It’s easy to get overwhelmed by technology buzzwords and latest trends. Augmented reality, virtual reality, Big Data — doesn’t all of that just belong in the world of startups and cutting-edge technology?
Actually, no. In fact, any business can make use of the latest tech for its marketing and branding initiatives. While the idea of something like virtual reality may seem odd for someone in, say, the auto industry, the truth is that this technology is just another extension of an age-old marketing idea. It’s simply brought into the twenty-first century. Let’s take a closer look at how this works:
The common misconception of virtual reality is that it relies on extremely expensive hardware such as the Oculus or Playstation VR. It actually doesn’t have to be that difficult or complex. Smartphones are already capable of providing VR experiences, and in fact, Google found that a simple piece of cardboard can turn your device into a VR headset. Thus, anyone with a smartphone is a potential user of your VR brand experience.
So how do you integrate this into your marketing campaign? A number of companies exist with the sole purpose of crafting VR experiences for businesses and media (InstaVR, HeadJack, WondaVR, among others), making this technology accessible for brands — even if they don’t have huge budgets for technology initiatives. The big question, then, comes down to what your VR experience will encompass. Consider experiences that can be delivered in the first-person. For example, an automaker can use VR as a way to provide a personal experience of their vehicles in all situations. In fact, Ford’s VR app is designed to do just that, immersing users in everything from casual driving to professional racing.
Years ago, automated phone trees were introduced for customer service and people instantly hated them. They were automated, confusing, and extremely limited in what they could do. So, are chatbots the next iteration of the dreaded phone tree? Yes and no — yes, they’re automated and pre-programmed but no, they’re not as annoying or linear. Chatbots are programmed artificial intelligence that can be as simple as a chat window that responds to keywords or as complex as Siri or Alexa.
Chatbots are effective ways of minimizing manual labor, mostly for either retrieving search-style questions or providing customer support for common problems. Companies such as Uber and Sephora will employ these for their brands as a first line of customer support, allowing their human responders to work on more complex issues. How can this best be implemented? This tech integrates into websites and apps seamlessly from third-party vendors such as Wobot and Expivia; ChatFuel brings bots to Facebook Messenger, perfect for small businesses using social media for buzz and customer service. From there, it’s up to you to make sure the questions, answers, and keywords provide valuable information in return. This type of interaction saves customers time and effort; when programmed well, it can be a boost to your brand’s customer-support reputation.
Augmented reality doesn’t get the press that virtual reality does, but there’s a good chance you’ve already used it. If you’ve used SnapChat’s filters — particularly the World Lens filter — or played the popular Pokemon Go out in the real world, then congratulations — you’ve experienced augmented reality. Augmented reality is simply the overlaying of information, whether for entertainment or practical purposes, on top of a live view. Currently, it’s most commonly used with smartphones through apps by interfacing with the device’s camera. Companies such as Layar make it easy to create an augmented reality experience.
An effective use of AR for branding purposes comes from recognizing where the user is or what the user is doing, then providing appropriate related information. For example, a realtor can use an AR platform to recognize elements of a home hitting the open-house stage. By adding an AR experience, potential buyers can walk through the home and get additional info through their smartphone camera view (e.g. when the kitchen was redone, how high the ceilings are, etc.). In a way, it’s cutting-edge customer service and marketing mashed up into one, giving in-depth information and immediately answering questions while efficiently engaging clients and customers.
Big Data Analytics
In the old days of marketing, feedback came in small batches through focus groups or in final budget reports weeks or months after a campaign kicked off. But now, analytics tools allow for real-time analysis of trends. Big data, or the idea of mass usage info on sites and apps is within reach in today’s connected digital realm. The trick is to know 1) what data to track and 2) what it really means.
Big data opens the door to a range of possibilities, from real-time feedback on marketing initiatives to algorithm-powered customer engagement. On one end, you have analytical insights that can help navigate campaigns and provide deep sales metrics, all leading to more cost-effective marketing decisions. On the other, look at how Amazon integrates big data into their user experience: the tech giant personalized recommendations on every screen. Whether your insights stay in conference room discussions or become part of a front-end algorithm, the key to using big data is to first establish what avenues will be feeding your data, then integrating the best tools into those channels. Plug-and-play options include Google Analytics, Salesforce, Pardot, and Clicktale. Regardless of your goal, understanding the importance of big data is critical — because even if you think you don’t need it, your competition is already using it, which means they’re ahead in the game.
The Bottom Line
The latest tech can push your marketing campaigns over the hump, but simply integrating them won’t do it. Like any new initiative, tools are no good unless you use them properly. So research their capabilities, check out examples, and commit to your due diligence. The result will be new and exciting ways to engage your audience — all while demonstrating that your brand is cutting edge.
Bio: Nanda Krish, CEO of Wisewire (an Edtech company focused on enabling access to high-quality digital learning materials and technology-enhanced assessments) and General Partner at StartSmartLabs (a big data incubator).