How Emerging Tech is Revolutionizing the Customer Experience

Four brands use technologies like AR, VR, and connected devices to transform their customer experiences.

Adobe Stock / Tran

Experience-era customers expect the kind of enhanced brand interactions that are memorable and mind-blowing — and that takes some serious tech.

USA Today is immersing its readers in the stories the paper tells by using virtual reality (VR). The Washington Post is bringing readers’ dream adventures to life with augmented reality (AR) experiences. And Estée Lauder and MemoryMirror are turning historically mundane retail experiences into luxury personal beauty consultant interactions by using the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and chatbots.

From AR and VR to bots and the IoT, today’s most innovative brands are showing marketers new ways to connect with consumers like never before. As these experience-era leaders create cutting-edge content to captivate and engage consumers, the pressure is on other brands to deliver competitive customer experiences (CX) across a variety of digital platforms and devices.

Fortunately for the rest of us, the technologies these brands use aren’t exclusive. With the right strategy in place, businesses just like yours can learn to drive an experience that will meet the rising expectations of today’s tech-savvy consumers.

VR puts readers inside the story

VR is little more than window dressing if it can’t immerse customers in the storytelling experience. For USA Today, that’s exactly what the information network’s VR directive is all about.

Niko Chauls, director of emerging technology at the USA Today Network and a featured speaker at Adobe Summit 2017, demonstrated how 360-degree video and VR can be used to immerse readers in stories in a way that hasn’t been possible before. With the introduction of the new VRtually There series, readers can use their VR headset, laptop, or smartphone to access fresh content. The platform turns stories that are told into stories that are experienced firsthand.

Take the recently featured stories on modern-day jousting. The interactive experience places the viewer on horseback, lance-to-lance with an oncoming opponent, while giving the viewer the freedom to explore the 360-degree scene with a mouse, keyboard, or by swiping their finger.

USA Today also is delivering VR experiences through its mobile app, transporting its audience to virtual destinations. Take off with the Blue Angels of the U.S. Navy. Stroll down the streets of Havana. Follow the life of a presidential candidate on the campaign trail. Places and events readers never thought they’d experience are now a few clicks away. Viewers equipped with VR headsets are even more immersed in the experience, getting as close to the action as possible even if they aren’t physically there.

For competitive brands, the time to claim their market share of this high-tech industry is now. According to Statista, both AR and VR markets are expected to increase from $11.4 billion in 2017 to $215 billion by 2021. This growing industry inevitably will put more pressure on competitors to incorporate interactive 3D technology, or risk being left behind in a 2D world.

This is an important point for businesses to keep in mind. VR development can be time-consuming and costly, and without the ability to analyze user engagement, brands risk investing in VR experiences that fail to gauge how well they’re connecting with their customers. The VR experience also should be seamless across all platforms. To succeed in this new medium, an integrated digital platform must be in place to give consumers the consistent and immersive experiences they crave.

AR adds a new dimension

In slight contrast to the VR experience, the Washington Post is using a mobile app to deliver AR content to its readers. The technology lets them explore some of the world’s most notable destinations.

One such example features the Elbphilharmonie Concert Hall in Hamburg, Germany. Post readers can download the paper’s app and use their phones to peek inside some of the world’s most iconic buildings. When users point their smartphone cameras to any ceiling in any room, the app transforms their digital screens into a concert hall ceiling, complete with narration by the newspaper’s art and architect critic, Philip Kennicott.

AR experiences can improve customer engagement and keep people coming back for fresh content. And it has another advantage: as more people engage with these experiences, enterprises acquire more customer data and, with analysis, gain important insights on how to improve. Whether it’s information on views, location, or time spent, they are better equipped to create and deliver more relevant and personalized offers in the future.

Chatbots meet customers where they are

It’s understandable why so many brands regard mobile app downloads as a crucial step toward acquiring their most valuable customers. After all, retail mobile users who are ready to make purchases prefer mobile apps to mobile web 57 percent to 43 percent, respectively.

But the truth is that not every customer wishes to engage with your brand by downloading an app. Estée Lauder knows this and is finding a better way to reach its audience through the company’s latest version of a Facebook Messenger bot called Lip Artist. It uses AR to let people see how lipstick shades look on their selfie. The brand is working to develop these same capabilities for make-up foundation, helping on-the-go fashionistas find the perfect match for their skin tones.

The beauty behind Estée Lauder’s take on AR is its departure from mobile apps. Instead of forcing interested consumers to download another mobile app, Estée Lauder works with a company called ModiFace. Together they power web-based AR to create a mobile-web service that gives users the ability to experience a variety of virtual makeup products — no download or product sample required.

Businesses interested in implementing AR experiences can follow Estée Lauder’s example of meeting customers where they are.

Image credited to Perfect Corp PR

AI and machine learning reflect customer preferences

If you’re not getting feedback on your current offerings, you’ll never know how to improve your customer’s experience in future campaigns. Few brands know this better than MemoMi. With MemoryMirror, a high-end digital mirror, MemoMi has mastered the ability to use real-time data from customer interactions to improve and personalize the experience it delivers.

MemoMi gathers customer data through a variety of techniques on the backend. Data analysis gives the brand insights on how to deliver more precise, targeted offers. For example, machine-learning algorithms help MemoMi identify key customer features such as body measurements, the color of clothes they’re currently wearing, and products trending in specific stores. This helps determine the inventory needed to meet customer preferences. MemoryMirror’s adaptive interface provides accurate and automated recommendations before shoppers even have a chance to request them.

By using targeted solutions to help continually build and hone customer profiles, you too can develop experiences that become more personalized and relevant with each interaction. By combining machine learning and AI across an integrated data management platform, enterprises can begin to use emerging technology to present better offers to customers.

Emerging tech soon will be status quo

Many businesses today are grappling with how to incorporate advances such as VR, AR, and bots into their customer interactions, but these technologies can have a huge impact on the way people connect with some of their favorite brands. With the proliferation and rising affordability of digital devices — and the launch of AR-enabled devices like the latest iPhone — these revolutionary experiences will soon become an expectation from every business with a digital footprint.

Now is the time to prepare your enterprise for the experiences of the future. Start by connecting IT, marketing teams, and high-level decision makers to create a roadmap for success.

Next, identify the precise platforms you’ll need to make it all happen. The right campaign management solution can help you orchestrate great virtual experiences no matter the channel your customers prefer. Targeting software can help you build detailed profiles to ensure any in-experience offers are personalized and relevant. An efficient analytics solution will help your brand understand the evolving wants and needs of your customers, giving you better insight to lead future campaigns.

Once you’ve determined the types of technology that will work best for your brand, work toward integrating campaign management solutions that help drive immersive experiences, extract valuable insights, and continually optimize for future campaigns. Strive to make each customer interaction memorable, informative, and thrilling, and you’ll join the ranks of experience-era leaders destined to ride this new and exciting technological wave into a profitable future.

Hear more stories from top brands who know the power of putting great customer experiences first in their organizations, and read more in our #ExperienceBusinessTech series.