There have always been opportunities for brands to step into virtual experiences and create one-to-one, authentic connections with consumers, but rapidly changing adoption rates of technology have shone a brighter light on opportunities that two months ago seemed less obvious.
Zoom went from 10 million daily users to more than 200 million daily users in less than a week, driven in part by increased business use, but also by individuals looking to stay connected to family and friends in new ways. The shiny thing that everyone wants to keep looking at is classic virtual reality, that we’re going to replicate a virtual world, but that’s a red herring; brands have a real opportunity to drive stronger relationships with their consumers in this digital world.
Heather Christman, Senior Director, Lean Growth chatted with Dr. Glenn Platt, Department Chair and C. Michael Armstrong Professor of Miami University Interactive Media Studies & Marketing, about this opportunity for brands to explore virtual consumer experiences.
Below is the full video of their conversation and a few main takeaways and examples.
Stigma of Virtual Removed
“Prior to this, there still was a lot of stigma attached to remote work. There was this idea of folks, not really being able to get their head around what it means to sort of be separate, but together and by forcing everybody into this world, I think this space of what you and I have called virtual reality before now becomes so much broader. We are rethinking everything about what just not only our day to day work lives look like, but our day to day interactions with other people could look like. There was also this narrative that, ‘everyone needs/loves the real thing.’ But more now than ever people are willing to make leaps to virtual.”
Increased Requirement of Authenticity
“We’ve tossed around this phrase authentic for years, and everyone says they’re authentic. They’re largely authentic to what they want their image to be and maybe not what their image is. And there is something very clarifying about this whole experience that drives very authentic and intimate experiences that really resonate with people successfully.”
Companies have been thinking of replicating physical experiences vs. changing them entirely.
“As we more so heavily rely on Amazon and other web-based services, it’s highlighting where a lot of these technologies fail. The problem with virtual grocery shopping is people have been thinking very much about replicating a physical experience, which is a very awkward way to shop online. There’s an opportunity now for us to think about what these consumer experiences can be if we don’t have to sort of make them work the same way as we always did.”
From One to Many to One to One Conversations
“That there is very much a sense that brands are not part of this one to many conversation anymore and that they can now be part of a one to one conversation with consumers. And, I think the opportunity for brands is to get beyond that, that conversation in the past, which was like hyper-personalization, which was more data-driven. And this is kind of more relational, more about the relationship between the brands and the individuals.”
How is this coming to life today?
Virtual Concerts: “Musicians like Chris Martin from Coldplay, Adam Levine from Maroon 5, and Tim Burgess are hosting virtual concerts and listening parties.”
ESports: “As quickly as NASCAR disappeared then for the first time ever broadcasted their esports event and it had the largest audience in the history of all esports ever being broadcast. People were able to make the leap from cars going around laps to game cars going around laps.”
Peloton: “Peloton is just a stationary bike with an iPad on it, but what makes it work is that it creates a virtual experience where you feel like you’re with other people, giving one another high fives. You’re part of something, but it is an experience and virtual community that you are able to craft yourself vs. trying to feel comfortable in a static in-person community at a spinning class like Soulcycle.”
League of Legends: “This is an ‘okay’ game, but what makes it successful and the number one esport is that they continue to listen to their community. They’ve built relationships with their customers so that customers feel like they have a back and forth communication with the company, and they’re actually being listened to fuel improvements and product launches.”