Innovations, including digital experiential technologies, are redefining everyday processes and influencing a variety of industries, from retail to real estate. Brands are now using those technologies to improve how a consumer can interact with their products and services, in the process improving their bottom lines.
Though companies have a laundry list of innovations to choose from, many are turning to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to better promote their products.
According to recent research, the AR and VR market is predicted to reach $215 billion by 2021, and as enterprise AR and VR solutions emerge, these advanced technologies are going to go beyond the gaming and entertainment industries.
With the unmatched potential to eliminate visualization barriers, overlay 3D images on a screen during shopping experiences, and immerse consumers in virtual environments to view products, these technologies are poised to revolutionize marketing efforts and drive quick conversions.
As the technology continues to develop, brands are implementing AR into their marketing initiatives in various ways; some of the most powerful use cases include social media-driven campaigns, virtual in-store displays, and mobile apps with AR capabilities to try products from the comfort of your home.
Social Media Marketing Campaigns
It's no secret that consumers spend a significant amount of time on social media. With billions of users worldwide, social platforms present an immense engagement and marketing opportunity for brands to reach their target audience and track valuable data.
Facebook alone has more than two billion users, followed by Instagram with one billion and Twitter with close to 330 million. Though it has become the norm for retailers to create a social media presence through company profiles, a new approach has recently emerged—using these channels to connect with shoppers and promote their products, bringing the content into the users' physical space.
Since the introduction of Facebook's AR ads capabilities, many brands—including Michael Kors, Pottery Barn, Bobbi Brown, and Wayfair—have turned to the platform to produce interactive ads that allow users to virtually try on products, envision how a piece of furniture will look in a space, and explore a new game.
By providing the unique opportunity for brands to better connect with consumers and showcase their items online, AR and VR experiences are transforming traditional marketing efforts. Furthermore, these technologies will continue to evolve as other social platforms invest in the technology.
Virtual In-Store Displays
Companies are also turning to interactive in-store displays. Because many consumers prefer the convenience of shopping online, traditional brick-and-mortar stores are going digital to appeal to customers. Through more realistic, immersive models of items that are for sale and digital displays, retailers are looking for ways to catch the eye of consumers as they walk by.
For example, some retailers are installing AR devices that allow consumers to digitally "try on" products:
- Topshop introduced its Kinect Fitting Room, an AR screen that allows shoppers to simply swipe through products to see how they would fit all without having to step into a dressing room.
- Lowe's unveiled its hologram experience, allowing shoppers to use a Microsoft HoloLens headset to virtual decorate their homes using Lowes products.
Other retailers, in hopes of getting consumers through the doors, are placing AR screens in their storefronts, enabling consumers to interact with the technology as they walk by. Zara is taking things one step further, creating empty, yet appealing, storefront displays that encourage consumers to download an AR app so they can interact with products, drawing shoppers in store.
AR and VR Apps
Since the introduction of Apple's ARKit and Google's ARCore, billions of users now have access to AR-based technology on the phones in their pockets. By simply downloading AR-enabled apps, consumers can immediately overlay digital items in the real world through their devices so that they can interact with, shop, and purchase 3D representations of actual products.
In retail, this presents immense marketing opportunities for brands. Consumers value the convenience of online shopping, but, for example, it's difficult to purchase large products like sofas and home décor when you can't envision the size of the product or how it'll look with your current furnishings. That's true of real estate, as well, with companies such as Sotheby's International Realty building custom virtual staging applications so prospective buyers can see different styles and configurations while exploring a home's potential. AR allows consumers to see how these elements look and fit in their space, increasing purchase confidence.
Now, many brands are investing in or developing AR apps that allow consumers to bring the dressing rooms and showrooms to their homes:
- Gap unveiled its virtual dressing room, which lets users virtually try on products anywhere and at any time.
- Ray-Ban unveiled its Virtual Try-On app, which allows consumers to see how specific frames would look on, share them with friends and purchase them through the app.
- Wayfair and other home furnishings retailers have implemented AR-based apps so users can envision how a piece of furniture will match a specific décor or fit in a space.
Even as new AR and VR experiences continue to be developed, it's already evident that they present unparalleled potential for marketing in the retail industry. Their enterprise applications indicate continued growth across various industries, and the brands that don't invest in these technologies and evolve their strategic marketing efforts risk being left behind.
So, what can retailers do today to get ahead, stay ahead, and ensure long-term success?
- Familiarize themselves with the capabilities and their use cases
- Invest in solutions that make the most sense for their specific audiences
- Look to those developing the content that fuels these immersive technologies
Retailers can leverage AR and VR experiences to propel their marketing initiatives, capture consumers' attention, and drive sales while enhancing the overall shopper experience.
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