VR + AR = better CX
With consumers today urged to socially distance, the case for virtual and remote customer interaction has never been more pronounced.
While Virtual Reality completely immerses the user in an alternate reality, Augmented Reality combines the digital world with the real-world as viewed through a screen.
As we revealed in a recent report published by The AI Journal, both can give customers a taste of a product or service before they hand over their cash. This is particularly pertinent for the retail sector, where AR apps can give customers experiences that for the seller increase the chance of clinching the deal.
For example, fashion retailers like Gucci have been using AR to let customers do just that, with an application that lets a consumer use their phone’s screen to ‘try on’ a new watch or a pair of loafers. Clearly this doesn’t need to be done in-store and means a consumer (particularly during the pandemic) can avoid travelling.
With AR, a consumer can visualise how a new item of furniture will look in their living room, and then hit the buy button if they’re happy with what they see.
VR and AR can also give consumers the type of access that was previously limited to exclusive events. In 2019, online fashion retailer ASOS launched an experimental feature called Virtual Catwalk, letting a user select a product they are interested in, point their phone’s camera at a blank surface and then watch as a miniaturised fashion model wearing that item sashays towards them.
Beyond bricks and mortar
But the applications of AR stretch beyond retail and into FMCG and other consumer goods. Paint company Dulux has created an application that lets people preparing to decorate their homes visualise colour palettes on their walls and skirting; while Coca-Cola has created the Hydr8 concept, which uses AR and VR to encourage people to stay hydrated.
Fast food giant McDonald’s started including instructions for how to build a pair of AR glasses out of the packaging for its Happy Meals and a mobile phone. They can then use a dedicated app to watch and interact with stories. As well as entertaining the youngsters (and augmenting their capacity for pester power) through the use of whizz-bang tech, it’s an appealing gesture of customer experience.
Alternate reality tech can also help businesses convey technically complex information in a manner far more compelling than a brochure or over-eager salesperson.
Car company Toyota is a case in point. It has used AR to give would-be customers a firmer grasp of its C-HR hybrid model, overlaying images of the car’s inner workings onto physical vehicles in showrooms.
Healthcare providers are even utilising AR to minimise pain for patients. A company called AccuVein has taken the guesswork out of finding (and potentially missing) a vein for injection with AR technology that uses a patient’s body heat to superimpose a virtual, real-time image of the underlying vasculature of the skin.
Given that VR is still at a relatively nascent stage in terms of take-up among consumers, certainly compared with the ubiquity of the mobile device, its potential for enhancing customer experience is less realised than that of AR.
But there are still plenty of examples of where VR can enhance customer experience. China’s Alibaba has created a VR shopping programme, allowing customers to wander virtual aisles of an online store, perusing items and even receiving assistance from a virtual shopping assistant, all from the comfort of their own home.
There are fascinating implications for after-service too. Using VR and/or AR, companies can guide consumers on how to update or fix a product or service. VR can be used to improve customer service by enhancing agents’ training; or new employees can polish their communication skills while facing multiple situations in a virtual world.
Or, sounding the death knell for those interminable waits on hold while crackly muzak blares into your ear, technology could provide customers with an entertaining distraction while they wait to speak to a customer service representative.
The permutations for enhancing the customer experience are unlimited.