Getting the most out of AR and VR experiences

Some ways to approach an extended retail strategy outside a single social platform.

With the pandemic still a major concern for shoppers, marketers in the retail space should be looking at how better to engage with consumers digitally. It used to be that there were certain categories of products and services that needed to be purchased in-person, which was often the case, especially for big-ticket items. But now in the world of virtual and augmented reality, consumers are test-driving electric vehicles, and renters are inspecting and leasing their new home.

When retailers make the jump to AR and VR, they should take a holistic approach and not depend too much on a single platform. Consumers expect more, and marketers have to cast a wide net to build the right experience. VR & AR experience software company Wool & Water has done their own consumer research on AR and VR. Co-founders Jeff Bodzewski and Justin McAneny recently shared some best practices as marketers pick and choose from this emerging channel. They define the concept of “extended retail” as a broader strategy that helps marketers avoid getting tied down to a single platform or technology that includes AR, VR, smart displays and, eventually, holograms and metaworlds in the years to come.

Too niche and costly. “Snapchat is a great way for brands to test the AR shopping possibilities, but it has significant limitations to a brand’s longer-term extended retail strategy,” said Bodzewski. “First is obviously the prohibitive cost of Snapchat’s paid platform that only allows shoppers to experience a finite amount of products for a limited time depending on the brand’s advertising budget. Second is the daily userbase that’s roughly only a third of the number of shoppers in the United States today and not the real target for a wide range of mainstream brands given Snapchat’s relatively niche audience.” 

Brands can integrate an AR solution that enhances in-store and digital storefronts that nearly all shoppers can see for a comparable price,” he added.

More revenue and data. “Consumers are more aware of how brands are using their data than at any point, meaning any retailer needs to provide a high enough perceived value around convenience, cost and experience through VR and AR,” said McAneny. “Shoppers now expect extended retail shopping experiences that give them the confidence to purchase whether it’s how something from the store would look in their home or even virtually trying on products from a website. We’ve found shoppers will not only reward these forward-thinking brands with higher sales, order size and loyalty, but with their first-person data to make it a truly convenient one-click purchase.”

He added, “A long-term strategy for all extended channels needs to be considered as long-term enhancements to a company’s entire omnichannel footprint rather than the gimmick so many brands continue to relegate this sales technology to currently.”

VR will get better soon. “We’ve built out approaches for high-end designers to walk their customers through a live environment where they can see and make real-time changes to the design being created specifically for them,” said Bodzewski. “Luxury tourism destinations are also beginning to explore this as a tool to really help their very top customers experience new properties, rides and other elements that would have been confined to a brochure or 2D video.”

He added, “We’re not there with mainstream adoption of VR, although the Oculus Rift 2 likely will prove to be a tipping point.”

Why we care. This has been building for some time, but — guess what? — it’s accelerating. Digital and physical are becoming closely interwoven. Consumers steeped in online shopping are going to want digital experiences (and seamless discovery and checkout) in-store too. And consumers that prefer a digital environment will welcome the opportunity to explore big-ticket items like homes, cars and furniture — items that usually demand in-person inspection — online. AR and VR are going to play an important role in the union of digital and physical.

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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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