Empowerment, Delight And Conversions: Virtual Worlds For Marketing

CMO at PwC US and an innovative executive at the crossroads of marketing, media and technology.

It’s an exciting time for marketers since a lot of thrilling technology has reached the tipping point; it’s ready to enhance your reach and might even make your job more fun and creative.

Here are some ways that virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud can help empower you and your team, delight your audience and convert that delight into results.

Empower your team.

You probably already know that VR and AR simulations can help teach “hard” skills to people like engineers, surgeons, pilots and even professional football players. But simulations can also help teach “soft” skills that marketers often need.

Bank of America, for example, is using VR to teach relationship-building skills, such as how to hold difficult conversations and show empathy. VR for soft skills can be faster, more impactful and more cost-effective than e-learning or classroom teaching, a survey by PwC found.

Other simulations built on AI, cloud and data can empower your team in many ways. By simulating consumer and marketplace behavior today, and under a range of possible scenarios for tomorrow, it is possible to better find market opportunities, predict consumer behavior and predict a campaign’s success.

Delight your audience.

For everything from cookies (the edible kind) to cars, tech-forward marketers are using VR to excite their audience with immersive, 3-D worlds. But there’s another use of VR and AR, combined with AI and cloud, which may be even more relevant for marketing.

With appropriate consent and privacy controls, smart technology can map out the customer journey online. With the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, it can do it offline, too. If they shop in brick-and-mortar stores (or attend sporting events), for example, you can virtually recreate those locations and customers’ actions in them. That can be a rich source of data to help you understand demand signals, plan or fine-tune campaigns and delight customers with relevant, resonant offers and content.

Convert the delight.

Now that you’ve got an empowered team and delighted customers, it’s time to convert that delight into results. Once again, a cloud-AI-VR combo can help. You can offer virtual spaces for your customers to try out products and find out details on their sustainability or join virtual communities and interact with influencers. In these environments connected and powered by the cloud, you can offer new touchpoints—and gather reams of data for AI to analyze, so you can further tailor offerings to encourage customers to make that purchase or sign up for a mailing list.

Home improvement giant Lowe’s, for example, offers VR for customers to visualize kitchen remodels. I would bet that walking through the kitchen of your dreams will encourage many people to buy it. B-to-B companies can also use these technologies. My firm has been holding VR and AR events with clients for years.

Five Steps To Take

This technology may seem intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. A few steps can help you start or accelerate your cloud-AI-VR journey—and get you ready for metaverse marketing too.

1. Get up to speed. Even if you love marketing technology (martech), odds are you’re not a VR specialist or software engineer. Take advantage of online resources to get specifics about what cloud, AI and VR can do. Some resources are VR experiences themselves and offer an enjoyable experience.

2. Be part of a bigger whole. Martech is expensive, but most of these AI, VR and cloud tools can benefit the whole organization. That simulation of a physical store, for example, isn’t just a marketing tool. It can help logistics, safety, sales and more. If your organization already has initiatives, sign on.

3. Get smart about deployment. To get VR up and running, you’ll need to jump through some old-fashioned hoops: Make a business case, prepare to measure the ROI and perform the other steps critical to rolling out exciting new martech successfully.

4. Double down on trust. As you automate more marketing and analytics, offer immersive experiences and gather more data, trust will be imperative; your customers trust you, so they will share data and enter your virtual worlds, and your trust in your technology’s safety, accuracy and reliability.

5. Enter the metaverse. These tools—cloud, AI and VR—are among the key building blocks of the metaverse. As you use them to enhance marketing on and offline, keep an eye on how they can also work in the metaverse. You may find that once you have VR worlds up and running, moving into the metaverse will be the natural next step.

It’s an exciting new time for marketing. If you make strategic moves now, you can build an arsenal of skills and tools today that you can use to reach more customers, more effectively, in both physical and virtual worlds tomorrow.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?

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