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Marketing in an Era of Search, Experiences, and Referrals

Technology impacts lifestyles, communications, and viewpoints across generations: millennials, generation Z, boomers, seniors, etc. Videos, visually striking images, and social media platforms inspire people to seek new experiences, emotions, and excitement. According to a Boston Consulting Group study, 72% of millennials say they’d like to increase their spending on experiences than physical things in the next year, pointing to growing consumer appetite for experiences over products.

In fact, consumer behavior is complex and often driven by emotions consumers don’t always understand. Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) could help channel some powerful marketing and consumer insights tools that delve into the desires and fantasies of consumers. A 2016 Deloitte study reveals that by 2025 annual revenues for the AR/VR industry would reach $692 billion. The study also revealed that 88% of mid-market companies are already implementing some forms of virtual/augmented reality in their marketing campaigns.

Think about the growing popularity of e-commerce and the share of products and services purchased online today. Virtually any customer journey begins with an internet search that compares various products and services available in the market. Using AR/VR, online shoppers can now simulate real-life experiences with products or services, growing their product awareness, interest, and purchase decisions. Simulated experiences help build trust, loyalty, and retention as well as encourage consumers to share their experiences with peers.

A study by Vibrant Media evaluates the influence of its Vibrant 360° software which enables consumers to put themselves at the center of a brand, product, or place. With new formats, consumers can virtually visit a tourist destination, explore a computer game or watch a movie through the eyes of the protagonist, attend a fashion show, performance or special event. The same study revealed that their VR software demonstrated 600% higher interaction rates, 700% better content recall, 2,700% improved brand recall, and a 200% increase in purchase intent compared to standard 2D video ads.

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It is evident how VR/AR experiences enable not just powerfully personal and interactive experiences, but also help unite brands with people and networks in ways that can offset more brand chatter than conventional marketing methods. A Touchstone Research study revealed that 79% of customers will search for additional AR/VR experiences and 81% would tell their family and friends about it. Word of mouth marketing plays a strong role in building better brands, and AR/VR only amplifies this effect.


Image Source:  Augmented Reality in Marketing 


Building Consumer Trust with AR/VR

When shopping at a physical store, it might be challenging to imagine how some products or services work in real life without proper demonstration. Have you ever looked at a closed jar of paint on the store shelf and wondered how it would look like on the actual wall, in your apartment? Would it not be more gratifying to know in advance how a new haircut and coloring would work particularly on your hair, or how it would fit with your face or appearance? Wouldn’t it also be exciting to have a 360-degree view of the hotel room you are planning to book for your vacation? Wouldn’t it increase your customer experience and satisfaction?

45% of customers say they would like to try AR/VR while shopping, while 30% of consumers report that they would not visit other stores again if AR-enabled them to buy the right size of clothing with confidence online.” – Nikki Baird, VP of Retail Innovation of Aptos.

AR/VR could also help in educating customers about products and processes. It could be really challenging to gain consumer trust when your potential clients don’t know what actions to expect during complex or detailed vehicle maintenance, medical or dental procedures. However, AR/VR technology could help consumers visualize even complex processing and help people overcome their fears. Another interesting application of consumer education via VR/AR is the vacuuming robot that cleans their surface or the video journey of how a tea leaf becomes a flavored beverage. The adventure would start with the montage of a real-life tea plantation and customers watching a pre-filmed documentary of nurturing, collecting and sorting tea leaves without having to travel to India or Sri Lanka. Then they would follow the tea leaves from the plantation to the factories as they made their way into stores across the globe. Finally, viewers would discover how tea leaves lend to the taste and water to become a flavored beverage. Finally, you can watch the simulation of a real-life tea ceremony that traces its roots to ancient Chinese culture.

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Image Source: Sephora Launches AR app feature

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Sports or music fans who did not have a chance to attend a concert often wish they could experience the event remotely. AR/ VR fills this gap between fantasy and experience, offering the perfect opportunity to grow a sporting event’s viewership exponentially. According to Greenlight Insights’ 2017 survey, most popular consumer applications for VR were in the categories of concerts, sports, and exercise. Their report reveals that 65% of consumers would be interested in live-streamed events using VR, with the same number being interested in using virtual reality capabilities to watch sports-games and 58% preferring to use AR/VR to watch concerts.

Gamification Improves Participation

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to gamify your brand study to enable your research respondents to have real-life experiences with a product prototype or to test interactive advertising instead of with static routine videos? VR/AR can contribute to better participation rates among survey respondents, enabling the collection of context-rich data, a powerful tool in breaking through the endless sea of products and services for any brand.

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