The most prevalent consumer use cases of Extended Reality (XR) technologies – gaming and watching videos – have largely been built on a foundation of tried-and-true media formats. While it’s understandable that brands have looked to the past for their first forays into XR, data (unreleased until now) on consumer engagement and purchase intent with branded XR content is clearly showing the demand is there for those who can deliver a wholly new type of experience.
New data backs this up: a commissioned study conducted by SuperData, a Nielsen Company, on behalf of Accenture Interactive, shows just how important XR has become as a conduit for delivering engaging and human-centric content. Branded creations offer a new mechanism to make a particularly positive impact on purchase intent – especially where marketers strategically leverage the medium’s capacity to provide indelible (and wholly unique) experiences. On the VR front, 41% of audiences are remembering the brands they see in advertisements, 58% report purchasing products following ad exposure, and 71% attribute those purchases directly to this branded VR content. Metrics for AR and purchase intent are roughly similar, and the numbers XR is putting up around purchase intent would be the envy of almost all other ad mediums.
The data also makes clear just how strongly branded AR is lending itself to shareable experiences, with AR ads enabling advertisers to appeal more acutely to millennials and Gen Zers. Almost three-quarters of those who view branded AR experiences on social media share them with followers, with 56% of viewers also reporting that the last AR ad they saw was a creative use of the technology. This VR and AR user survey is clearly showing that engagement – and more importantly, engagement that maps to revenue – is there for XR at levels far exceeding other mediums.
Still, while many brands currently remain on the sidelines, predicting and awaiting the arrival of a "killer app" that will provide a blueprint for all to follow, it’s not about one killer app. It’s about brands embracing, exploring, and executing on the uniquely rich and unprecedented potential of XR to deliver meaningful experiences that connect to the customer journey. This is premium media for brands and audiences are hungry for (and increasingly expectant of) a deeper level of engagement. Achieving XR success means going beyond the expected, going beyond merely functional, and building a human-centric experience you can't get anywhere else.
As VR and AR emerge as lifestyle technologies, smart brands will position themselves to capture the mediums’ eager audiences as soon as possible, and to hone their XR expertise before competition arrives en masse. At the same time, brands must understand how consumers incorporate – or hope to incorporate – XR technologies within their lives to serve their passions and motivations. XR users aren’t merely eyeballs to put ads in front of; they’re explorers and learners, shoppers, creators and communicators. For example, 78% of VR users enjoy immersion and interaction with 3D characters and objects – experiences which are not possible with traditional video or most other media. Similar one-of-a-kind experiences are valued with AR, as 75% of users enjoy using various lenses and filters to change their appearances and surroundings. Marketers delivering these unique, authentic XR experiences that incorporate brands and products into meaningful immersion will thrive as adoption of this technology increases.
If we look forward to how consumers want to use XR, we see beyond viewing and gaming. The emerging value for VR experiences is with exploration and travel, as well as experiences that encourage learning. For AR, we see similar interest in exploration and learning, and even higher interest in the ability shop and visualize products. Other areas such as communication, creation, and work are also showing rising interest, and as consumers become more educated and comfortable with the technology and more good content becomes available, interest levels will change.
Similar to how mobile phone technology rapidly evolved from a means of making calls into today’s broad ecosystem offering thousands of capabilities we now use on a daily basis, XR will follow a similar trajectory in providing immersive experiences we’ll soon consider a must-have part of our everyday lives. However, it’s imperative for brands to truly recognize the unique opportunities these experiences represent – not as simply a new type of phone or TV, but as the ubiquitous and wholly original component of consumers’ lifestyles that this technology is becoming.
Rori DuBoff is head of content innovation at Accenture Interactive.