A Learner's Perspective: The future of using virtual technology as a marketing tool

June 20, 2017 07:35 by Emma Hailstone

A Learner's Perspective: The future of using virtual technology as a marketing tool CC0 Public Domain

I am basing this blog on the rather clever advert by Nissan which showcases the talents of the tilt brush artist Stephen Wiltshire as he draws the Nissan Micra from memory using a VR headset.

The advert shows the image of the car appear in the same room Stephen is standing in as he draws it. This relates to recent developments in augmented reality; i.e. using a VR headset to view 3D images in your own surroundings, the concept behind Microsoft’s latest HoloLens technology.

However, the common view that virtual reality was a way of escaping reality is starting to be replaced by a more progressive view that it is more about switching that around to how virtual reality can enhance reality.

This defines the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality. Augmented reality is deemed more realistic as it maintains a user’s connection with the real world. This however does not always have to be streamed through a headset, as seen with Vein Viewer, a medical device that projects a patient’s veins onto their skin so that medical professionals can administer injections more accurately.

These developments in virtual technology will particularly benefit automotive companies who will start to struggle if they do not keep up with digitally enhancing their stores; a trend that is starting to be seen in the automotive industry as some carmakers such as Hyundai are starting to move from out-of-town dealerships to showrooms in popular shopping centres like Bluewater and Westfields.

Jack Rands, Renault’s social media director aptly defines this process as ‘moving with the customer’ (Marketing Week, 2015). When buying a car, it has become more about convenience, as people are less likely to drive to an out-of-town dealership if they can buy the car in a more convenient location or explore their options online.

Toyota’s GB marketing director Andrew Cullis has said ‘he wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon starts selling cars’ based on his observation that ‘a [simpler] ecommerce buying experience is what a lot of drivers crave’ (Marketing Week, 2017). The future of buying a car is changing, and who knows what will happen in the next few decades, the number of people who buy cars may even decrease as they rely on other modes of transport instead such as an Uber taxi. The future of driving could also be driverless, which is something that Uber are looking into in order to make their fares even cheaper.

Eventually other retailers will be required to use virtual technology in their stores. This is supported by the findings of a report conducted by Westfields in 2014 assessing the future trends of shopping (How We Shop Now Report, 2014) backing up the claim that customers increasingly expect retailers to use technology to intervene in the shopping experience. Companies that sell a service such as a travel agency could really benefit from this as for example using virtual technology to sell a particular holiday location would make the sales process easier as people will get to ‘try before they buy’ a holiday package.

Using virtual technology in stores goes beyond using VR headsets; retailers can use ‘real-time tracking’ to help manage their stock more efficiently or even to track a customer’s movement around the store. For example, Sweden’s largest grocery chain ICA monitors shopper behaviour using their CCTV so that they can respond to long queues quickly and identify the areas of the shop with the highest concentration of shoppers. Some stores are also using heat map software to assess the visual effectiveness of their shelf displays in real time.

However, this raises the issue of privacy. Customers place a high value on their privacy and so as marketers we must listen to this.

The important point here for marketers is to prove the value of using the technology. To do this, you must tap into the storytelling power of VR to achieve ‘VR excellence’ (Marketing Week, 2016); this means using VR in a way that helps you tell the story of your brand to the customer, helping them to engage more with your company and persuading them to buy your goods and services. A good example is using virtual technology in sponsorship of an event, such as Jaguar who launched a ‘Feel Wimbledon’ campaign to give people the chance to feel what it was like to hit the winning shot as Andy Murray, therefore offering a clear reward. The key here is providing customers with a reward, otherwise it risks being a gimmick.

The view that VR is seen as a ‘gimmick’ may detract customers away from engaging with the use of VR. It is important to properly integrate the use of virtual technology to avoid ‘doing VR’ for the sake of ‘doing VR’ (Marketing Week, 2016). The point of using virtual technology is to improve the customer’s experience in store, and this may not necessarily be improved if a customer has to put on a headset. It is important to make the experience interactive, as this is more likely to maintain the customer’s attention. The carmaker Skoda set up a kiosk in Waterloo Station by asking commuters to design their own custom version which was subsequently put up on the main advertising screen in the station, something which would have definitely attracted the attention of fellow commuters. This is one example of how the traditional car showroom is slowly being transported into an ‘interactive showroom experience’ which has the potential to be experienced anywhere.

