The new normal of virtual living expedited by Covid-19 and it’s socially distanced ways looks set to stay, even in its hybrid form. In spite of the challenges faced over the past year, there is no denying the benefits and efficiencies to virtual living and working. The increasing use of technology to work, play and stay connected have shaped new digital habits and our expectations of digital experiences and virtual worlds have evolved. We have come to expect a digital twin which is as good, if not better, than its IRL version of almost everything we experience in the physical world from travel and culture to entertainment and education, the Metaverse is evolving at the speed of fibre optic broadband.
The Metaverse of experiences is evolving at the speed of fibre optic broadband
Even Amazon is getting in on the act with Amazon Explore coming to the UK later this year, putting the world at your fingertips by offering virtual experiences that are live-streamed to you at home. Each remote experience features a local host that enables you to learn, shop, and discover new places. For example, you could choose to explore the bougainvillea-strewn Barranco district in Lima, whilst discussing Pisco sour ingredients and the best time to visit Peru with your personal local tour guide all from the comfort of your sofa in London, perhaps accompanied by some Peruvian food from Deliveroo.
Last year Google reported having best-in-class digital marketing can return brands as much as 20% extra revenue and 30% lower costs and Brand Experiences including festivals, events, exhibitions and brand homes are no exception.
What virtual experiences lack in their physical counterparts they make up for in accessibility, affordability and convenience. The opportunities for brands are endless; building brand advocacy, generating world of mouth, setting the stage for an impulse purchase or monetising virtual experiences to generate another revenue stream.
Now is the time to reset, pivot, and think big to transform your business operations to match new digital expectations. Think with Google
Here are my top trends for the evolution of Brand Experiences in the new normal:
1. Hybrid Experiences
Instead of taking a digital-only approach, brands that use socially connected technologies and innovate with hybrid experiences will see greater success, by bringing together the best of both physical and digital elements. Physical experiences are powerful because they combine physical, emotional and sensory factors with a humanity and serendipity which is hard to replicate with digital experiences. The key to success is to allow physical and digital experiences to compliment each other. For example, provide a preview of an experience digitally to drive physical footfall and give digital audiences an extended reality experience without the cost and logistics of providing headsets in the physical environment.
2. Access All Areas (Digitally)
Digital experiences can enable a controlled AAA experience that gives audiences behind the scenes access that can be scaled. Backstage interviews, rehearsals and secret tours can be planned and recorded in advance providing fans with unprecedented access.
In 2021, it’s estimated that more than $100 billion will be spent on virtual goods in gaming platforms alone. This virtual spend creates an enormous opportunity for businesses to generate real money on merchandise for virtual worlds. Virtual commerce is not a byproduct of quarantine living during the pandemic. The real trigger for virtual commerce is the rise of online gaming, which has been happening for years. Entering this space requires an understanding of how to create a great customer experience for the gaming audience. Gaming is all about rewarding people for achievement - it's about the eternal appeal of what’s cool. Gucci is selling its exclusive apparel in virtual worlds where people will never be able to wear them and Balenciaga launched an online game to showcase its latest collection. Ultimately audiences don't want to be sold to but entertained and rewarded by their favourite brands.
Digital experiences provide more data than their physical counterparts and its important to remain connected to your audience in the digital world. Brands will need to leverage social listening tools to really understand what consumers actually want from a digital experience and stay ahead of emerging trends.
5. Extended Realities
The pandemic has shone a new light on extended, virtual and augmented realities. Digital technologies can make a Brand experience or event unforgettable, through multi-sensory experiences, interactive play or spectacular visual design. As virtual headsets become more affordable brands that provide extended experiences to be enjoyed at home will come out on top.