Customers are seeking increasingly individualized brand experiences, which means marketers need to collect detailed data to learn more about their target customers in order to provide such. Advanced systems, like AI, and enhanced presentation through VR and AR options, offer exciting potential to ultimately optimize the customer experience with immersive, emotive technology while collecting precise data to perfect their offerings.
Tech giants like Apple, Google, Adobe, Facebook, and Microsoft have each demonstrated their commitment to the next level systems by investing heavily in new frameworks, APIs, and prototypes that utilize this technology. Google, for example, has begun uniting some of their advertising strategies in the form of a VR cube. Apple, meanwhile, has a developed a groundbreaking new AR framework, called ARkit, which has expanded the accessible uses of AR technology to the everyday consumer.
These tech behemoths are serious about combining their markets with AI systems, and as these technologies become more ubiquitous in the advertising space, our marketing methods will need to adapt.
So what does this mean for the modern content marketer? In this post, we'll look at the latest developments in VR and AR systems, and how marketers can prepare to acclimate successfully.
VR and Marketing
Virtual reality creates simulated, three-dimensional worlds, offering an entirely immersive experience. That capacity means VR is a great tool for advertising - imagine car commercials that can take you on a virtual joy ride, or a commercial for a tennis product which drops you into Wimbledon arena.
VR technology provides an emotive experience, as well an immersive one - and getting customers to connect with a product through a positive emotional experience is proven to have a direct impact on sales.
However, advertising within VR is not without its challenges. Primarily, companies need to figure out how to reach audiences with their ad content. VR environments facilitate a fictional world where viewers can escape. That said, it's not an environment where users are likely to enter with a buyer's intent for items they may need in their day-to-day life (at least, not yet).
To ensure effectiveness, VR ads will require unique targeting to a user's interests. Social networks, like Facebook, have proven that heavily targeted ads are successful on platforms where visitors don't come with buyer's intent. If brands want a non-intrusive way to reach customers in the VR space, they're going to need a creative, individualized targeting method.
Google's testing lab, Area 120, has been experimenting with a VR ad cube, a levitating branded box that opens once a user is facing the box while wearing a VR headset. Upon facing the cube, a sponsored video plays instantly. To close the ad, the user must manually select "Close Ad."
Currently, this is an MVP version, but Google's focus and investment on re-strategizing their advertising options (an area where the corporation generates a good majority of their revenue) with VR technology is a testament to how much interest there is in AI systems.
Marketing with AR
Augmented reality on the other hand enhances a user's existing reality by layering computer-generated images over a person's current view of his or her environment. These computer-generated images can be three-dimensional simulations which interact with physical objects in the space of the user's environment.
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Apple, have all experimented with AR prototypes, from AR camera filters created by Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, to interactive mobile games.
Recently, some new uses of AR technology have been introduced, most notably via the introduction of Apple's ARkit.
At the recent WWDC 17 event, Apple introduced new APIs which will invite more AR app developers to collaborate with the App Store. The ARkit, Apple's newest mobile framework for AR, has been reported as the "largest AR platform in the world."
ARkit consists of multiple layers of AR technology: world tracking, scene understanding (ability to determine attributes about a user's environment), and light estimation (ability to detect the characteristics of light in the user's environment so that the 3D images match.)
This new framework is opening up many new possibilities for AR technology - for example, Ikea's mobile app uses AR technology to place pieces from their catalog in a customer's environment. By simply placing the Ikea catalog somewhere in the room and aiming a smartphone camera at it, the app will accurately grab the dimensions of the space and place a lounge chair, desk, table, or any piece of furniture that's true to size. Now, potential Ikea shoppers can see exactly how a piece of furniture will look in their home or office before purchasing it.
AR systems can not only help brands to sell, but they can also help capitalize on buyer's intent, and even create new opportunities to market to consumers. Tech experts predict that as soon as AR wearables become mainstream, wearers will be able to access information about their surrounding environment all the time, anytime. Walking past a person with a flashy coat and wondering where they bought it will be a concern of the past - soon, your smart wristwatch will use AR and computer vision technology to identify the coat and pull up all its details, like the brand, the price, and even the stock availability.
How Can Marketers Prepare?
So how can marketers get ready for the invasion of machine learning and advanced vision systems in the marketing industry?
First off, marketers can start honing their skills in 360-degree videos, live content, and more.
Record 360-degree video
Making a professional 360-degree video can be achieved by most users today, with a wide variety of apps and smartphone accessories available. Marketers can create this content without investing in a film crew - the advantage of the 360-degree format is the immersive VR experience that it can offer viewers on platforms like YouTube and Facebook, which both support the 360-degree format.
Offering VR-like experiences in this simple way initiates the audience to the use of VR technology in association with the company, and the rate of audience engagement will likely increase because 360 is becoming increasingly more popular than traditional video formats.
According to Magnifyre, 29% more people would view a 360-degree video over the same video in a traditional format. With 360-degree video, marketers can reap the benefits of practicing and refining campaign strategies that include interactive content.
Virtual live events
The "live" aspect of live-streaming business events - like webinars and conferences - gives people a greater incentive to view the event as it occurs. As marketers know, live content increases engagement by drawing in communities of viewers that will interact with one another and the brand in the comments section.
Reportedly, Facebook users spend 3x more time watching live videos than traditional videos. The benefit of this is that live content sharing can help prepare marketers for the optimized interactions they'll have with customers once AI systems are in place. AI systems will make the turn around time for communication immediate, and marketers will need to get used to producing content at a faster pace.
Finally, without excellent data quality, companies can't even begin to build successful machine learning models to optimize their processes. AI systems are increasingly going to curate the brand experience for the target customer, and to do that a company's data needs to be unified first.
Current systems aren't equipped with enough solid data to personalize each user experience in each channel, and it'll be impossible to have seamless interactions with customers across all channels without a unified understanding of a brand's various buyer personas.
Instead, marketers should practice working in groups, with experts from each area, and collaborate within these groups through all stages of the buyer journey. This restructuring shifts the team focus from channel optimization to customer optimization, resulting in an exceptional customer experience that'll be a conducive environment to implement more advanced systems in the near future.
These advanced technologies are going to revolutionize the business-consumer dynamic, with a more individualized, optimized experience. As these systems progress out of their infancy today, marketers are left with a generous amount of time to prepare themselves.