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Augmented and Virtual Reality: The Future of Marketing

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A graphic by Global Reach illustrating the power of Augmented Reality

Posted on 06/23/2021 at 10:00 AM

AR/VR 101 

Augmented reality is absolutely, undeniably coming for the future of digital marketing. Just like social media changed the way that brands advertise and communicate with consumers, augmented reality will change the way that consumers interact with products and services online and in stores. 

Before diving into the ways that augmented reality can be used for marketing, let's define some key terms. 

Augmented Reality

AR is exactly what it sounds like: a change or augmentation of perceived reality. According to Investopedia, AR “usually involves overlaying visual, auditory, or other sensory information onto the world in order to enhance one's experience.”

On a fundamental level, this could include your car’s rearview camera showing outlines of where your car is expected to go in real-time as you back up. The lines appearing on the screen are not really painted on the road but are integrated with the camera feed to appear real.

At the other end of the spectrum, augmented reality could take the form of wearable technology like Google’s Tech Specs. Wearable AR technology would allow users to see, hear, or otherwise experience their environment through the lens of whichever AR software they’d like. This could mean color corrections, time and date displays, names or facial recognition software, or any other augmentation that the user finds helpful. 

To date, the most popular example of AR is Pokémon Go, an augmented reality mobile game that allows users to interact with their surroundings in real-time. The game involves catching creatures that have been scattered across the globe. Users must physically walk, bike, drive (or, preferably, ride as a passenger) to a new location where they can then capture the creature. 

Virtual Reality 

Unlike AR, virtual reality does not combine the real and imagined environment. Instead, VR immerses the user into a whole new reality. This can be done through the use of visual aids like glasses and goggles or using audio tools like headphones or speakers-- or a combination of technologies.

Often, in order to create a completely new environment, VR will manipulate multiple sensory inputs. This creates the sensation of being picked up and dropped into another environment. In most cases, virtual reality uses a 360-degree, computer-generated space that users can interact with as if it were real. As the user stands up or kneels down, their perspective changes just as it would in real life. 

Examples of virtual reality are less common in day-to-day life. That said, there are several practical applications for VR already in place. Medical schools use virtual reality to place students in realistic circumstances that they may not experience during residency. Psychiatrists and counselors can use VR to conduct a variety of immersion therapy. Businesses with complex products can use VR to dissect the various pieces of their product in ways that would be impractical or unsafe in real life. (NPR) One of the most common uses of virtual reality is in employee training. Wal-mart, Verizon, and UPS all use VR to train employees on new tools and operating procedures. (Harvard Business Review

Marketing Applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality

The practical applications of AR/VR technology have already and will continue to revolutionize marketing across every industry.

There has never been a medium that so eloquently bridges the gap between consumer need and business solution.

With augmented and virtual reality, marketers can use vibrant, dynamic environments to show consumers what life would look like with their product or service. This could meet practical needs like showing a senior with limited mobility what it would look like to live in a senior living community, without needing them to travel throughout the entire campus. A similar service is offered by Matterport, a leading 3D platform that uses 360 cameras to create virtual real estate tours

The technology can also be used for retail demonstrations, like trying on certain clothing or accessories. Recently, Khols partnered with Snapchat to create a virtual closet using AR. The virtual closet lets users swipe through featured apparel, as the Snapchat filter overlays the clothes onto the user’s body in real-time. 

Similar product testing and try-before-you-buy techniques are used by eyewear designers and contact retailers like TTDeye, who use AR technology to let shoppers see what various colored contacts would look like on their eyes before making a purchase.

Sharing Current Applications

Using augmented and virtual reality to showcase your value proposition is a go-to application for most marketers. The introduction of new technologies often leads marketers to ask, “how can we use this technology to promote our brand?” The introduction of the QR code, for example, has given marketers a new way to share links and promotional content with consumers. 

Giving consumers a visual demonstration of business value is certainly a fundamental step in marketing with AR/VR. However, it is not the only marketing application of this technology.

The strategic and operational integrations of AR/VR technology -- which consumers will never touch -- can be just as powerful in building perceived value and demonstrating market authority. 

A Hypothetical Case 

Let’s say that somewhere along the value chain, a business uses augmented reality to make a process safer. One hypothetical business, ABC Apparel, creates adaptive clothing specifically designed for individuals with physical disabilities. Their development team uses augmented reality to predict how the apparel will interact with mobility aids and prostheses, in order to prevent design flaws. 

In this situation, the marketing team at ABC Apparel should be careful not to miss the low-hanging fruit. Instead of diving into an interactive try-before-you-buy app like the one from  Kohls, ABC Apparel should recognize the ways that AR/VR technology is already adding value to their brand. 

Sharing the way that their design team is using augmented reality can establish ABC Apparel as an innovative brand, and build trust among users who doubt ABC Apparel’s commitment to quality. 

Conclusions

As AR and VR technology becomes integrated with every step of the value chain, marketers have no reason to wait for consumer-immersive promotions. Like most technology, businesses will be using augmented and virtual reality long before consumers have wearables or personal AR/VR devices. This transition period puts marketers in a unique position to:

  1. Share their brand’s current application of new technology, especially when it benefits the consumer.
  2. Prepare their marketing strategy for mass consumer adoption of AR/VR technology; learning to use AR/VR technology as a bridge between consumer need and business solution. 

If you haven’t already, it may be time to do some preliminary research into the relevant applications of AR/VR technology in your industry. Global Reach can help! Contact us to get started!

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