Why VR is a tactic, not a strategy

Marc Loveridge says marketers should stop worrying about virtual reality and start worrying about customer reality.

This is supposed to be the year that virtual reality and augmented reality go mainstream.

Samsung’s incubator lab will be launching four new virtual and augmented reality projects at Mobile World Congress this year, and new iPhone 8 has been widely tipped to have front side 3D camera, which would open up new augmented reality opportunities.

But are you or your peers devising an AR or VR project this year? Or do you question whether these technologies are actually effective mediums for your brand, and the costs of integrating them into your campaigns?

In a recent piece on how useful these technologies could be for retail brands, Paul Korber mentions the potential of the technology, exploring ideas such as smart mirrors, which allow shoppers to see items in their chosen colours or size before buying. Theoretically, this could cut time between browsing and purchasing, and help the retailer sell faster and at higher volumes.

However, this is a classic example of how businesses often look at and prioritise solving their own problems, as opposed to looking at their customers’ problems.

VR and AR could well be the perfect tool for your brand’s needs, but technology solutions must be matched to a customer problem, and chosen based on a human-centred design process. Otherwise, the investment is unlikely to achieve your desired results and deliver ROI.

 

Put the customer first

Instead of having conversations about how to sell more, sell faster, or reach more eyeballs, brands should think about what customers want to buy, and how to make this experience as valuable as possible. In human-centred design, everything is designed around the end consumer, and their needs inform all strategies, tactics and decisions made by the company and its staff.

For example, a furniture retailer may think that limiting the steps – and therefore the time – that it takes a shopper to move from browsing to buying is a key objective, and therefore invest in technology like an AR smart mirror. But what if time wasn’t a factor for customers?

What if all they wanted was the ability to browse and then purchase in-store, like Amazon Go is offering?

Instead of focusing on the overall brand experience, the furniture retailer could become too focused on its perceived problem of speeding up the purchase journey, and invest in the wrong technology. By failing to take the customer’s problems into account, brands risk losing sales and loyalty, and open themselves up to losing market share if a competitor brings something to market that actually solves customers’ problems.

 

Human-centred design is channel agnostic

Choosing which channels and technologies to invest in to tell your brand story, attract customers, and improve the customer experiences has never been more difficult. Digital channels are being reinvented all the time – new social channels, technologies, and applications are coming to market, evolving, and dying every year.

It’s easy to see VR and AR as part of this landscape.

Among marketers, there will be the early adopters, and the ‘wait-and-see’ camp. Early adopters will want to show their brand is innovative and exciting, and will be keen to develop immersive virtual or augmented reality experiences. The ‘wait-and-see’ types will need to have confidence in the channels’ ability to deliver ROI in the short, medium and long term before they invest.

However, neither of these is really the right approach to deciding whether a new technology or channel is right for your brand. Taking a human-centred design approach will affect the workflows and decisions of everyone in an organisation, from the C-suite to the customer service teams. Rather than worrying about investing in VR or AR, think about problem solving.

Start with customers’ problems, and feed this all the way down into the strategy, development and delivery of the chosen solution to guarantee success. By using this method and focusing on the user experience, brands will see VR and AR are just tactics, not strategies.

The knock-on effect on budgets and planning of a customer focus will become apparent, and making the case for or against investing in the latest technology or channel will be simple – if it solves your customers’ problems, do it.

 

Marc Loveridge is director at Hatchd design studio

 

Further reading

 

 
Image copyright: siraphol / 123RF Stock Photo