The AWEsome Opportunities of Immersive Marketing & Sales

Photo courtesy of Alan Smithson.

Photo courtesy of Alan Smithson.

Last week was the largest Immersive Technology conference in the world, the Augmented World Expo. Now in its 10th year, AWE boasted 7000+ attendees, 250+ exhibitors, and over 300 speakers all focused on the future of spatial computing.

This was also the 1st time that AWE offered a series of speakers specifically focused on Marketing and Sales. We Are Phase2 partnered with BrainXchange and AWE to curate and amplify this exciting new track. It was filled with top representatives from companies such as Unity, Facebook, Intel, OMD Worldwide, Groove Jones, and Zappar, and brands such as the PGA, the Boston Red Sox, Houzz, Nestle, and Macy’s, all talking about the AWEsome opportunities of VR and AR technologies.

Here are some of the highlights:

Balance immersion and reach

This theme ran true throughout the whole day. At this point in the XR technology evolution, marketers need to pick one: high immersion or high reach. Essentially, a boundary-pushing VR 6DoF piece likely has low throughput and a mass distributed AR application likely doesn’t include cutting edge technology. However, as XR expands in reach and with the launch of WebAR, 5G, and all-in-one VR headsets (see below), there will be more opportunities to do both.

Lead with a user need

Multiple speakers underscored the importance that AR applications should include a useful tool to encourage consumer engagement and repeat use. Houzz lives by that mindset. They created their AR visualization tool and their 1mm+ 3D image library specifically focused on reducing buyer’s remorse. This resulted in over 2mm people using the app and increasing shopper purchase intent by 11x.

Integrate XR into existing processes

XR shouldn’t operate in its own silo and should be integrated across company divisions. Many speakers emphasized that XR applications could and should exist within current workflows and customer interactions. Lisa Peyton (Intel) emphasized the need to “bake social into your XR experiences.”

Money can come from many places

Across the day, panelists discussed how until there are specific XR allocations, their projects were funded from numerous internal and external budgets from various departments such as marketing, innovation, media, and PR. There isn’t a single source that has emerged in the marketing cycle.

Nothing speaks more than results

Establishing trackable engagement measurements and delivering on them makes all the difference, silencing any potential emerging tech naysayers. One of the most impressive results was shared by Groove Jones. Their Sleep Number Superbowl VR activation resulted in over 481mm earned media impressions and 21mm+ social media impressions.

AR allows for additional media; VR for additional virtual inventory

For advertising driven companies, AR offers a lot of opportunities to sell additional media space. VR enables additional virtual show floors. AR enabled the sponsor-backed always-on 7-Eleven Zappar app which led to 10mm+ engagements and 85 seconds of average dwell time within the app. Macy’s had success using VR to create two virtual stores where, during the trial, basket size was 60% higher and less than a 2% return rate. Now the program has expanded to 100 Macy’s stores, and it has resulted in an average increase of 45-50% in basket size.

Real world tests are necessary

Everyone agreed that real world conditions are needed for XR consumer product testing. Something might work perfectly well in a stadium without 1000s of fans, but when the stands are filled, all bets are off with limited Wifi. Also, Facebook was surprised to find that within VR, “it’s hard for consumers to believe an Avatar is not powered by AI.”

Excitement is building for WebAR, 5G, and all-in-one VR headsets

For a lot of the brands presenting during the conference, the friction of downloading a new AR powered app was a non-starter, especially in locations where there are distractions like watching a sports game or spending time with your friends or family.  Also, the need for high powered computers had most VR experiences relegated primarily to event activations. The launch of 5G, WebAR, and all-in-one VR headsets like the Oculus Quest will allow for greater ease of use and increased use of the technologies.  

AR is more than just mobile and headsets

Marketers can’t forget that there are other ways to use XR within their campaigns. The closing panel of the day showcased how holograms are no longer a technology of the future. Brands are using them to supplement and complement existing advertising campaigns and in retail locations. Companies like Looking Glass Factory, Lightform, VNTANA, Imagination Park and MRSV are building holographic platforms and content as the antidote to isolating immersive experiences. They are betting that projection technologies will expand the ability of marketers to create shared experiences without the need for intrusive tech.

The AWE Marketing & Sales Track was AWEsome

Overall, there was a lot of excitement and energy about XR and how the technologies will make a dramatic impact on Marketing and Sales. Brands and creative teams have started to establish best practices partnering the best innovation and a consumer focus to deliver almost unbelievable results. And with the launch of WebAR, 5G, and all-in-one VR headsets it’s clear that the year ahead will only accelerate the huge opportunity that these spatial technologies can bring for marketing and sales professionals everywhere.

NOTE: We will update this post with links to the Marketing & Sales Track talks once they are up on YouTube.

Samantha Wolfe