Touch points for brands are changing
Over the past decades, digital worlds have been going through a transformation, made possible by emerging technologies. New touch points appeared, providing completely new opportunities for brands to connect and interact with their customers, enabling them to add value through a different medium.
When looking back could you ever imagine that we would be carrying powerful supercomputers in our pockets that are our smartphones? Or that we would have augmented and virtual reality headsets allowing us to socialize, collaborate and work in digital spaces - imagine testing a digital twin of a whole factory before implementing a new system across the physical building? Or that we would be able to create our own avatar to represent us in these virtual worlds, creating a whole new "direct-to-avatar" industry, for both brands and independent digital artists to design items that dress up our digital selves? And while our current avatars look like a cartoon, gaming giants such as Epic Games continue working on initiatives like Meta Human to create photorealistic versions of our avatars.
Examples of the digital universes (metaverses) where we are able to meet, play games with other players, visit shops from well-known brands and even experience concerts, are Roblox and Fortnite, which together attract nearly 400 million users. Other companies not too far behind them are Decentraland, a decentralized virtual reality platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain, and Sandbox.
One of the oldest and largest investment banks in the world, JPMorgan Chase, opened its own lounge in February 2022 in Decentraland, while also referring to their own research paper stating how they predict the metaverse being a $1 trillion market opportunity in yearly revenues. Facebook changed its name to Meta, signaling its belief in the potential of virtual platforms. Microsoft is developing virtual workplaces where people can meet with their colleagues in the form of an avatar, and brands such as Gucci and Nike are opening digital showrooms offering digital clothes and accessories for your avatar (source).
If we look at the future development of experiences, technological development becomes increasingly important. The experiences we can create are both enabled and constrained by the technologies available to us. Even though we have better and better devices, the current generation of devices is still the most obvious limitation to what is possible. However, if we want to bring immersive experiences out of controlled settings and to the streets in the daily lives of people, the possibilities will increasingly depend on the availability of digital infrastructure.
Wireless networks enable immersive experiences to be taken to new locations, but these networks will have to have the right range, throughput and latency to do so. Making XR experiences social - allowing people to meet and interact across a distance - will also require high-performing networks. Mixed reality mapping onto objects outdoors will be difficult using only the computing power of the device. Enabling high-quality experiences on light, affordable and portable devices - with more than a few minutes of battery life - will also rely on being able to offload computing tasks from the device. Here the expansion of technologies such as 5G and edge cloud infrastructure are key for enabling immersive experiences to become a much more integrated part of our daily lives.
As we now see, one of the potentials that came with emerging technologies is the enablement of new frontiers for businesses to grow into, new platforms to be entered and developed. Before venturing into this new space, it is important to define the objective for entering and gain an understanding of how your target audience is experiencing the new touch points. Ask yourself what is the value we can create through the new touch point, and how can we optimize and scale them in the long run.
Identifying new opportunities
While it may feel safe for most companies to stay within the borders of their existing brand platform, it's important to keep in mind that digital transformation is an ever evolving process. Understanding what the most optimal opportunity is can be difficult, and each brand has unique prerequisites that should be taken into account when deciding on the target, ensuring both strategy and innovative thinking are combined.
Virtual reality offers great opportunities within training. Walmart famously entered the world of VR in 2017 by launching a VR experience to train their employees, and have since trained over 1 million associates due to a big success at the start. Various other companies are finding new value by engaging with their audiences through their existing mobile applications by upgrading them with new experiences.
However, what works for one company might not work for another; it’s important to find an entry point that works for your company and ties into your business strategy. As difficult as it might sound, it’s not a must to dive into these new opportunities head first, there are also possibilities to find smaller entry points such as an AR experience enhancing your brand through an Instagram filter or Snap game. Taking that first step, and scaling gradually, gives you an opportunity to learn and understand how things work in the metaverse.
Evolution of technologies gives us the possibility to bond with our audience not only through a visual expression but also through sound, touch and smell. In today’s world, brands’ expression through digital interfaces are as important as creating a bespoke typeface or choosing a unique brand color.
Imagine building an experience that gives your brand a deeper personality, an emotion to be experienced and feel connected to. It offers the type of ongoing engagement with your audience not previously thought of or possible and builds a long-lasting bond that you can continue to expand on.
Using emerging technologies allows us to experience product simulations or situations that are either difficult to recreate or dangerous to teach (eg. learning how to operate a machine, training in a construction-related field). It allows us to plan construction in a better way with a virtual reality simulator or digital twins. Utilizing the right technology makes it possible to build new platforms that can continuously evolve and grow with your brand.
The possibilities are endless.
Authors: Barbara Podobnik, Anders Edbrand, Nick Martin