The new "realities" of consumer engagement


By: Chinye Osamusali

The technology world is abuzz again with the promise of new ways to experience the world. Desktop, internet and mobile have all been changing how we absorb the information that’s all around us: Information flows at a faster pace and can be shared in real time on a global scale. From this, we've created new technological spaces and places that could not have been experienced before in everyday real life.

Recently, new developments in virtual reality and augmented reality are allowing us to reconnect with reality again but through a different lens. According to Marxent Labs, Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of technology to create an environment where the user can be inside an experience, instead of simply viewing the screen in front of them. Prime examples of VR can be found with the popular Samsung Gear VR headset run by Oculus Rift. Users can experience the world from the comfort of home. Apps include everything from building new cities to explore other parts of the world to playing the world’s most popular arcade games all in one place.

Augmented Reality (AR) creates artificial objects in the real world as 3D graphics. Nowhere was AR more evident than with the popularity of Pokémon Go. VR and AR are becoming accessible to consumers and, as a result, developing as a deeper part of the consumer experience. Om Malik, technology writer for the New Yorker writes about how Pokemon Go is changing the consumer expectations about how they want to experience brands:

“This weekend I went to the recently opened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and wanted to know everything about the art and various installations… I felt as if I should be able to lift my phone and get more details on the process of the creation of the artwork, rather than having to type a search term into my browser. Pokémon Go had changed my expectations on how to access information.”

Even with the fast rise and fall of Pokémon GO, the importance of VR and AR is not even close to its peak. There is an opportunity for brands to take advantage of this technology and enhance their consumer engagement experiences by becoming more entertaining, immersive and memorable.

The current digital landscape leads to consumer engagement being an "always-on" experience that requires marketers to adopt a new lens for how consumers and brands engage with each other. The Spiegel Research Center’s Consumer Engagement Engine is a framework for understanding the ways that engagement drives value for both the marketer and the consumer. VR experiences create a level of engagement that marketers should not miss.

In the Engagement Engine, Brand Actions occur when marketers initiate brand related communication with their audiences by providing them new opportunities to interact with the product. VR is a way to take control of this part of the consumer experience and - because of the uniqueness of VR - it is an experience that consumers are likely to share with their peers. This is significant because peer-to-peer sharing could lead to purchasing. In fact, one study has shown that up to 51% of purchases were influenced by what was seen on Facebook.

VR is a platform that gives the consumer a sense of observing, participating and co-creating all in one experience. The benefit to marketers is that it directly ties the product to the goals of the consumer and increases their purchasing intent. Spiegel Research was able to show that as consumers engage more actively with a brand, there is a strong correlation to increasing levels of customer lifetime value.

One prime example of virtual reality has Volvo taking their consumers for a test drive. Volvo recreated the experience of test driving a new car in VR. As a result, Volvo was the first car brand to make use of Google Cardboard in their consumer brand experience. VR’s ability to let consumers experience a product firsthand is one of the most powerful tools a marketer may use. After all, giving consumers more opportunities to interact with the brand means they could be moving one step closer to the decision to purchase.

Consumers responded well to the opportunity to try Volvo’s car through VR.Google Glass provided more interactivity and responsiveness, which proves how important it is for consumers to get a chance to observe, participate and co-create.

Marketers should plan how their business can take advantage of VR and AR to become more interactive with their consumers. As the world begins to change how people interact with different levels of reality, marketers will have to match new expectations on how consumers want to engage with brands. While this may appear challenging at first, successful uses of VR will provide brand engagement that will delight consumers and create more positive purchase behaviors from them.