The important thing to remember with virtual technology is that it is early days; to reap the full benefits customers will need educating about the ways in which it can enhance their experience and be more than just showing off the latest technology.

In the future, virtual technology could be a great way for marketers to sell a brand and to generate sales by providing an engaging and immersive shopping experience. However, care should be taken with how it is used as it has the potential to be a disruptive rather than a productive presence.

Tags: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Automotive industry, Digital Marketing

Categories: A Learner's Perspective

4 mistakes to avoid on your next digital project

March 16, 2017 14:36 by Alaina Roberts

4 mistakes to avoid on your next digital project CCO Public Domain
Here are a few genuine mistakes we have seen companies make when embarking on their digital journeys. Our hope is that you don’t make them too!
1. Believing you don’t need a specialist web designer
Whilst a branding agency might be great at creating a visual identity to communicate your positioning and values, and a packaging designer can ensure that your product stands out on crowded shelf space, don’t be mistaken into thinking they have the right skills to design for the web.
Designing for the web is a complex specialism that goes beyond consumers looking at something that provokes an emotional response. With web design you are creating an entire experience. A two-way interaction that requires actions to be taken and goals to be achieved, and if the experience is not enjoyable, your user gives up and visits your competition instead.
A website needs to do much more than just look nice if it is to produce the best results. A skilled digital designer can take your brand guidelines or existing identity and translate that into the online environment.
Site structure, navigation, the content and how it flows across the site as well as the calls to action are all vital elements that are carefully considered by a specialist web designer who understand the importance of user experience. The most effective solutions would be based on user experience research and insights.
Just as you wouldn’t expect your GP to do heart surgery, ensure you are using the right expert for the job to get the best results.
2. Forgetting the user
If you were going to launch a new product in the marketplace, would you invest thousands of pounds in it without researching it with your target audience first? Surely that would be crazy? Spending all that money without knowing first hand whether it meets the needs of the people you want to buy it.
Unfortunately there are so many companies that overlook the value of research when it comes to developing their website and other digital products. Understanding who your users are, their goals, needs, wants, frustrations and pain points means that you can create a solution that is easy and enjoyable for them to use. If doing a task is easy, they are more likely to repeat it, and if that task is buying from you, then the benefits should be clear.
It is so easy to make assumptions about the users and end up just developing a site that fulfils the needs of the business, but if the user is ignored, the site will struggle to reach its potential.
User interviews and workshops are examples of effective User Experience (UX) research techniques that can help to provide insight for the development of a user-centred websites, apps, intranets and portals. From building User Personas to crafting user journeys, the insight gained from user research can be used to optimise the entire customer experience both online and offline.
Investment in user research should be a no-brainer if you want to ensure the best results for your site.
3. Not allowing enough time to scope at the start
Once a decision has been made to invest in a new website or digital experience, the pressure is often turned on and stakeholders want to get the ball rolling.
However, spending enough time at the beginning of the project to properly scope and agree the requirements will ensure that the entire process runs more smoothly. We have found the most effective way to kick-start each web project is with a stakeholder workshop. Bringing together key representatives from the business, from decision makers to selected customer-facing staff and systematically working through important aspects of the project will produce a better scoping document.
Discussing the business challenges can help prioritise the requirements for the end product. Occasionally, we find that in these exploratory sessions we uncover other business opportunities or improvements that fall beyond the scope of the web project, for example changes to operational procedures to increase efficiency.
In addition to looking at the business, it is important to consider the consumers. Identifying the end users and their goals can help identify gaps in knowledge about them that can then be filled by subsequent research.
The benefit of these sessions is that everyone agrees the objectives, requirements and priorities for the project, avoiding issues being flagged later in the process. The outcomes from the workshop discussions are then collated and form the project scoping document. Once the full scope has been defined, it is much easier for a digital agency to confirm quotes and timings for delivery.
4. Being unrealistic
When it comes to web projects, you need to prioritise what is important to your business. If you continually change your requirements, it will affect your deadline and your budget. If you want an all-singing, all-dancing website on a shoestring, you will likely be disappointed.
Originally published on 8th March 2017 by Alaina Roberts at DotLabel.

