Technology is changing the world, and as marketers, we must evolve our strategies to be better, to do better, and to make an impact in an world inundated with change. In response to an evolution of the digital world as well as consumer demands for innovation, forward-thinking marketers are revolutionizing digital marketing by using technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to give consumers an innovative and unique brand experience impossible with other mediums. While movies and videos used to be considered the most immersive medium, brands are getting extremely creative, taking advantage of the opportunity to use strategic marketing applications in reality technology to create one-of-a-kind customer experiences.
Virtual Reality is a “computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment, that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.” In layman’s terms, consider virtual reality the use of technology to virtually transport yourself into an artificial world, be it a different city, country or even planet.
Augmented Reality is a “technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.” Remember when Pikachu appeared in your living room, or when Weedle showed up outside that coffee shop when you were playing Pokémon Go? These are the perfect examples of augmented reality.
So, what are the main differences between the two? VR is more of an immersive adventure which often allows consumers to experience a 360-degree view of a different reality that they can interact with. AR, on the other hand, uses the world around consumers and adds in other elements and details (think Snapchat filters).
Airlines have been using AR/VR for years to train staff and simulate everything from landing a plane, to reacting in a turbulent situation. However, immersive experiences through AR and VR are relatively new in marketing, and companies which use VR/AR technology in their marketing efforts are likely to be more memorable. Consumers love new technology, and they especially love experiencing something exciting that few others have. The use of these technologies can offer a “wow” factor,” grabbing attention and making entire consumer groups stop, stand up and take notice. There are currently a relatively small number of companies using these technologies, making it far more likely to be adopted as digital marketing progresses. However, for now, those using it have a competitive advantage, especially considering AR and VR gives consumers a more vivid and tangible feel for products and services than other mediums. While we can expect to see a significant increase in the number of companies using AR/VR in their marketing in the coming years, there are several companies already utilizing these new technologies.
Consider these examples:
The IKEA VR Experience – Have you ever wanted to do a major renovation in your house, but were too scared to make any major changes without seeing what they would look like? IKEA now offers the experience to see any projected renovations and change first-hand through VR technology. Experienced through a VR headset, IKEA structures the VR experience as a virtual visit to an IKEA store, where consumers can explore different areas including kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms that are fully stocked with strategically placed IKEA furniture, appliances and products. This allows consumers to virtually experience a space, viewing how IKEA products would appear in that space, and even use an innovative feature to experience the space from a child’s eye-view.
360-degree Facebook Videos – 360-degree video is a trend that is taking off on popular social networking channels including Facebook. Able to be accessed from a desktop, laptop, smartphone or VR gear, 360-degree videos offer viewers full interaction and immersion in whatever scene is being shown. The best part? Anyone can make their own 360-degree video based on whatever content they can imagine, or to share the experience they are experiencing themselves. Companies can also use 360 videos to immerse consumers in their brand, their event or to share stories and interviews. The sky (and beyond) is really the limit for these videos.
When it comes to marketing, AR/VR is the next great experiential technology, with research house IDC noting the market will surge 100% over each of the next four years. Organizations are presented with the unique opportunity to completely immerse consumers in their products, services, and subsequently, their brand. They can virtually engross consumers in an experience of their creation – something never before possible. Smart marketers will recognize the opportunity in bridging both on- and offline experiences and marketing efforts, and will jump on the AR/VR train.