You have probably heard lots of news lately about big brands exploiting the opportunities new technologies bring. Artificial intelligence, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Chatbots, Voice searches are no longer of interest only to the IT industry and tech geeks. Today, the world’s leading companies actively compete in getting their traditional (i.e. operating mostly offline) businesses online and implementation of breakthrough innovations.
So is this just another fleeting trend or there are some other serious reasons behind such process?
In this article, we will look at the world’s largest brands already taking advantage of new technologies and then try to find out why they decided to do so.
VR and AR: use cases
New technologies are emerging almost on a daily basis nowadays and there are, of course, numerous interesting examples of companies transforming their businesses with the help of innovations. Below we collected only the most interesting and inspirational stories for you to see the global perspectives.
Ikea and its Place app
What is the biggest challenge when you choose furniture for your home? You cannot take your room to a store with you, neither can you adequately see how a piece of furniture being sold online would look in reality when placed in your apartment. If you have ever bought a bed, coffee table, armchair or bookcase, you probably know that the hardest part is to find something that would match your interior design and is not too large or too small for the space you have.
To solve this problem and make the life of its customers easier, Ikea decided to use the technology of augmented reality. In autumn 2017, it launched an app, called Ikea Place App, that allows customers to place more than 2,000 true-to-scale 3D furniture items in their rooms with the help of a mobile phone camera. But the coolest thing about this story is that you can actually interact with furniture–come closer, look at materials, walk around etc.
The idea is definitely great and there is no doubt that the level of customers’ satisfaction has increased dramatically since the Place App was launched, but was it worth it to Ikea? Perhaps only Ikea can judge as it has hard numbers, but we can make some assumptions based on information available online. In spring, 2018, Place App was the most popular non-gaming app built only on ARKit with the rating of 4.7. Besides that, Ikea was featured by Fast Company (the reputable business media that focuses on technologies and business) as one of the world’s innovative companies of 2018 and received a huge media coverage. And, finally, according to Michael Valdsgaard, a digital leader at Ikea, as of March 2018, when the app was available only for iOS, it had more than a million users. A few months ago, Ikea announced Place app for Android, so probably the numbers are even higher now.
LEGO and its AR-Studio
Playing with LEGO remains classics throughout the years, but for modern kids (often referred to as Generation Z) physical LEGO sets are just not enough. These children were born after 2000, they play video games and have been surrounded by technologies since birth. So, naturally, to capture their interest, there should be something more than just colorful plastic bricks.
Keeping this in mind, in December 2017, LEGO launched AR-Studio, an iOS-based app that combines together the actual toys and virtual reality. Specifically, it adds animations to the physical LEGO elements, so a kid can build their sets and then use a mobile device to put animated characters, for example flying dragons, in their imaginary worlds. But it isn’t the whole story– users can be active participants of the world they’ve created and interact with the action they see on a screen.
The app was released only at the end of 2017, so it’s too early to speak about any impact it has on LEGO business. But the things must go pretty well since recently LEGO launched another augmented reality app for Android devices, LEGO BrickHeadz Builder, which have similar functionality.
Audi and its VR Experience
Audi VR Experience is another story about “try it before buy it”. As there is lots of information available online, car buyers usually make their purchase decisions without even visiting showrooms. Audi considered such tendency as rather negative for its brand since showroom experience is one of the best chances to build the brand loyalty. But to attract buyers and get them back to the showrooms, there should be something that really makes a difference there. Audi came up with a quite creative solution–it crafted a VR headset.
In short, the Audi VR experience lets customers get a realistic simulation of how their digitally configured car will look like and feel. There is a variety of customizable details, so customers can actually see a car in front of them while “playing” with different options Audi offers.
Reportedly, at the pilot location in London, the level of new car sales increased by 60-70 percent. In addition, customers were more prone to choosing more expensive optional features and some of them even bought vehicles without the actual test drive. As of today, VR experience is available at the European market only, but the company plans to offer it all around the globe soon.
So why do big brands invest in new technologies?
Well, let’s look at some facts and numbers.
According to UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study, nowadays, 4 in 10 purchases are made via an online channel. This means that gone are the days when having an online business was limited to just selling product on the Internet. Today, every business should be an online business, at least partially.
Another reason why your business needs to use e-commerce is hidden in a change of generations. It’s expected that millennials will be the largest living generation by 2019. According to Accenture, they spend about $600 billion on shopping each year (the US market). And while it’s a myth that representatives of the so-called Gen-Y shop only online, they indeed are the tech savvies. Millennials trust online reviews (80 percent of them buy things only after reading a review), and if they come to your brick-and-mortar store, they still want to enjoy the benefits brought by the new technologies (e.g. mobile coupon scanning capabilities). So do you still have a question why online payment services are necessary? We bet, the answer is “no”.
In addition, according to ABI Research’s report, AR technology brings positive improvements to online customer engagement. And it is no wonder since customers are becoming more and more demanding. They want to exploit the latest innovations in every sphere of their life and the buying experience is not an exception. So to meet the expectations of their customers, companies need to be innovative and think out of the box.
Today, doing business online does not just mean having an e-commerce platform, it assumes that companies rethink the way they engage with customers. Hence, implementation of cutting-edge technologies is no longer a “nice-to-have” option, it’s a vital requirement for any business that wants to survive and stay competitive in this digitized world.
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