Alana Sandel is a Chief Experience Officer at Marketing For Wellness, the agency committed to supporting brands that stand for well-being.
With physical interactions limited by Covid-19, companies are increasingly turning to virtual and augmented reality technology as part of their digital transformation efforts. Interactions through avatars and sensory experiences were already happening on a big scale. The Japanese expo Virtual Market — known as “the world’s biggest social virtual reality gathering” — drew more than 710,000 attendees in 2019, and more than a million people were expected at Virtual Market 4 earlier this year.
As chief experience officer at Marketing For Wellness, I focus on innovations that will shake up how people interact with the world. I have been exploring how AR/VR might transform our web experience and blur the borders between offline and virtual worlds.
With the rapid digital transformation we’re experiencing, marketing professionals should pay close attention to emerging AR/VR technologies that have the potential to provide alternatives to the offline experience that might not be possible in the same capacity for some time. So let’s take a look at what marketers should expect across different areas of business.
AR advertisements will make surfing the web more interactive and engaging. Facebook has already introduced AR ads, which allow users to “try on” products before buying. Google has added AR technology to its search engine. When users search for things on mobile, they can see some results in 3D and AR. If you search for Chauvet Cave, for instance, you can see some of the cave paintings in your own space. Snapchat and Instagram are already using AR as well.
To get ready to leverage AR and VR technologies for advertising, try to envision the future changes that will impact how we communicate and relate to the world by collaborating with thought leaders in the space. Translating vision into an actionable strategy is the next step. Drive strategy by asking yourself what 2025 might look like, and then plan backward to 2021 to make sure that your brand is positioned to keep and grow its followers.
With large gatherings being off the table, virtual events are in and here to stay for the foreseeable future. As more consumers come to own VR headsets, we are probably going to see more events transitioning over to VR spaces. The adoption of these tools will allow consumers to immerse themselves in a virtual web experience from anywhere.
Companies like VirBELA are enabling virtual events using VR. On Israeli Independence Day, AR technology allowed the country’s president to virtually visit citizens in their own homes.
Marketing professionals may need to quickly adopt new ways of bringing people together and create virtual experiences that are just as engaging as offline experiences. Create an event engagement map that outlines how participants can most enjoy their online experience. It’s also important to test the flow of an event with a small group of people and gather feedback before finalizing the event plan.
In light of concerns about Covid-19, we will likely continue to see fewer in-person shopping trips and more retailers using virtual experiences to help consumers find products and get expert advice online. AR/VR technologies provide opportunities to create new forms of engagement with products and services. Brands like Lego and Adidas are using AR to engage with consumers. Nike has added an AR feature to its app to help consumers find the right size sneakers.
Ikea and Wayfair are letting shoppers virtually “try out” different products in their homes before they buy them. There also are 3D body-scanning tools that help you find the right size clothing without having to physically try it on.
As marketers, we should be aware of consumers’ pain points and think of ways to address them using AR/VR, while also preparing for potential best- and worst-case scenarios with numerous technological possibilities.
We need to pay attention to how AR/VR technologies will impact our world in the future. Marketers are in the driver’s seat to encourage the adoption of these technologies and create new ways for them to be integrated into our lives.
That said, I think we should be asking ourselves a question: How can we use this technology to create positive habits versus negative ones that could result in social isolation and digital addiction? I think as long as we have our priorities straight, the use of new technologies should help us preserve our humility while leveraging innovation to allow as many people as possible to become citizens of the world who can experience life together virtually.
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Author: Alana Sandel, Forbes Councils Member