Thursday, June 23, 2016

Where Virtual Reality Fits In Your Marketing Funnel (If It Fits)

Lowe's Holoroom; Photo from Lowe's and Marxent Labs

In my recent report for Gartner’s marketing clients, “Virtual Reality: What Marketers Need to Know Now,” I share an organized and cautious approach to ensure marketers get value from any investments made in virtual reality (VR) programs. As with past digital innovations, VR is creating excitement as agencies gear up their VR practices and marketers seek new ways to reach consumers. But what we can learn from past digital innovations is that the best use of VR will not be flashy top-of-funnel strategies that seek to gain awareness but programs lower in the marketing funnel that improve customer experience.

When innovations occur in communications and technology, the marketing department is often the first within the organization to act. Your marketing group likely took the lead in creating the original website, launched your company’s first social media profiles, and deployed the first mobile applications.

But while marketing’s willingness to experiment is both admirable and necessary, not every experiment pays dividends, as fan-accumulating Facebook contests, ignored advergames, abandoned Second Life islands, and other innovative concepts often failed to deliver the results marketing needs and wants. By learning from the past, we can see that the solution for marketers is to anchor their VR experiments not at the top of the funnel but toward the bottom and to understand where VR can best enhance their brand’s customer experience.

To learn more about how marketers can align VR to customer experience needs and deliver better VR programs, and to see how Lowe's Holoroom program meets both brand and customer expectations, please continue reading this post on my Gartner blog.

Monday, June 6, 2016

First Impressions of Oculus Rift Virtual Reality (and What It Means For Marketers)

Me in my Oculus Rift: "Yes, honey, I am paying attention
to you and not playing a game right now." 
As a frequent early adopter of technology, I have sometimes experienced a unique and contradictory set of feelings when using groundbreaking tech: I can be simultaneously dazzled and also modestly disappointed. The former sentiment comes from the unmistakable leap forward the tech represents and the latter from the apparent limitations of version 1.0 (along with the knowledge my expensive new hardware will quickly be surpassed).

These conflicting emotions describe how I feel using my new Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset, a product recently launched by Facebook. It's an impressive piece of tech that clearly demonstrates the promise of the future, but the drawbacks of this first version are also easy to recognize. Both the strengths and the challenges of today's VR devices will impact consumer adoption, as well as the opportunities for marketers.

My feelings about my new Oculus Rift are identical to the ones I had with my Atari 1040ST in 1986 and Palm Treo 600 in 2003. The Atari was one of the first home PCs with a graphic user interface and its 320x200 color monitor displayed images that seemed wondrous at the time, but I couldn't help but be frustrated at its slow speed and the need to continually swap floppy disks when using software. Almost two decades later, my Treo encouraged the same feelings--the ability to respond to email, take (terrible) photos and access the Web were awesome, but the kludgy interface, size of the device and pokey responsiveness were constant reminders of the hardware and software improvements to come. Using the Oculus Rift provides me those same synchronous feelings of wonder and mild exasperation, and that fills me with high hopes for the future of VR.

By mentioning some of the limitations of today's VR hardware, I don't intend to discourage others from considering a purchase, but anyone who invests in the initial iteration of leading-edge tech must expect some bumps in the road. Consumers and marketers interested in VR should be aware of the strengths and challenges of today's tech and what is likely to occur in the future. I will first share some of my feelings as an Oculus Rift user and then convey some observations about what this all means for marketers.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

For A Better Customer Experience Evoke Emotion Rather Than Manufacture It

photo credit: Pensive - Sad thoughts? via photopin (license)
There is a trend in customer experience circles to focus on emotion. To be sure, emotion is essential to a brand's customer experience, but focusing on emotion is a little like obsessing over the score of a sporting event. Yes, our team wants more points, but you get there by executing on the mechanics of the game, not concentrating on the scoreboard.

Emotion isn't a tactic in customer experience; it is an outcome. You cannot manufacture emotion; you can only change what you do to evoke a shift in perception. This is why, as we point out at Gartner, customer experience is owned by the customer--it is their perceptions and related feelings--while customer experience management is the responsibility of the marketer.

The distinction is subtle and one of perspective--outside-in rather than inside-out. Marketers can attempt to manufacture emotion by changing website copy to sound friendlier or posting a touching video to YouTube, but we evoke stronger, relationship-building emotions by altering the product or service experience to meet customers' expectations. The former focuses on what the brand wants; the latter on what customers want.

Think of your personal relationship with brands. Do the brands to which you are the most loyal win that loyalty by telling you you're important or by making you feel important? Do they share emotional stories or do they evoke strong emotions through a customer experience that creates value?

What are the emotions you associate with those loyalty-building brands? Does your iPhone pull your heartstrings? Does Costco make you verklempt? Customers do not need brands to manufacture emotions of joy or sadness through stories and scripts but instead to foster feelings of trust, confidence, pride, security, protection, and serenity. Those are the emotions you likely feel toward your favorite brands, and those are the emotions your brand must evoke through its customer experience.