Augmented and Virtual Reality: trailblazers or hype?

Augmented and Virtual Reality: trailblazers or hype?

According to Gartner, by 2022 25% of digital commerce will feature a form of immersive technology through either augmented or virtual reality. But how are AR and VR different? What are the use-cases for marketers, and how can they be practically implemented in the future?

Virtual reality aims to completely transport customers to a new reality, creating a virtual replacement for their physical environment. A VR experience is usually delivered through a head-mounted or hand-held controller to actively immerse customers into a simulated environment. Augmented reality is a different kind of beauty. Used across mobile devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets), the objective is not to cut out the real world, but to enhance a customer’s experience of their physical environment with a blend of virtual objects.

Have you ever played Pokémon Go? Experimented with Snapchat or Instagram filters? Checked out a 360-degree photo? Well then you have experienced augmented reality, and this is just the tip of the technological iceberg.

It’s clear that both businesses and their customers have the potential to benefit from these innovations, with some brands already taking an immersive turn with their marketing:

  • Specsavers have developed an incredible virtual experience for their customers. Simply by downloading their app, or visiting the website, customers are able to scan their face and virtually try on pairs of glasses at the click of a button. This savvy spectacle sales solution smooths their customer’s path to purchase.
  • IKEA recently introduced their ‘IKEA Place’ app which allows customers to size up, and virtually place over 2000 furniture pieces in their own home. Boasting a 98% accuracy, the app allows customers to imagine what they want, where they want it, and provides an easy path to online purchase.
  • Similarly, Jeep have pioneered their ‘Jeep Compass Visualiser’, which is an innovative application that can create a virtual car before the customer’s eyes in real dimensions. This easy-to-use technology, allows customers to create and customise a new Jeep model before its physical arrival in the showroom, boosting interest and generating potential sales.
  • Even the tech giants are looking to get more commercial with AR. Apple has developed the world’s largest AR development platform in ARKit, which enables app developers to create in-app AR experiences across iOS devices. Google are also driving the virtual revolution with their Poly website, which provides a forum for entrepreneurs and enthusiasts alike to share their VR/AR development ideas.

Still not convinced? Here are some of the key marketing benefits that AR and VR bring to the table:

  1. Create rich, immersive and interactive user experiences with products
  2. Deliver personalised, tailored content which exceeds customer expectation
  3. Overcome language barriers, increase engagement and facilitate buying
  4. Share stories across multiple platforms and engage a wider audience
  5. Present detailed analytics to understand/anticipate customer behaviour.

In a nutshell, immersive commerce increases happiness in loyal customers, and provides an exciting proof-point for new customers in their buying journey. AR and VR solutions are rapidly evolving to banish their ‘buzzword’ status, and become inherently valuable assets for strategic marketing campaigns, capable of driving deeper customer engagement and organic business growth.

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