How AR and VR are Propelling Businesses to New Engagement Levels by@socialbeeadventures

How AR and VR are Propelling Businesses to New Engagement Levels

In June 2021, 44,000 new businesses were launched in the US, representing a record high for business startups. Deploying new technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) has become the next battleground to building greater engagement levels and improving customer experiences. AR has enabled customers to imagine the potential of a brand and has therefore driven their online behavior. By giving computers vision, AR allows customers to shop from the comfort of their homes in an effortless manner.
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Social Bee Adventures

A Seattle-based augmented reality platform that brings the tourism experience to the next level.

In recent months, business activity bloomed across the globe, fueled by technological advancements and the need to adapt to the new norm the pandemic left behind. Just in June 2021, 44,000 new businesses were launched in the US, representing a record high for business startups. 

However, this boom has left founders wondering how to rise above the crowd, mainly focusing on their clear indicator of business success – the customer. Deploying new technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), has become the next battleground to building greater engagement levels and improving customer experiences. 

IKEA, for example, is leveraging AR in their new app IKEA Studio, available for Beta testing and a huge upgrade from their previous app IKEA Place. It allows users to change wall colors, arrange new furniture, stack items on top of each other, and completely remodel their homes with IKEA products. The app captures 3D room plans and measurements using LiDAR sensors, providing customers with a more immersive AR experience.  

AR has enabled customers to imagine the potential of a brand and has therefore driven their online behavior. They are now a lot more demanding when researching the brand prior to actually completing a purchase. Reviews and all relevant brand and product information are paramount for a consumer to start to consider making a purchase. 

Yet, with shopping behavior taking a huge shift to the online world, businesses wonder: How can consumers confidently purchase without physically trying on a product or testing out a service first? 

AR and VR are disrupting the retail industry

The way brands interact with our audience has noticeably changed to fit their needs and demands. Customers have completely dictated how and when they want to be serviced, from reduced response rates with virtual sales representatives to full step-by-step AR tutorials and chatbots. This is also reflected in how they interact with products before making a purchase. 

Take Supra Boats AR app, for example. Imagine scanning an empty space in your living room or backyard and then touring a real-life-sized boat with just your phone. With the help of AR, Supra Boats has empowered potential buyers to A) learn about the intricate features of their boats at their own pace, in their own time, in a no-pressure environment and B) customize their boat’s colors, speakers, and add-ons down to the thread color used on their seats and finally C) order their custom boat direct from the manufacturer. This immersive experience will make them feel like they’re on a boat – all in real dimensions. In a world of supply chain issues and COVID-restricted in-person experiences, this is surely a game-changer.

Now, take this “try on” experience to other industries and incorporate them into greater strategies: 

Finding the right fit: How can consumers try on hundreds of different garments, accessories, or even furniture for their homes without running all over town and spending ungodly amounts of time and money on returns and transactions before they find the perfect fit? By giving computers vision, AR allows customers to shop from the comfort of their homes in an effortless manner.

A clear example is Warby Parker’s AR app. It uses the phone’s camera to detect the shape and features of a customer’s face to easily overlay hundreds of eyes and sunglasses on it precisely. The customer can then browse through the different glasses and frames, all without stepping foot in a store.

However, the app goes beyond just trying on products and provides the user with easy payment options, such as Apple Pay, and real-time notifications so users can track their order at any time. This notoriously increases the brand’s average order value (AOV) and can even significantly reduce return rates as customers can pick and purchase items with far less hesitation. 

Building on resilience for the future and bringing innovation to consumers’ homes: Samsung is also adapting to the rapid growth of AR by developing patent-pending AR contact lenses, which are predicted to disrupt the entertainment industry, giving the user the “all-seeing eye” where they have access to information without the need for a separate screen. Electronic manufacturers are widely reconsidering their product output as any surface can potentially become a screen in the future. 

The zero moment

The first impression is everything. To drive high engagement levels and stand out from the competition, enterprises and startups alike should identify the exact moment to implement AR and VR into their marketing strategies and build opportunities to deeply connect with their audience. 

Whether it’s to highlight specific features otherwise overlooked by the naked eye or to create immersive experiences to build on brand awareness and remain top of mind (TOM) with your buyer persona, here are some lessons of AR in action:

The famous “try-on” experience enables aids the user in their decision-making process when seeing, touching, or feeling a product in person is difficult or not possible at all.

Augmented and virtual product tours give brands and manufacturers an unparalleled ability to show and communicate their products’ features, advantages, and benefits through a no-stress environment, empowering users to learn at their pace.  

Engagement is key, and immersive experiences take over consumers’ senses allowing them to go deep into a branded experience.

Take Oculus and NFL, for example. Imagine being able to view a touchdown right from the goal post and keeping track of all your favorite players’ stats in real-time. For NFL, this experience creates a stronger bond with the league and can increase lifetime customer value (LCV) and brand affinity. 

Aside from building on greater engagement levels, AR has also become a lifeline for many industries. It is estimated that by 2023, the number of mobile AR users worldwide will grow to 2.4 billion. 

One of the industries that can significantly benefit from this peak is the travel industry, transforming the way users observe their surroundings and offering greater interactivity. For example, AR has allowed tour guides to create and enhance experiences for travelers to consume without compromising both entertainment and quality. 

Imagine walking through Seattle and seeking popular and local sites and attractions that aren’t flocked with tourists. An immersive and interactive tour will allow you to find the hidden gems and have a local experience, increasing the chances that you’ll consume this guide’s tour in the future. Health experts alike agree COVID 19 isn't the first and certainly won't be the last pandemic. Self-guided tours help build resilience for tour guides and operators, allowing them to generate passive income from the unique adventures they've created.

As we experience greater emerging technologies such as AR and VR and try to stay up to date with consumers’ changing purchasing habits, businesses must seek resilience for the future to remain competitive and relevant in their respective markets. Reaching new audiences and retaining loyal customers is key to increasing revenue levels, but this requires a deep look at your business model and its adaptability to technological changes. AR and VR can lead you to the path of digital transformation and new engagement levels. 

By Jason LaBaw, Founder of Social Bee

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