Why marketers should be experimenting with Virtual and augmented reality now
A shopper uses their phone to augment her shopping experience. PHOTO: Shutterstock

Within a few years virtual and augmented reality are going to be considered with every piece of content that is produced, Anthony Kane, senior digital marketer with 1SEO Digital Agency told CMSWire. To name two examples: “Retailers will need to fold augmented reality into their products to help sell a lifestyle,” he said. “Real estate agents will have an easier time with helping potential buyers get the feel of a new home.”

Even customer support will change, Kane predicted. “Gone will be the days of two-hour long phone calls or live chats. Companies will be able to adapt an immersive customer support experience.”

In short, the art of generating shareable content is poised to undergo significant transformation thanks to these technologies.

Digital Marketers Need to Get Started

It is understandable if digital marketers are leery about adding yet another channel to the long list that they already support and produce content for. Fortunately, most do not need — at least right now — to burst on the scene with an offering of Lowes' scale.

What is necessary, though, is that marketers start thinking about VR and AR and experimenting with them both . Below CMSWire has put together some tips to get you through the early days of planning and implementation.

You Know More Than You Realize

Even if you are a novice to AR and VR you probably know more about how the form works for marketing than you realize. Scott Colenutt, head of Digital for SiteVisibility points to live streaming and the creation of stories in such platforms as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. If you are familiar with these formats, he told CMSWire, then you’ll have a feel for how VR/AR could start to enhance user experience and engagement.

You Have The Tools You Need

There are already industry and vendor guides on the market to aid marketers as they begin to move in this direction. One to consider is the International Advertising Bureau’s recently-released 2017 New Standard Ad Unit Portfolio which includes guidance on augmented reality, virtual reality, and 360° photo and video, according to Annie Eaton, CEO of Futurus. “The standards include best practices for implementing these technologies into digital marketing campaigns and range from file size to experience recommendations,” she told CMSWire.

There are other tools on the market of which digital markets can take advantage, at least for augmented reality she continued: Apple’s ARKit works on iOS 11 with iPhone 6S and newer and Google’s ARCore works on Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 smartphones running Android's 7.0 Nougat operating system. “These tech companies are pushing towards mass adoption in the augmented reality space by giving users an easier way to experience a blend of the physical and digital worlds,” she said.

You Don’t Have to Go Big

Right now, we’re talking about a medium that is in the developmental stages said Fjuri CEO Thom Gruhler, former CMO of Microsoft's Apps & Services Group. “It’s OK for content to be experimental and it’s fine to test and learn your way in,” he told CMSWire. Perhaps more importantly, he urged marketers not to wait for a single device or platform to scale before starting. “At this stage of the game, it’s not just about learning any single technology. It’s about figuring out how your brand can leverage this new medium, how you’ll tell your story and what you can bring to your audience.”

Build Your Own Talent

Gruhler also suggested that marketers start to invest in AR capabilities within their own departments instead of outsourcing the job. “There are some talented agencies out there who can help you create AR content, but in the long run, you’ll be better off investing in your own people,” he said. “This obviously won’t be possible for every small brand who wants to try their hand, but if you’re big enough that you’ve brought your web and mobile development needs inside, you should think about giving your own team the chance to learn in the AR space,” he said.

“Give them the ability to test, learn, fail and redeploy. It will set you up for success down the road.”