Here's how cross realities will shape omnichannel marketing
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Here’s how cross realities will shape omnichannel marketing

Here’s how cross realities will shape omnichannel marketing

With the blurring of lines between virtual and physical realities, there is a need to address the concerns of XR consumers, says Nicolet Pienaar

Gulf Business
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The world of virtual and augmented reality has redefined immersive experiences for consumers, making leading brands pause and reflect on their omnichannel engagement with a new lens. Extended reality or cross reality (which broadly refers to AR, VR or mixed reality) is no longer confined to the realms of gamers and Gen Z. Accelerated by the pandemic, more and more brands across different industries are turning to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to enhance their experience, making cross realities (XR) consumers more common.

As more brands across diverse industries turn to new tech to enhance the XR customer journey, it’s becoming more accessible and commonplace. This is broadening the profile of the typical XR consumer which has only been accelerated by the pandemic, which forced more people across all generations to take their daily lives online. This is particularly true of the AR market, given it has much broader applications. AR experiences tend to be more accessible and don’t typically require users to change their behaviour. VR on the other hand is currently more confined to the communications and entertainment sectors as users often need to wear goggles or headsets to access it.

How the pandemic has accelerated cross reality phenomena
Before the pandemic, consumers often visited stores to view, touch, and feel products before buying them online. This ability to see and feel a product before purchasing it on a digital platform was paramount. The restrictions in the pandemic meant that live experiences had to become virtual. In the retail and consumer goods sector, AR experiences help XR consumers to virtually ‘touch and feel’ products without having to venture into stores. GfK Consumer Life data shows as many as 42.8 per cent of global consumers want to use AR and VR to shop like they’re in a real store and 38.2 per cent to experiment with new products, such as cars or paint colours, before buying them.

XR consumers are an opportunity for brands
Imagine a future where customers no longer have to click-through pages of static product images. Instead, they can select a product type, then interactively click their way to make purchase decisions. They could even try it on or see what it might look like in their home. Industry trends reveal that marketers now expect to use AR and VR more in the near future. And as 5G becomes more commonplace, accessing this type of content will be easier.

Another interesting concept is the metaverse: a digital twin of our world which will become a much larger platform in the future. Using the metaverse, brands can provide more tailored, personalised, and meaningful experiences, as the nature of it is uniquely experienced by every individual user in their own digital universe.

Unlocking the real potential of XR means making experiences as easy and seamless as possible to XR consumers, so they don’t think they’re doing anything different. Given the evolving consumer landscape, brands must see their customers in three dimensions (3D customers). This means combining insights that tell us what people are doing, why they are doing it and identifying all the major influences that also impact people’s purchasing decisions.

With the blurring of lines between virtual and physical realities, there is a need to address the concerns of XR consumers by increasing awareness, bridging technological skill gaps, attending to issues of data privacy and safety, and creating pricing segments in order to make the technology accessible to all.

Nicolet Pienaar is the head of Market Insights, GfK Middle East

Read: Is virtual reality the new business opportunity?

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