During lockdown, organisations of all kinds have been scrambling to virtualise the way they interact with their audiences. From #MuseumsAtHome to VR conferences, online music festivals to virtual product launches, virtual experiences have, by necessity, taken over.
Lockdown conditions may now be easing, but there is little doubt that the world we emerge back into will be far more virtual than it was before. Here’s a brief look at the impact of Coronavirus on the evolution of immersive experiences, and how they can help you succeed in an increasingly virtual world.
The Lasting Impact of COVID-19
Some of the brightest minds today have described Coronavirus as more of an ‘accelerant’ than a catalyst for true change. For most of the industries we work with this is absolutely the case: its lasting impact will not be to change the course of history but to accelerate the arrival of an ever-more virtual and immersive future.
Arts, culture and heritage, vistor attractions, retail, events, FMCG brands, education, corporate comms, sports and more have all been affected by digital disruption and the new opportunities it has brought for audience engagement, but the past few months have forced them to dramatically accelerate. As a result, the professional and social attitudes to immersive experiences that have been evolving for years have now been supercharged.
Related: read more about virtual galleries here
The return to ‘normal’ will of course include going to the shops, visiting museums and enjoying theme parks, but this new normal will also include far more digitally immersive activity that is better integrated into engagement strategies and more readily embraced by post-COVID audiences than ever before.
So the lasting impact of Coronavirus is to force organisations to confront a challenge that has been slowly building for years, by asking the key question: How do I succeed in an increasingly virtual world?
REAL SUCCESS IN A VIRTUAL WORLD
Below are a few important considerations to help you meet this challenge head-on.
Focus on the strategy, not the medium
In many ways, experiences delivered via immersive technologies such as AR and VR are no different to any other types of audience engagement.
They are fundamentally about telling your stories, expressing your personality, achieving your objectives. As such, they should have the unmistakable stamp of your brand just like any other physical or digital experience would, irrespective of the medium through which they are delivered.
It's about the experience, not the technology
Similarly, if you want audiences to care about what you’re doing, and perhaps even pay for it, the most important factor of all is the same as it has always been: the quality of the experience. Immersive technology may be new and different, but for an experience to succeed it must be about more than novelty, or audiences will lose interest pretty fast.
The Coronavirus has triggered something of a digital land grab, with organisations suddenly desperate to do ‘something digital’. As a short-term fix this is fine, but today’s audiences are discerning and spoilt for choice; if it’s not worth people’s time, if it fails to be as fun, interesting, challenging, rewarding or generally as ‘good’ as it should be, then audiences won’t engage with it, much less pay for it.
Start with what you've got
Creating new high quality, three-dimensional immersive content remains the easiest way to burn through budgets, so begin by looking at what you have.
Most organisations today are swimming in more digital assets than they can keep track of, and many can be repurposed for immersive experiences, making the process even faster and more affordable.
It's cheaper than you think
Like any new technology, it has taken time for immersive tech hardware, software and content creation techniques to mature and costs to reduce. The good news is that the ‘early years’ for immersive are well and truly over.
The industry has grown and the tools we have at our disposal make it easier, quicker and cheaper than ever before to create rewarding experiences for your audiences.
Add, don't subtract
Immersive experiences are here to stay, but it would be a mistake to think that they will, or should, replace what has come before. Outside of once-in-a-generation crises such as Covid, traditional audience engagement methods will always have their place.
The very best virtual galleries or museums cannot replicate the experience of standing in front of a physical artefact in an ancient cultural institution, and nor should they try to.
Instead they should complement and enhance, by offering new types of experience that stand alongside those which already exist.
Business models change
Digital disruption has already forced business models across many sectors to adapt. The disruptive impact of immersive technology has been dramatically magnified by Coronavirus, so more and more commercial models will change over the coming months and years.
People will still pay to park at a gallery, walk through the gates of a visitor attraction, buy food and drink at a heritage site, or be in the same room as interesting contacts at an event, but as the experience economy moves on and becomes more virtual, we all – providers and consumers both – will have to adjust to new commercial relationships.
By following the approaches above you will be well placed to create experiences that offer real value to your audiences, to the point that they become an important part of your commercial plans. Don’t be the last to embrace the change.