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GUEST COMMENT Virtual, augmented, mixed: ‘seasonal realities’ and retail opportunities

Today’s consumers are pulled in numerous directions at once. Every brand and retailer tries to grab consumer attention and coax sales, across TV, desktop, mobile, OOH, and more. So I’m particularly curious to see which brands are taking their seasonal marketing to the next level, and incorporating new realities into their campaigns.

The New Realities

Known collectively as Extended Reality (XR), the immersive experiences of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) could well become the darlings of retail marketing beyond the experiments we’ve seen with the technology so far.

While overall worldwide spend on AR and VR will grow 92% in 2018, according to IDC, the retail sector will see a CAGR of 119.3% for these technologies between 2017 and 2022.

If you’re looking for a company that truly pulls out all the stops for seasonal promotions, look no further than Alibaba. The tech giant made headlines recently by reporting more than $30 billion of sales for Singles Day 2018 (11th November), with sales up 22% year on year.

And Alibaba’s annual Singles Day Gala was an incredible spectacle. Pop star performances were combined with incredible visual wizardry, which this year included a huge AR car from Skoda appearing onstage to promote the Czech auto manufacturer Singles Day deals.

However, the opportunities of XR extend far beyond standalone events. In fact, mobile marketers are already driving engagement and sales in a variety of ways.

Augmenting the run-up

Augmented reality can offer a powerful way to drive engagement during seasonal peaks.

Online shoe marketplace GOAT firmly grabbed the AR opportunity this year, adding a new dimension to its annual Black Friday raffle. In the build up to the draw, participants were able to earn extra tickets by visiting over 125 international locations of interest for ‘sneaker culture’, such as Hong Kong’s ‘Sneaker Street’. When they were in the right spot, app users received notifications, then activated and shared the AR objects on social media to redeem their bonus raffle entries.

By engaging users for weeks in advance of Black Friday, GOAT ensured a steady social media buzz while building engagement with its most dedicated fans.

LEGO is also tipped to release an AR filter in its first-ever global Christmas campaign to help engage families this year.

In the US, Pottery Barn used AR ads with Yahoo Mail to give consumers a preview of what items from its catalogue would look like in their home before buying, leading to a huge spike in engagement.

More brands are realising the opportunity to integrate this technology into campaigns and capture consumers’ attention. But this is the tip of the iceberg.

Virtually delighted

VR is being deployed to improve the customer experience in more indirect ways, with truly immersive experiences for the high street.

Marks & Spencer created a pop-up VR showroom for its homeware range, allowing shoppers to drag and drop its LOFT items to create their ‘ideal living space’. And Australian department store Myer, working with eBay Australia, created a VR department store, without walls, ceilings or escalators. Instead, customers could explore an infinite space, flying around to find products.

The ability to customise a virtual world means almost endless new opportunities.

XR unlocks customer engagement and experiences for any seasonal spike – even one-off brand events.

And as 5G-ready smartphones reach consumers’ pockets in 2019, the opportunities open up even more. Faster data speeds (around 75 times as fast as 4G) mean much richer content and far more reliable connectivity. Imagine the mobile marketing opportunities if we no longer needed to worry about download speeds or bandwidth, even with 4K or 360-degree video. Combined with the ability now for consumers to add to cart and check out their purchases without having to leave the ad, digital marketing has never had a more creative canvas to go with its unrivalled analytics to measure success. And it’s only going to get stronger.

For now, I’m curious to see what happens over the 2018 Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend. According to McKinsey, 71% of UK shoppers are happy or excited – and I’m definitely one of them.

Author: Anna Watkins, UK managing director, Verizon Media

Image credit: Fotolia

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