Tags: Digital, Digital Marketing, Website, Branding, User experience

Categories: Digital Marketing

The Learner’s perspective: Marketing to the digitally connected consumer

November 7, 2016 16:22 by Emma Hailstone

The Learner’s perspective: Marketing to the digitally connected consumer Connecting with the digital consumer

This week I have been reading about marketing in the ‘digital age’. I have discovered that many organisations are finding it difficult to connect with consumers, as overbearing advertisements are having a significant impact on consumer behaviour. It is becoming increasingly challenging to engage with consumers that are starting to avoid these ‘annoying’ adverts.

The looming problem for professional marketers is the ease through which consumers can find ways to avoid these kind of adverts altogether. A report issued by PageFair and Adobe Ad Blocking in 2015 highlighted that 198 million people worldwide use some form of adblocker. Compounding this issue, consumers are now using multiple devices to access the Internet, which makes them almost invisible to advertisers. In fact, around 25% of people in the UK confess to use 3 or more devices a day, in what has been termed the new ‘multi-screen reality’.

Another issue is that advertising has become disruptive for television viewing as well as online browsing. There are many ways in which consumers can bypass adverts all together such as using the fast-forward button on a Sky remote. Alternatively, people are choosing not to engage in watching adverts because they are distracted by their smartphone. Research by Accenture (2015) found that 87% of consumers use more than one device at a time, most commonly watching television and browsing on a smartphone.

Consumers are also using their televisions and other digital devices to stream online content. On-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime offer the service of unlimited, and almost uninterrupted content for a low monthly fee.

So with all of this in mind, I then thought - what can we do as prospective digital marketers to combat the problem of creating a disruptive browsing experience, to ensure the future of digital advertising?

The good news is that it is something that we are already beginning to see today, with some organisations embracing new initiatives such as real-time marketing.

Two possible real-time marketing solutions are ‘native advertising’ and ‘moment marketing’.

A preference for native advertising has been found amongst consumers. The promotion of a product or a service is situated within the flow of the scheduled content, therefore being less disruptive for the consumer experience.

An example of a native ad is the New York Times 1500-word article about women inmates that was published online to promote the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. This article was successful because it appealed to a particular audience, offering them an interesting topic whilst advertising a way for them to explore it further by watching the series online. The article was particularly engaging as it included audio clips, a slideshow and graphics which moved when the reader scrolled down the page.

An alternative solution is ‘moment marketing’. An important thing to acknowledge is that people today live their lives in moments, which we must identify and capitalise on in order to stay up-to-date and relevant to the modern day consumer.

Through their best-selling chocolate bar KitKat, Nestlé have changed their marketing strategy to attract the modern consumer. They chose to invest in the KitKat brand to become more relevant and engaging to consumers.

For the many years that it has been around, KitKat has been synonymous with ‘taking a break’. However, the ways in which people take breaks has changed over time. So, as part of this change in strategy, Nestlé redesigned KitkKat packets to mirror the different ways people spend their breaks such as ‘YouTube my break’ which involved a link to a short YouTube video that people could watch. This interactive approach is a great example of ‘moment marketing’ because it is engaging for the consumer and is consistent with the tagline of their brand which has been the same for 80 years.

To conclude, what is key, for those of us who are aspiring digital marketers, is to make it personal by remaining people-focused, putting the consumer at the centre of everything that we do. A key part of facilitating this is staying up-to-date and relevant with consumers, responding in real-time to changes in their behaviour.

Tags: Digital Marketing, Customer behaviour, Marketing strategy

Categories: A Learner's Perspective | Digital Marketing