The global pandemic pushed more and more of the consumer’s purchase path online than ever before as they shopped via the Internet for essentials and ways to keep their family safe and entertained during lockdowns. According to McKinsey, the adoption of e-commerce over the previous 10 years doubled in the first three months of the pandemic

Whenever there are paradigm shifts in the market, it’s the brands that are able to quickly adjust who can maintain and grow their market share. The ones that don’t—well, there’s a reason why 88% of the Forbes 500 from 65 years ago are no longer in business

With consumer shopping behavior forever changed by the pandemic in such a short amount of time, brands are struggling with the new reality of business.

Crossing the digital divide to enhance the customer experience

With more of the purchase path (discovery, research, transaction) moving online, one distinct area that brands are struggling with is how to replicate the customer experience when the consumer isn’t in the store. 

Brands have long understood the value that customer experience has to their bottom lines. In a groundbreaking 2014 study, this effect was quantified. What researchers found was not only did it have an effect but there was a direct correlation between the customer experience and sales. The takeaway was clear: the better that a brand can engage and educate customers on their products or services, the revenue per customer increases

And there are the issues brands are facing with today’s rapidly evolving market. How do you efficiently manage the digital customer experience to drive sales when you’ve been so focused on the in-store/in-person experience for so long? 

Beyond engagement: digital immersive experiences help brands sell  

Immersive experiences such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 360 experiences (360), and other innovative customer interactions are helping brands to bridge the gap that is lost when physical customer experience shifts online.

One of the advantages of shopping offline is that shoppers can look at the products as they research. They can read the packaging, see the product up close, and make a decision without having to assume anything. Immersive experiences enable online shoppers to examine products in detail from their homes.

Product previews—or “try before you buy”—are also a popular use case with immersive experiences that can even eclipse the in-store experience. Consumers can see how an item looks in their home whether it’s furniture, exercise equipment, or other large items. They can also try on glasses, makeup, and apparel before they buy. 

Virtual tours are giving real estate and event marketers the ability to put the viewer “inside the space” with editable touch-points and interactive elements. The use cases for immersive experiences are innumerable, and new and amazing executions are appearing every year. 

Years ago when immersive experiences were just emerging, early brand adopters of these technologies used them to engage customers with flashy innovation. However, now that most consumers are familiar with AR/VR/360, brands are moving down the funnel and using them as strategic levers to drive revenue.

But today, consumers do not just engage with immersive experiences, they expect them. 75% of customers now expect retailers to offer at least an augmented reality experience to help them find more product information or learn about products. The market is primed and ready:  3.4 billion phones have advanced AR capabilities, and the number of devices ready to accept these experiences is growing. 

Here are some stats that illustrate the growing trend of immersive experiences transforming the customer experience:

Immersive experiences are no longer an emerging tactic. Don’t get left behind

In the past, immersive experiences took a lot of development time, were expensive to produce, and could be complex to manage. However, with new innovations, over the years they have become faster, more affordable, and easier to produce than ever before. This is key because the immersive experience production process must be streamlined and efficient to fit into the rapid timing of today’s promotion calendars. 

Around 64% of marketers are expecting to use AR and VR in the near future to capture more audience attention. Our mission at Arlene is to lower the barrier of entry for brands and marketers to utilize immersive experiences as a strategic function to enhance websites, ad campaigns— virtually anywhere their customers are able to engage with them. 

With the pandemic driving more digital business, more and more brands are leveraging immersive experiences as part of their strategic go-to-market plans. If you’re not using them right now, chances are that your competitors either are or will soon. 

What is your immersive experience strategy?

For more information on how Arlene can help your brand or marketing organization leverage these technologies to drive business success, please reach out for more information or to schedule a brief meeting.