accessing social media, it now means more people accessing AR.
Generally speaking, as far as the current phase of these twin technologies are concerned, AR stands out as the one likely to provide higher ROIs.
This is because it is easily available to consumers. Consumers in this case being everyone with a smartphone.
Microsoft Hololens (MR)
Between Virtual and Augmented Reality is something called Mixed Reality. This is what Microsoft Hololens ushers you into. Some of the objects which it projects are the work of Virtual Reality while others are Augmented.
In most cases, the AR aspect comes out in a bigger way than the VR aspect. Still, the combination of these two technologies into one is something that will possibly go along way in pushing for such products.
Check this video to understand the possibilities.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
With that brief look at these technologies, you may wonder what importance they really bring to your career.
If you are keen on running marketing campaigns which have more impact, then you should care very much about these.
Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies are going to change the marketing industry. They offer new territories to be conquered where only video game manufacturers have previously walked.
But just to keep things in perspective for you, let’s look at how your marketing strategy can be improved by these technologies.
Marketing is about experiences and this is what sells. However, VR and AR take these experiences to a new level. Enough with the smart combination of text and pictures to make great blog content.
When you develop content for the VR and AR platforms, you are essentially taking the viewers on a trip to the places they see. This is especially true for VR.
Being the most immersive of them, VR literally takes you to where the action is. It “transports” you from your current environment and places you into a different environment.
Unlike what happens when watching videos, VR puts you right into the action.
If you are watching a football game, then you will see and feel yourself seated at the very front row.
This means that as a marketer, when you have your content available, your customer or prospect will be able to interact with it in ways beyond the traditional.
For example, whereas traditional marketing would come up with written stories and videos, VR takes these further. Upon wearing a device, your real world gets cut off and you enter a different one.
The world in which the content was created.
This way, you don’t imagine the experience. You experience it very literally.
No matter how good your content is, if there is no engagement then you haven’t achieved anything. If people are not interacting with your content, then it will not be of any benefit.
This is the last thing you want as a marketer.
So how do you guarantee engagement?
VR and AR are no longer new as they have already been embraced by some major brands. And this is for a good reason.
These brands have not just decided to embrace the next big thing and try it out, they have actually realized how much potential there is. Take the example of PepsiCo UK Max and their Pepsi Max “Unbelievable” campaign.
They utilized Augmented Reality on a London bus stop.
They turned one of the bus stop’s walls into a live-feed showing the appearance of attacking space objects, a giant robot and even a stray tiger walking towards the bus stop.
Obviously, some travelers got scared though they soon realized what was going on. But that was just the starting point for PepsiCo UK.
The campaign was a real experience for many. And when the company urged people to share “Unbelievable” scenes, the response was great.
Below is a video of the AR experience.
More than 8 million views, with over 85% of them resulting from social sharing the video.
The video managed to get a Facebook engagement rate of 9% (six times higher that the category’s average of 1.5%) and the market share of Pepsi Max grew by 1.2%.
Storytelling is great since it makes the audience or readers engaged, especially when emotions are incorporated into it. But even the best storytelling can never rival what Virtual Reality can do.
Stories are meant to make the audience “see” themselves in the story. When this happens, they relate to the characters in the story and in some cases, even to the narrator.
VR on the other hand, quite literally transports the would-be audience straight into the story.
In short, with VR, the consumers or users don’t “see” themselves in the story, they get into the story and become part of it.
And with good marketing (i.e. good content creation), the story is centered around them.
Being where the action is and all your emotions tied into the experience, few words can describe the excitement you will feel.
Highly Memorable Campaigns
With a thrilling experience as a result of the level of immersion, it would be understandable if you kept talking about the experience.
Emotions are everything and the experiences which stand out are the ones which trigger most emotions.
With VR, being present in a different world will stand out in your mind. It is just like going on a vacation to your dream destination and everything being perfect.
If your brand can remain in the minds of customers and prospects for longer than your competitors, you can count on achieving more profits.
Guaranteed Earned Media
You know how the media works. They mainly go for what is fresh or trending. When VR and AR first hit the mainstream market, the media was quick to pick it up for news.
Even without a very good understanding of the inner workings of the technology.
All the same, the media had to run with the news. And if something else pops up now, it will be all over sooner than later.
This is just how the media operates. It’s more like “Report now, explain later.”
But have you given this philosophy some more thought to see whether it can benefit your brand in any way?
In case you haven’t, here’s how to make it work for you.
Anything new, fashionable, trendy or even weird, will raise eyebrows. And that is where the media comes in.
