Customer engagement is defined as the customer’s emotional or psychological attachment to a brand, product, or company. Customer engagement is vital for businesses as it drives sales and growth, and we will examine virtual reality as a new component of customer engagement.
How Virtual Reality Can Enhance Customer Engagement
Customer purchasing decisions are influenced by emotional factors. Behavioral economics has shown that rational decision-making accounts for approximately one-third of people’s decisions and behavior. Feelings influence engagement and engagement boosts sales, as engaged customers buy 90% more frequently and spend 60% more per transaction.
Interaction Is Key to Customer Engagement
Being emotionally-driven, truly effective customer engagement implies an ongoing interaction between the company and its customers. Interaction is what allows people to develop feelings towards others and towards a brand. Customers are engaged when they get personalized purchasing experiences. This means individually tailored brand experiences, efficient interaction with company representatives, and fast customer services.
Social media and the direct interactions via social networks between companies and customers, as well as live chat widgets that have lately proliferated on company websites, have clearly shown the importance of the social component and of the company-to-customer interaction in engaging customers.
The New Frontier of Customer Engagement: Virtual Reality
Virtual reality is becoming the next frontier in customer engagement. Enterprise VR is emerging as the branch of VR that allows customers to better interact with products and brands and get the efficient and personalized experience that they are desperately looking for. But if we take a closer look at the VR landscape, there is more: Social VR for the Enterprise.
Social VR for the Enterprise as the New Engagement Platform
Social VR for the Enterprise is a unique and novel concept that combines the benefits of Enterprise VR with the power of the real-life interaction, typical of gaming and Social VR. Social VR is the ability for people to interact with each other in a virtual reality space, while Enterprise VR empowers customers to interact with products and content in virtual reality and preview in 3D, touch, flip, and customize the products they are interested in.
It is easy to see how these two powerful elements – combined to form the notion of Social VR for the Enterprise – will be the key to incredible engagement in the near future.
Interacting and talking with other like-minded people and company representatives in a branded VR environment is a completely new experience. All the other previous and current methods of communication, from telephone to conference calls, emails, and live chat widgets are heavily technology-mediated. Being technology-mediated means that the presence of technology is always perceived: you know that technology is there all the time. This creates an involuntary barrier between you and the other speaker that cannot be overcome with any traditional communication method.
Social VR Can Replicate Physical Presence
Even when you are talking to someone via webcam, which is the closest surrogate of presence available thus far, you are always aware of the technology layer that is present between the two of you, that constantly reminds you that you are in separate and distant locations talking through a flat screen. This creates a distancing effect as technology never goes away, it never becomes invisible. You’ll never really feel you are there with someone, sharing the same space and experience.
Social VR, instead, replicates physical presence. And presence means that the technology finally disappears. As you engage with someone in a shared VR environment, with avatars that replicate the body presence and move around in the same space as you, allowing you to see and share what the others are doing in the same space, with positional audio that replicates the same patterns of physical communication, your brain starts forgetting about the technology behind all that. Being immersed, your brain feels like you really are sharing the experience with others. And technology is no longer there because your brain does not perceive it any longer. In Social VR environments, there is no more distance between people.
“The best technology is invisible” is a fundamental concept for all user experience designers, usability, and UX/UI experts. Finally, Social VR is here to allow people to interact in a new way that is perceived as non-technology mediated. This makes VR a better-suited technology for interaction. Because interaction is so important for businesses, the notion of Social VR for the Enterprise takes interaction a step further as it allows combining interaction with a personalized brand and interactive product experiences. Customers can thus relate to the brand, enjoy it, talk to company representatives, and to the entire community in a shared and trusted environment. This drives higher engagement – which is the ultimate goal of businesses across the globe – and is a major factor for competitive advantage, growth and success.