From augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality to bots, brands have more engaging ways to connect with consumers than ever before.
- USA Today is immersing its readers in the stories it tells by using VR.
- The Washington Post is bringing readers’ dream adventures to life with AR experiences.
- Rue21 is turning historically mundane retail experiences into luxury personal beauty and style consultant interactions using the power of chatbots.
The technologies these brands are using are not exclusive, but they are still in the emergent phase and should be thoughtfully considered before they’re incorporated into marketing plans.
Here’s a deeper look into three of the top emerging technologies and what marketers should consider when incorporating them into their programs.
1. VR for Storytelling
VR is little more than window dressing if it can’t immerse customers in the storytelling experience.
Immersive VR has the power to create memories for the viewer that are as real as an actual real-life experience.
I’d argue that it has the potential to deliver significant value to customers and some brands are already figuring out exactly what that looks like.
For USA Today, that’s exactly what its VR directive is all about. The publication uses 360-degree video and VR to help readers experience stories firsthand.
USA Today also delivers VR experiences through its mobile app, transporting its audience to virtual destinations. Viewers can take off with the Blue Angels of the U.S. Navy or stroll down the streets of Havana, Cuba – experiencing places and events they never thought they’d experience.
Incorporating VR into a well-rounded marketing strategy has the potential to awaken your storytelling capabilities, but it’s also a significant time and budget investment.
Effectively immersing customers into the new world you want to create requires you to think holistically about the experience and invest time and energy into seamlessly producing that experience.
Also, while VR is becoming more accessible for brands and consumers alike, most people aren’t used to viewing content in 360-degrees, so there’s also still a bit of viewer education that needs to happen for these experiences to truly be effective for marketers.
2. Drive Memorable Experiences with AR
AR experiences can improve customer engagement and keep people coming back for fresh content.
Renowned beauty brand Estée Lauder knows this all too well. Leveraging AR, Estée Lauder gives customers the ability to experience a variety of virtual makeup products with no product sample required.
On-the-go fashionistas can virtually see how lipstick shades look on their selfies, and in the future, will be able to virtually find the perfect make-up foundation match for their skin tones.
The Washington Post leverages AR technology to let readers explore some of the world’s most notable destinations. Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall in Hamburg, Germany is one such destination.
If you point your smartphone camera at any ceiling in any room, the app will transform your screen into a concert hall ceiling. The app also includes narration from Philip Kennicott, the newspaper’s art and architect critic.
Now that AR is supported on smartphones, it opens up endless possibilities for brands.
However, marketers shouldn’t just jump into AR on a whim.
The content needs to be useful and intuitive for the consumer in order for the experience to be memorable. Start with easy, less complex AR projects first and build your way up.
Also, make sure to keep in mind that there’s still a slight learning curve with AR as well, so you might need to hold your customer’s hand a bit as they begin to engage.
As more people engage with AR experiences, brands can acquire more customer data. Analyzing that data will reveal important insights to help marketers make even more memorable experiences for customers.
3. Take Engagement to the Next Level with Chatbots
While traditional chat interactions typically take place on brand sites to help facilitate customer service conversations, chatbots can fill needs far beyond customer service.
Chatbots are all about assisting the user – be it queries posed by voice, text or even images – to help them perform general tasks like ordering a pizza or shopping.
Rue21, for example, launched a chatbot designed to act as a virtual stylist. The teen apparel and accessories company worked with mode.ai, a company that builds AI-powered virtual style bots for retailers, to build a chatbot that works to:
- Learn a shopper’s interests and preferences.
- Respond to their requests.
- And even make recommendations for complementary items.
By leveraging a chatbot, Rue21 can simplify and personalize the shopping experience for its customers and engage with them in a completely new way.
Chatbots can be immensely valuable to your brand if incorporated and positioned correctly. Keep in mind that chatbots shouldn’t serve to replace human interactions but should aid and enhance them.
It’s vital that brands create chatbot experiences that are engaging and genuine, not just transactional.
A good example of this is with Food Network’s chatbot. It acts as more of a recipe helper — giving users the ability to search for recipes in many different ways and even learns from past interactions to drive more impactful experiences.
For marketers looking at chatbots for the first time, I recommend starting small and identify a key area that could benefit from incorporating a chatbot.
It’s important that you don’t just jump on the chatbot bandwagon because it’s a hot trend.
Use your chatbot to really solve key challenges. It’s also vital that you don’t just launch a chatbot and forget about it.
You need to analyze and constantly optimize the experience based on how customers are using it.
Emerging Tech Soon Will Be Status Quo
Now is the time to prepare your marketing programs for the experiences of the future.
Start by connecting your marketing teams with IT and high-level decision-makers to create a roadmap for success.
Strive to make each customer interaction at least informative and memorable – maybe even thrilling – but definitely valuable, and you’ll join the ranks of experience-era marketers destined to ride this new and exciting technological wave into a profitable future.
Featured Image: Adobe Stock
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