Keeping It Real: VR and AR for Demand Creation
- Emerging content formats like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) extend personalized content experience into immersive interaction
- Demand creation marketers can deliver high-impact content and user experience through AR and VR
- AR and VR environments should be integrated with other demand creation tactics, technology and processes
Verisimilitude is a term of Latin origin meaning “similarity to the truth” – being real or believable. The concept can be traced back to Platonic and Aristotelian dramatic theory, in which art affects and persuades its audience through a foundation in nature and reality.
In storytelling, verisimilitude grounds characters, events and even the most ambitious alternative-reality experiences in a world that seems not only real, but immediate and tangible. Within this form of realism is the idea that the audience becomes immersed in an experience of reality as delivered in the context of the content consumed.
For B2B buyers, the content experience must stand out from the noise through a combination of authenticity, relevance and impact to motivate audience members toward the next step in their journey, whether that’s an information request or a conversion on a free trial offer. But instead of a single path or sequence of content, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure story driven by buyer behavior, dynamic personalization and intelligent content. Emerging content formats like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) extend individualized content interactions into an immersive experience, initiated by interest and refined with inquiry and interaction.
B2B Approaches to VR and AR
A high-impact, multisensory content experience can help potential buyers visualize the use of a product or solution in everyday life, walk through an implementation plan, participate in a highly skilled training exercise, or simply increase familiarity with or sentiment toward a brand. VR and AR have several business applications, such as advertising and demand creation, product design and development, and data visualization and modeling.
With a burgeoning technology landscape and growing adoption beyond gaming, the question is no longer whether B2B organizations should pay attention to VR and AR, but when and how to incorporate these emerging content formats to create meaningful and uniquely personalized interactive experiences for their buyers and customers.
Among the more notable differences in approach is the role of the physical world in relation to the digital one. VR replaces the physical world with a virtual environment, while AR presents an enhanced version of reality using digital overlays. Content delivered within VR and AR experiences ranges from consumer apps like maps, e-commerce and social media to enterprise B2B apps for architecture and design, training and education, medicine, and workspace collaboration.
To assess technology and design requirements, first determine whether a digitally enhanced (AR) or entirely immersive (VR) experience best suits business goals and campaign objectives. Then determine how that experience fits into the overall tactic mix.
Consider the type of experience desired, goals and required level of user participation to integrate VR and AR with the overall content strategy and tactic mix; then define specific requirements for user experience and demand creation program integration:
- Is a full field of view important?
- Or are filters a more fitting creative approach?
- How should the user interact with an object in the context of the real world?
- Can the user’s physical location be used to optimize targeting and creative delivery?
- How much contact data is required for meaningful participation in the virtual experience?
- Where will calls to action be incorporated into the user experience, and what will they be?
Getting Started With VR and AR for Demand Creation
Consistent with other demand creation approaches, the content, creative and messaging delivered through VR and AR applications must be relevant, engaging and personalized.
Chances are good that the target audience is already accustomed to interacting with AR in some capacity (face swap, anyone?). Demand marketers should be exploring the capabilities of AR and VR for audience impact and programs integration, working toward long-term commitment and investment.
Analytics solutions like Ease VR, cognitiveVR and Ghostline provide insight into how users interact with virtual experiences, and standardized video and banner ad formats are being developed for VR environments.
Pilot VR in the content mix for an event, and offer an AR geofilter on social platforms. Add a VR viewer to a dimensional mailer for high-impact creative. Build a free app that leverages AR for product education and demonstration. Then analyze results to measure user engagement, inquiries and other demand creation measurements.
Balancing cost, scale and adoption, a key consideration for VR is the need to create a sense of complete immersion to provide a successful user experience, requiring additional investment in peripheral hardware and sensors. For organizations looking to build on the existing physical world and reach a broader audience with the experience, AR is a more flexible option – for now.