How the underlying tech of the metaverse, AR & VR can offer something different to your customers?
In 2016, most of the world was swept up by PokemonGo, a mobile game that allows players to locate, capture, and battle various Pokemon characters that appear on their smartphone screens as if they were in the same place as the player. Reminds me a bit of ChatGPT now that I think of it. Well the technology, augmented reality, or A.R. has matured, it’s a key part of the ‘metaverse’ along with its compatriot virtual reality, V.R. and they’re both here to stay judging by the numbers.
And while AR is often conflated with Virtual Reality (VR), they’re quite different things. AR is when real-time computer-generated data is overlaid on an existing environment, whereas VR transports the user ‘into’ a computer-generated environment by using a headset 一 think along the lines of visiting the Louvre museum without leaving the comfort of your own home!
Fast forward to the present, where going virtual has become the norm, these emerging technologies are gaining steam as well. In fact, the market for it will reach $20.9 billion in 2025, with China accounting for 36% of the market share. China is already the biggest player in the industry, with $5.8 billion spent on VR since 2021.
Following China’s increasing interest in launching expeditions to space, NOLO VR, a Chinese virtual reality manufacturer, has developed an experimental device through which laboratory technicians on the ground can see and experience vividly what astronauts are doing in space.
China’s technological advancement is also being incentivised by the government’s investment in new concepts and business models, and this means that further development in the fields of AR/VR in the country are very likely.
There are 171 million VR users globally today, with 69% of the demographic between the ages of 16 and 34. Social media is the top reason for VR usage, with 47% of users going there, followed by video gaming, which is a section of the market worth an estimated $1.6 billion in 2022 alone.
Currently, the major creators of VR headsets are Sony (43%), Microsoft (3.2%), HTC (14%) and Meta-owned Oculus (19%); note that Sony and Meta dominate with over 60% of the device shipment market between them! A total of 14.3 million units are expected to be sold in the year 2024, up from around 9 million in 2022.
Such AR and VR technologies are enabling brands and businesses to interact and engage customers in new innovative ways.
On July 21 2022, Meta organised a four-car exhibition-train which gave people the opportunity to learn about the teams that have qualified for the France 2023 Rugby World Cup and the history of rugby in general.
Fans can enjoy a VR experience using a Meta Quest headset, as well as create their personal avatar on interactive terminals at the entrance of the train, choosing from a variety of character traits as well as rugby accessories.
AR locker rooms – spaces which were both physical and virtual – were also set up at nine Rugby Villages in the nine host sites in France, where fans can change into various costumes using AR filters on Instagram.
IT giant, Accenture, believes, “the future of meeting, learning and working together will combine physical and virtual experiences to transform the enterprise.” To that end, they’ve created The Nth floor, their own virtual campus where employees’ avatars can gather to meet, collaborate, train, or hang out.
The company has found that using the Nth floor can improve the orientation of new hires and increase the retention rate of training sessions.
Ever dream of being a Mount Everest climber? You can still experience it virtually. In July 2020, National Geographic released an AR experience on Instagram that allowed users to ‘dress up’ as Everest climbers and climb the highest mountain in the world. When first launching the interactive filter, users find themselves at 4815,84 m above sea level.
Afterward, users have four different surroundings to choose from; the basecamp (5273,04 m), the South Col (7894,32 m), the balcony (8429,85 m), and the summit (8848,04 m). Users can move their camera or swipe their fingers to look around the 360-degree views and take selfies to share on their Instagram feed.
Ultimately, National Geographic gives users an immersive experience of what it would look like to be on Mount Everest in person.
Since 2017, an immersive exhibition of Vincent Van Gogh’s work has been running at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. Receiving over 5 million visitors and ranked as one of twelve best immersive experiences by CNN, the experience is created with VR tech which allows you to walk alongside the artist himself and accompany him in the creation of some of the world’s most famous artwork.
In this case, we realise the ability of VR to simulate a creative process; a look into the mind of a mysterious artist who was only celebrated after his death. The experience is overall far more experiential, but it does a good job of building sympathy for the subject.
As the most followed person on Instagram with 380 million followers as of 2022, Kylie Jenner has utilised her star power effectively to build her own cosmetics brand Kylie Cosmetics, and she sold 51% of her empire to global beauty brand Coty for a whopping $600 million in 2019.
Demonstrating that she is indeed the queen of social media, she promoted her range of lip products by rolling out custom Instagram filters equipped with AR capabilities that allowed users to try on her lipstick products virtually. Users can try up to seven of its most popular lip colours, which can be posted to their Instagram stories, either as a selfie, video, or Boomerang video.
Not only does it appeal to the selfie-loving generation, this filter proves that it helps consumers find the right shade of lipstick without having to head to the store. Since users can share their photos with hashtags, it also helps increase brand awareness.
Mannequins are used to show customers what clothes would look like on a person. However, in April 2018, fast-fashion retailer Zara tried something new to give customers a unique in-store experience.
They replaced mannequins for real-life models like Lea Julian and Fran Sommers to pose, strut, and speak virtually on users’ phone screens. To experience this, users must download the AR Zara application and point their camera to the designated spots, as seen below:
While it is true that the campaign only lasted for two weeks in 120 stores around the world, it certainly gives us a peek at what the future of marketing will look like.
With lockdowns and restrictions in place during this period, real estate agents and developers must pivot from having a traditional open house to a virtual one. VR technology allows potential buyers to see what it feels like to be in the house without actually being there. One example is Sotheby’s Realty, a luxury real estate dealer that offers virtual walkthroughs for iPhone and Android users who own VR headsets.
Meanwhile, AR technology is helpful for customers to imagine where their new furniture will be placed and look in their home. IKEA Place, for instance, allows you to visualise a new sofa in your house before actually buying it.
As time goes on and technology becomes more sophisticated, integrating AR/VR in your marketing strategy is no longer a pipe dream but a real one. It lets your customers connect with your brand in a new and unique way.
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