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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - May 1st, 2020

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


Hi everyone! This week, we’ll be looking at creative ways companies have begun leveraging VR and AR technologies to increase customer engagement during COVID-19, then finish off by outlining a few tech-driven remote engagement methods that masterfully target brand-specific customer tribes. Enjoy!

VR and AR Customer Engagement Methods Evolve with COVID-19

We begin with some piggybacking off of our Eye on AI post from two weeks ago, which focused on Virtual Reality’s marketing and data collection capabilities, by looking into a complimentary VR-focused article out of Glossy titled “Brands look to VR e-commerce to replace the in-store experience.” In it, author Liz Flora describes how companies have begun looking more into VR e-commerce to offer customers the in-store experiences they’re missing at home.

“VR e-commerce technology is one of the many digital opportunities, like AI beauty tools and virtual consultations, that brands are seeking to offset losses from physical store closures,” writes Flora. “VR e-commerce startup Obsess, for example, has seen a 300% increase in inbound inquiries over the last four weeks, compared to the average monthly number from the beginning of 2019.”

Large brands have been on the VR-bandwagon since before COVID-19, hoping to bring their robust retail locations to a broader audience. That investment has certainly paid off; since COVID-19, experiential remote shopping demand has significantly increased.

“‘People don’t just shop just because they need things,’ notes Marie Driscoll, the managing director of luxury and fashion at Coresight. ‘People shop to discover, learn and find out about new products.’ Flora continues: “A selling point being made by VR tech companies is not just that the technology creates a more entertaining shopping experience for customers, but that it drives sales. According to Singh, the company’s VR stores have a 70% higher conversion rate than traditional grid e-commerce.”

The point about entertainment was certainly taken by makeup retailer L’Oreal, which teamed up with Snap Camera to liven up those Zoom meetings with a bit of hair and style augmentations.

As for the applicability of AR and VR, with such conversion rates, it’s difficult to argue against. My take strictly in terms of e-commerce potential is that both VR and AR are incredibly strong engagement technologies with small barriers of entry problems. Older generations likely won’t adopt VR, and may not understand how to use AR. Younger generations may not have VR access. But, like the Berlin Wall, I foresee those barriers crumbling in time. And when they do, those brands that hadn’t implemented e-commerce VR or AR will be desperately wishing they had.

Creative Remote Engagement Methods to Keep Your Eye On

To close this week, let’s look at some creative ways brands have utilized technology to recently engage with remote customers, beginning with Denny’s restaurant’s ingenious method of tapping into the jaw-droppingly massive online gaming community. Reporter Robert Williams, in his Mobile Marketer article “Denny's gets into gaming with presence on multiplayer platforms,” describes the method:

“Denny's created accounts on video game platforms to connect with customers and offer them discounts on food,” writes Williams. “The casual dining chain's Dennys247 account is on Nintendo's Switch, Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PS4, per information shared with Mobile Marketer. Fans immediately began to engage with the brand after its entry into the gaming world. Dennys247 reached the limit on Nintendo friends within its first 20 hours. After announcing its gaming account in an Instagram post, the brand saw a 26% engagement rate with more than 81,000 impressions on total engagements of almost 20,000. On Twitter, Dennys247 experienced a 15% engagement rate with about 154,000 impressions and total engagements of more than 23,000.”

Frankly, I find this method ingenious and unintrusive. Gamers choose to engage, and will be rewarded for it, rather than brands begging customers to look at them. Chaquita has done something similar by targeting grocery shoppers. Grocery stores are almost globally seeing higher profits during the pandemic, and Chiquita has taken advantage by partnering with Spotify to offer Chiquita-inspired playlists access through their banana stickers. It’s fun. It’s optional. And it’s a much less obtrusive engagement method than, say, a pop-up banner.

Customers come in tribes, from banana eaters to online gamers. And as the game of remote engagement plays out, the brands that sit atop the profits throne will be those that find the strongest, most cost-effective ways of remotely engaging with their customer tribes. With things as they stand now, it’s almost required that that be done through AI technology innovations.

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