Spotlight: This IPL, Virtual Reality Brings Matches Closer To Your Couches

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Brands are already exploring virtual reality, augmented reality and the combination of both, known as the mixed reality to create an immersive marketing experience. But how will it impact digital marketing and advertising in the near future?

Virtual reality (VR) is rapidly reaching the marketing industry, and brands have started using it to increase awareness, promote engagement and enhance customer experience. India’s favourite event of the year, the Vivo Indian Premier League 2018 is touted to make it possible for fans to come closer to the matches right from their couches with the help of VR.

As a brand, it is essential to decide which technology is best suited for a given product, which is again dependent on the resources, budget, audience’s needs, the strategy, the environment, the brand narrative and even the brand’s history. Given the scenario, two questions concern marketers:-
a. What story is the brand trying to tell?
b. How does this application help deliver the message in a personalized, compelling manner?

One of the biggest trends this year will be the use of VR and Augmented Reality (AR). It is estimated that there will be 171 million VR users by 2018, up from just 200,000 in 2014. This increased interest is compelling brands to experiment with VR technology.

Commenting on the future of brands using these technologies, Gurbaksh Singh, Chief Creative Technologist, Dentsu Webchutney said, “AR/VR/MR are fast changing the way we interact with the world. With these technologies, things have truly gone experiential. And that’s the reason why more and more brands want to use it. Imagine walking into an apparel store and trying out clothes just by looking at them or skydiving in Switzerland while you are at home.”

He also added, “These technologies make our interactions and experiences richer. More than ever, today brands need to engage and entertain its users. New technologies allow brands to do just that. It also reflects on the image of the brand and makes them look young and pioneering.”

There’s a tectonic shift in the marketing and 360 degree videos and VR are centre of it. Brands like Roposo, a social platform where people express visually with homemade videos and photos, is now catering VR experience to its user. Mayank Bhangadia, Roposo CEO and Co-Founder, commented on why brands are using AR/VR/MR technologies for brand engagement, “It’s all about understanding the mood of the current consumers. Everyone aims to have a larger than life approach, which is directly reflected in the marketing of any product. With that in mind, it is important to understand how companies can get their products closer to the consumers.”

Focusing on the benefits of these technologies, Bhangadia added, “In order to understand the true scope of Augmented Reality, we first need to understand the entire process of how consumers buy their products. They love to buy something they can see, something they have in front of them. When it comes to marketing, AR/VR/MR provides that to the customer. It displays things in 3-D which provides a better touch point.”

While it’s too early to comment about the future of such technologies, Bhangadia explained, “Such technology is the future of brand marketing and it has a long way to go. Being able to sell the products with advertisements in 3-D, it enables any manufacturer to add a crucial touch point in the entire selling process. It is as strong as one’s imagination. As an example, imagine being able to see a piece of furniture at the desired place in your house without having to buy the product or having to handle the logistics of a sample product. It reduces dissonance and helps customers to come to an immediate decision.”

Commenting on the growth of AR/VR in India, Sahil Chopra, CEO and Founder, iCubeswire added, “AR and VR are at the pinnacle of technological world. These trailblazers impart immersive customer experience which is truly incredible. While, they are often mentioned together there is a vast difference between the two. Virtual Reality replaces reality while Augmented Reality enhances it. In India, both AR & VR are in a nascent stage & are gradually being adopted by brands.”

While the journey of AR/VR/MR in Indian market is still very young, the measures on how big these technologies will grow in Indian market is yet to be evaluated. “In comparison, AR is expected to pace up at a higher speed with an estimated rise of 25 per cent as compared to 21 per cent rise for VR. One reason behind the tilt towards AR could be that it is fascinating to experience objects appear miraculously in reality. In India alone, the collective growth rate of both is expected to be 76 per cent in the next five years with the AR-based mobile apps to rise by 30-40 per cent. This clearly states the advancement of AR, VR in the Indian market which will emerge fruitful for the marketers. It has paved way in the industry through real-estate brands, FMCG, hospitality sector which have incorporated it to raise awareness, promote engagement, launch products or enhance customer experience,” added Chopra.

Today everything is easy as technology improvises with the surroundings. The attention span is very short and consumers want to adapt and learn new technologies. Discussing customer engagement Chopra said, “As far as the customers are concerned, there is always a certain resistance towards change but at the same time, the adaptability is very high. If the experience is hassle-free, the users are most likely to engage, but if there is a high-level dependency on external software or hardware as in the case of VR, it is likely to engage fewer people in the long run.”

“However, the future of VR & AR is promising as it will be beneficial for the brand as well as the customers. The brands must strategically evolve to pace up with the advances and explore new means to enhance its integration that can exude wonders for the brand,” added Chopra.

Thus, amidst of how helpful and fruitful these technologies will be to the future, here is the conclusion: ‘Five Tenets of Powerful AR/VR’

1. Give the customer control-Branded AR/VR experiences should offer more interactivity than 360° video, where the only available action is to look around. The more interactive you make an experience, the more deeply engaged the viewer and the longer they stick with the content. When any branded experience is driven by the user, as opposed to the brand, the user is in a place where they’re empowered, they’re in control. For brands to use AR/VR and be loved, it has to be within this paradigm – if it’s a top-down, authoritarian approach and viewers are relegated to simply listen and watch, the connection won’t be there – and not in a lasting way.

2. Let your brand’s personality come through-In a traditional eCommerce environment, you’re limited to offering flat photos with bullet points that describe your product or service, making it difficult to convey deeper brand personality. In AR/VR, you can place a consumer into a highly stylized, branded environment essentially mimicking the showroom experience and offering surprising delight.

3. Use design to tell your story – like with any visual medium, attention to detail is critical. While background visuals in AR/VR have to set the stage, flourishes like text are the difference between a gimmicky experience and an immersive one.

4. Make it a purposeful place-VR is going to take off when its uses are purposeful. When consumers can use VR for something like buying items in their daily lives then it becomes much more a “have-to-have device” as opposed to a “nice-to-have device”.

5. Capture behavioral data-Once you’ve built a branded AR/ VR experience that your customers can interact with, you have a space that can double as a focus group or research environment. Not only are you providing customers a way to test out your product or service, it would also be wise to track what they’re doing in the space.