Are augmented reality and virtual reality worth considering for your business? Only if you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Businesses need to find new, better ways to differentiate themselves in the digital world — and augmented reality in business could be the answer.
What could businesses turn to in order to stand out? Consider how the consumer buys today:
All these methods of research are largely passive. They don’t involve the full customer experience.
The full customer experience
In academic studies of purchase intent among consumers, customers rely on three types of experience to make purchases:
- Emotional experience (the emotions they feel during the purchase process).
- Social experience (status, community).
- Sensory experience (arousal of the senses).
All three experiences are necessary to maximize purchase intentions among consumers, as they’re all inter-related. Consider how the digital world, especially the smartphone, creates each experience.
- Emotional experience is conveyed in part by what the brand publishes, from advertising to content.
- Social experience is conveyed digitally through social networks, public and private.
- Sensory experience … isn’t.
This last gap is one which virtual and augmented reality in business hold the most promise for addressing. Through the use of augmented reality experiences, brands have the potential to create sight and sound sensory experiences that align with the emotional and social experiences they already produce.
3 ideas for integrating augmented reality into your business
Augmented reality in business offers three key sensory experiences that brands could use to create a holistic digital customer experience:
Experiencing the product.
Creating product context.
Taking the owner’s journey with the product.
Let’s explore each of these experience in detail and break down what they mean for you.
1. Experiencing the product
Experiencing the product is perhaps the most obvious augmented reality experience for brands to consider. In a virtual environment, a customer could look around the product, see the product in action, and experience the product’s benefits.
Automotive companies already offer augmented and virtual reality tours of vehicles so consumers can see the all-new interiors.
Home improvement stores allow consumers to redecorate and redesign interior rooms of their homes based on existing photos to design a remodel.
Real estate agents permit home buyers — and the idly curious — to walk through properties. This is doubly effective because tours are on-demand but don’t place demands on agents’ time.
2. Creating product context
Creating product context is another effective application of virtual and augmented reality in business. In product context, we experience the product as though we owned it, seeing it within the context of our lives. This triggers a psychological impact known as the endowment effect, when we consciously or subconsciously assign more value to things we own.
For example, furniture stores use augmented reality to take photos of rooms in the house and then place furniture pieces within. This allows customers to see how a purchase will look.
Eyewear company Warby Parker uses augmented reality in reverse, to scan us and place their product on our faces. We see augmentation in how we look with their products — and very often, consumers ask opinions of friends with screenshots of the virtual glasses.
Even consumer mega-platform Amazon is getting into the context space with its Echo Look. This camera automatically checks users’ fashion and makes recommendations (with items available for purchase, of course) to the user.
3. The owner’s journey
The last application of augmented reality in business and virtual reality for businesses to consider is the owner’s journey, an enhanced version of the other use cases. In this case, instead of selling features or benefits, brands use augmented reality to convey the experience of owning the product, from the owner’s perspective. Very often, this is created by consumers rather than brands.
Your customers can create compelling augmented reality content that tells the story of an owner’s journey.
For example, purchasers of photo and video camera gear make ever-more sophisticated outputs with their equipment post-purchase, resulting in astonishing experiences for the end consumer considering a purchase.
Influencers with production capabilities make immersive experiences in airplanes, hotel rooms, etc. showing end consumers what first-class experiences look and feel like. While many of us may never get the chance to fly first class, we can experience it vicariously with brands — and then perhaps purchase lesser, but still wonderful, experiences.
Even mundane purchases like music have the opportunity to reach new levels of experience with augmented and virtual reality. Musicians experimenting with these new formats create immersive experiences with their music for purchasers of premium content.
Start experimenting with augmented reality in your business
No matter what business or industry, we must find a way to convey the sensory experience to match the emotional and social experiences we already produce. Examine carefully what sensory inputs go into your business, whether business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Determine which technologies stand the best chance of offering an immersive sensory experience that aligns with your brand and what customers already experience in the real world.
Also published on Medium.