Interest in AR and VR is on the rise in the local space, as brands as well as the agencies and digital marketing companies that serve them aim to take advantage of cutting-edge technology to boost customer experiences.
Mike Boland, Street Fight’s analyst in residence, sat down with four players in the space at Street Fight Summit West in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon to get their takes on the latest in visual technology and digital marketing.
The conversation centered on rates of customer adoption, evaluating the return on investment in visual technology, and how AR and VR can improve customer experiences.
One of the clearest returns on investment in AR and VR is time, said Joel Vasquez, solution architect at Talespin.
VR and AR can be used for employee training, an innovative practice that can make the training process both quicker and more effective.
For example, a home-services company could simulate the job of fixing up a home that has been struck by a leak. This sort of practice saves the employer time and also allows it to simulate the exact conditions for which it would like its employees to be prepared, Vasquez said.
VR-enhanced employee training can also be rewarding. “People shy away from the word ‘gamified’ … but work should be fun,” Vasquez said.
Evonne Heyning, CEO of Light Lodges, has experimented with visual technology as a way of bringing geographically distant people into a room together and enabling a meeting to happen, another move that saves time and money.
Restaurants are using Auredi’s visual technology to enrich customer experiences, showing them exactly what their food will look like.
“We want to please the restaurants and we want to please the users,” Auredi CEO Danny Gordon said. “It’s unbelievable the amount of excitement we see when we show customers dishes that look exactly like they do in person.”
“Snapchat brought AR into the public perception … but those still look very cartoonish,” Gordon said. “With the images we create, it looks realistic down to the details.”
The panelists agreed that businesses should refrain from turning to visual technology simply for the sake of doing something new.
For one, the technology needs to correspond to the goals of the brand hoping to deploy it.
“We have to figure out what the story we’re trying to tell is, and does it work with virtual reality,” said Raffaella Camera, NA go-to-market lead at Accenture XR.
Companies also need to consider the adoption rates of consumers, who may not be ready to adopt at scale the technological solutions high-tech companies are prepared to roll out.
Mobile, for example, will continue to be the primary channel for customer experiences for at least the next year or so.
“For the next couple of years, mobile is still going to drive,” Heyning said. “When I’m working with design teams, I love smart glasses and I design for them now thinking of two years from now, but for now the phone needs to be the driver.”
Gordon was even more cautious.
“I don’t think smart glasses are mainstream for another seven to ten years,” he said. “Even the iPhone took about four years.”
Joe Zappa is Street Fight’s news editor. Photography by Shana Wittenwyler.