Mitch Joel has been dubbed the “rock star” of digital marketing by Marketing Magazine, as well as one of North America’s leading digital visionaries. As president of Mirum, a global digital marketing agency operating in close to 20 countries with over 2,000 employees, he is able to share his innovative insights into digital marketing and business transformation on a worldwide scale. He is also an author and blogger with keen insights into virtual and augmented reality and how businesses can best use the technology.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality 101
When it comes to virtual reality, we are basically taking what we see on the internet, including information and experiences, and moving that from a flat screen to a real or three-dimensional world. Virtual reality is a bit of a weird and interesting immersive experience, like in Facebook’s Oculus Rift. During the experience, we are immersed in, and blocked out of, the real world.
In contrast, augmented reality allows us to see the real world as we currently see it, with information from the internet or three-dimensional information layered on top of it. Examples of this reality include Pokemon Go or Microsoft’s HoloLens product.
Setting Goals for Augmented and Virtual Reality
Rather than ask, “how do I get started in these types of realities?”, it may be to ask, “What am I trying to accomplish with my business?”, and, “What types of engagement do I want to create for my customer?” The key is to start with the why, and not the what.
If your business is interested in building a bridge between what you are currently doing with your digital products and services into augmented or virtual reality, there are formats and platforms you can start testing that includes 360-degree images and video. Social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube already offer these types of platforms.
It is still in the early days of this type of technology, and there is much to learn about how to produce the content, edit it, and put it together. Just as in the early days of the web browser, there is so much to discover about the future of technology. As Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired reminds us, “…what people don’t get is that the future happens very, very slowly, and then all at once.”
Marketing is ever-changing, which makes it even more important to stay on top of technology and stand out from the crowd. To where can you point your audience? Even if it’s low-end VR or AR, it’s a start, and you can always move onto bigger and better in the future. While you wait for the bigger and better, social media platforms can be a great jumping-off point for distribution and tools.
Two Business Models for VR and AR
- McDonald’s: In Europe, McDonald’s has begun taking Happy Meal boxes foldable into the shape of the Google cardboard version of the application. Customers can download a McDonald’s virtual reality app on their phone, fold up the Happy Meal box (which has now become a viewer), slide in the phone, and give their child a virtual reality experience.
- Lowe’s: The hardware retail giant has used virtual reality to offer customers a view of their future kitchen before a potential remodel. In addition to this feature, users can also choose which height they want to be during the process, so they can see their new kitchen from the perspective of their child.
Virtual reality is not just for big businesses, though. Just as the early days of the internet presented possibilities for all companies both big and small, there are opportunities for brands of all sizes. Almost any sized business can take part in direct mail products, like in the case of the New York Times including cardboard VR viewers in the Sunday newspaper, or a walk-through of a product at a trade show.
Limitless Possibilities for Businesses Both Big and Small
Take a moment to imagine what it would be like to take a QR code or an augmented reality experience, and offer customers an experience they could get anywhere else. Something like that has the potential to spread like crazy as people shout the newest thing from the mountaintops.
While virtual reality may seem imminent, especially while new technology is being presented so often, there is no exact time that we can predict its takeoff. However, that does not mean you can’t invest ahead of the curve and prepare now for what’s inevitably going to be a part of our world in the near future.