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What it means to deliver a best-in-class digital experience is constantly being redefined PHOTO: Angelina Litvin

It’s official — brands have lost the battle for control to users. 

That doesn't mean brands have no chance to take control of their narrative and experience, but they are certainly feeling the pressure. In a 2015 poll for Lithium by Harris Poll, six in 10 corporate executives worldwide said it was difficult for their company to please customers, and two-thirds said rising customer expectations are increasing the pressure to innovate. 

With user expectations hitting a new high, brands are forced to become more competitive and forward-thinking, especially when it comes to technologies they use to deliver best-in-class digital experiences.

Don't Trust Your Gut, Look at the Numbers

And it’s not just a feeling that expectations are higher than ever, the statistics back it up. With a more diversified user journey (channel-wise) and increasing amount of touchpoints (device-wise), users are demanding consistency and more excitement in their experience because they know their engagement is valuable.

  • 67 percent of consumers move between devices when shopping online (Acquisio)
  • 87 percent of customers believe brands need to put in more effort to deliver consistent experiences (kampyle.com)
  • By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator (Walker Information)
  • Almost 75 percent of users get frustrated when experiences and content (offers, promotions, etc.) aren’t personalized or related to their interests (cmo.com)

So what does all this mean for brands and marketers? 

It means it’s time to up the ante, raise the bar, bring the ‘A’ game, call it what you will — it’s time to innovate. The key to future success is redefining what it means to deliver a seamless, engaging and personalized experience wherever the user is. 

Thanks to beacon technology and virtual reality (VR), this is achievable. The continued adoption of beacon technology and the spread of virtual reality to the masses are causing a seismic shift in the way marketers engage their consumers. These technologies are going to play an integral role in innovation and brand competitiveness. 

Here’s what you need to know about their impact on marketing and how to leverage each for a competitive edge.

Beacon Technology: Context Identification for Higher Mobile Marketing ROI

Beacon technology is not the newest player in the game — big brands such as Macy’s and Rite Aid have been using beacons for years — yet mainstream adoption has been slow to say the least. 

Beacons transmit contextually relevant and personalized messages, offers. or information to nearby mobile devices. They first came on the scene with Apple’s iBeacon in 2013. While interest in beacons runs high, Forbes Insights revealed that more retailers are using QR codes than beacons, highlighting an opportunity for brands to become a leader in the “beacon” pack.

The use cases are there — and it will become increasingly important for brands to adopt beacon technology to help cut through the noise users face every day. Beacons provide quality data, helping to correlate behavior and physical location data. Beacons also help boost loyalty because of their ability to deliver highly-personalized and contextually relevant messages, and by providing rewards or incentives to customers even if no action is taken.

In the future we’ll see beacon technology empowering brands to have a stronger, more contextually relevant conversation with customers. This will ultimately help increase overall effectiveness and ROI on mobile marketing efforts.

Virtual Reality: The Immersive Storyteller

Virtual reality — and its siblings augmented and mixed reality — are the ultimate storytellers, allowing brands to deliver immersive, opt-in experiences that put products, services and content front and center. 

It forces brands to put themselves in the shoes of the user, building the experience around them and for them. This new storytelling direction steps away from classic forms of content, like branded videos, that are for and from the brand itself, rather than the user.

Brands who manage to harness this power and get into the heads of their users will be able to build stronger loyalty and meet the ever-changing expectations of their end users. It will become more important than ever to keep pace with new technologies and bring user-centric stories to the forefront.

And while VR will help brands stand out and create stronger connections with consumers, the stakes will be even higher when it comes to developing appropriate uses for VR. Poor VR experiences can taint a user’s opinion — and because of the newness of the tech, we have no data on how to reverse those effects. 

Brands like Jaguar, Marriott and The New York Times knocking VR experiences out of the park may create a perception that delivering exceptional VR experiences are expensive and unattainable for companies on a budget. As long as special attention is paid to the storytelling itself, brands will be able to compete and stand a chance in the emerging market.

Fail Fast, Succeed Faster

Whether you have a scenario to leverage these technologies tomorrow, next month or next year, these technologies can’t be ignored. User expectations will only continue to rise. The need to innovate is not going away. 

Through trial and error find a way to use beacon technology or VR in marketing —you'll need it to stay competitive. The phrase “fail fast, succeed faster” has never been more appropriate.