With their reliable tendency to run with such things, they will pick it up and make it trendy. For them, they are doing business. They are seeking to be the first ones to report on the newest thing.
As a marketer who implemented VR or AR, especially ahead of your competitors, you will certainly create some waves.
And instead of having to go for expensive paid media, you will watch it come your way.
And you know just how valuable earned media is, don’t you?
EXAMPLE USES OF VR AND AR IN MARKETING
Just in case you are still unsure about how this can work out, we’ll give you some examples to consider. We have picked different industries to show you that the technology is not limited.
Although not all implementations of VR and AR can fit this article, the below selection is a good one.
Real estate is not only big business, it is also necessary business.
When you think of it as a means for you to help people get the homes which fit their needs, then you will see the need to make it easier for them to make the decision.
In this, you will also benefit because you avoid all the inconveniences of planning visits with numerous clients who have different schedules.
Or probably one prospect’s availability clashes with another yet a visit requires 1 hour.
What do you do?
Enter Virtual Reality.
If you are selling homes, forget about taking high resolution pictures of every room. Remember that what will make the customer buy is the feeling. The house may be good but if she doesn’t feel like it is, then it isn’t.
And that means that the house will not be bought. No business for you.
To ensure this isn’t the case, invest in a VR headset and contact a reputable VR content producer or a 360° video creator. 360° videos can even be created using some smartphone apps. That gives you room to try this out at a low cost.
After filming the home, load the content in the headset and this will now be your homes catalog.
Ditch the print version you made and use this to take your clients straight into the home. Let them walk around and see everything for themselves.
This way, you won’t struggle describing anything in a way understandable to the client as they will see it themselves.
Augmented Reality for Restaurants
When you walk into a restaurant, what is the first thing you look at?
The menu. Right?
Menus have for a long time been a list of the names of various foods sold by the restaurant. Some menus have small pictures of the foods to help you see how they look like.
This is especially the case in restaurants selling foreign cuisines.
This is obviously helpful. But once you experience the power of AR in a restaurant, then you will redefine the word “helpful”.
Kabaq is an app which enables users to interact with the food they are ordering before it actually gets to the table. They do this by use of AR.
With high quality 360° images of the foods, you get to see an almost-real offering of the food before buying.
Instead of wondering what some foods look like, you can make a decision to order having been attracted by the actual looks. The food is projected onto the table right in front of you and you can turn it around to see all the sides of it.
For customers, this is the best experience you can expect. For businesses, the customer experience adds value too. Great customer experiences always result to higher revenues. And businesses attest to this.
In fact, one business realized a 22% sales increase because of introducing the AR foods.
After a hard day’s work, you look to having a rest on the sofa. Maybe for a few minutes before preparing dinner. Or, you may have a couch from where you catch your weekend movies. But what if you wanted an upgrade?
With online shopping providing such a convenience, you would most likely check out some furniture and order online.
But the pictures don’t always tell you everything.
At times, the product will look exactly like the one you saw online but the size may not be what you expected.
Ever bought a piece of furniture which didn’t fit the space you wanted to keep it?
If “yes,” then you wouldn’t want the same experience again. If “no,” you better hope you never get to.
With many returning products bought online for such and other similar reasons , IKEA decided to help its customers avoid the frustration.
What’s more? They also avoid handling unnecessary returns. This cuts down on their costs and saves time.
IKEA developed an app which helps customers use Augmented Reality to superimpose products at home before they bought them. Instead of making assumptions, you can easily see how the product will fit.
You can actually furnish your whole house using this method. By the time the delivery is done, you know exactly where everything goes. This helps you settle down faster and enjoy your purchase sooner.
The retail industry is also adopting Virtual Reality. In fact, many companies have created a virtual experience for their customers.
One widely-known example is the online retailer Alibaba. They came up with a concept which created a digital version of a department store complete with aisles. It also features products with prices as well as purchase options.
Aside from concepts, perhaps a more ready example is the collaboration between Swarovski and Mastercard. They created a VR app which allows you to purchase home accessories.
After signing in and providing your bank account details, you browse the digital store using head movements i.e. up, down, right and left. Once you are done shopping, you proceed to checkout using the Masterpass button.
Watch the below video to see it at work.
With the ever-changing face of retail, from brick and mortar to e-commerce, the possibilities are high that going virtual could be the next big thing.
Both Augmented and Virtual Reality are set to cause changes in the marketing industry.
Adoption has already started and it’s just a matter of time before it becomes an everyday thing.
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