Is Customer Immersion the New Customer Engagement?
The launch of Pokémon Go created a global craze, sending Nintendo’s share price to its highest point in decades. Pokémon Go quickly became the most active mobile game ever, smashing online store download records and enthralling hordes of consumers.
To add to the list of engaging user experiences, Pokémon Go successfully added augmented reality (AR)—technology that superimposes computer-generated images onto the physical world via a device screen, creating a composite view for users. As we’ve witnessed, the gaming industry continues to inspire organizations in terms of next-generation consumer engagement, and how to use technology to create experiences that really stand out.
Consumers’ expectations for digital channels are quickly rising and shifting across industries. It’s no longer enough to try to catch the eye of consumers with static product images on a web page, forcing them to imagine, say, how new kitchen appliances will actually look in their home, or to have them navigate lengthy instruction manuals to assemble flat-pack furniture. Today, augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) are creating a new level of engagement, leading to the most personal, configurable, and complex of customer experiences.
The digital era has fueled consumer appetite for these multisensory experiences—the desire to see, feel, touch, and otherwise become immersed in stimulating experiences with brands. While gaming brands are well acquainted with the power of such experiences, other industries are starting to explore how they can also put them to use.
AUGMENTED REALITY IN ACTION
Accenture is working with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to develop an immersive car sales app that would employ augmented reality. Consumers can view and interact with a life-size, 3-D version of the car they are considering buying using Google’s Project Tango technology. With Project Tango’s integrated sensor technology and motion tracking, area learning, and depth perception, buyers can use mobile devices to view, walk around, look inside, and configure their car, even opening the doors to reveal a realistically detailed interior, where changes to upholstery color or dashboard style can be made with a screen tap.
The technology is being applied to a number of design-need scenarios as well; think of homeowners developing or improving their property, or landscaping their garden. The benefit is that they can have a real view of what the end result will look like before any work commences, and shape the details as they go.
VIRTUAL REALITY IN CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT
Likewise, many companies are starting to explore the possibilities around VR—a computer-generated simulation of a 3-D image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real way by a person using wearable technology.
Retailers in particular are finding ways to use VR. JCPenney, for instance, promoted its VR offerings during the 2015 holiday season with geo-targeted Facebook ads, striving to draw families and young people to its stores. Once there, consumers could put on an Oculus Rift headset and be transported to the North Pole to interact with reindeer, elves, and snowmen, giving them a fun, creative experience in return for their time and loyalty.
Another recent example is Six Flags America in Maryland, which used the technology to give roller coaster riders an added thrill: Riders experience a virtual reality simulation (involving Superman and a plunge toward a city sidewalk) while on the ride, greatly enhancing the experience.
FAD OR THE WAY FORWARD?
While mass adoption of such technologies is unlikely to happen overnight, we’re starting to see brands move toward using them in very real ways to facilitate shopping and user experiences. The brands that experiment with new, creative experiences and put consumers at the heart of those experiences will stand out from the crowd. The most important point to take away from the meteoric rise of Pokémon Go is to make your choice intentionally, not accidentally. Can your organization translate that momentum into your business, or is it just “game over” for this phenomenon?
Robert Wollan is the senior managing director, advanced customer strategy, at Accenture Strategy.