Joel Davis, Co-Founder and CEO at Mighty Social, discusses the rise in immersive online experiences.
Ultimately, every brand wants to scale influence and become more than a touchpoint in the consumer’s journey. Now more than ever organisations are learning the importance of having a loyal tribe of fans. As they scramble to reshape their business models to respond to the current disruptive trends, what we are witnessing is an explosion of immersive digital experiences.
It is only now that we can see that, up until about two months ago, we were merely toying with immersive digital interactions. The sheer magnitude of social distancing caught everyone by surprise and propelled the way we shop, exercise, entertain, and share to a whole new level.
Responding to a global need to meaningfully connect, virtual platforms have finally come into their own. We are seeing a surge of digital experiences from behind-the-scenes museum tours to virtual visits of national parks as spring takes hold.
Live streaming has turned eCommerce into an increasingly social experience too. In China, live streaming has become synonymous with online shopping, and is now a “go-to” option for shoppers who use it to research new products and help them to decide what to buy.
Up until recently in the West, live streaming was mostly used in gaming, entertainment, and social media. From watching live news broadcasting on YouTube Live, and following workout videos in real time on Instagram Live, through to asking beauty bloggers questions as they stream a skincare tutorial on Facebook Live, live streaming is now much more than watching strangers play video games on Twitch.
And now the scale of growth is accelerating further. According to Bloomberg, live video on Facebook has increased 50 per cent since January. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that people around the world are in lockdown.
Facebook is responding to the increased usage by accelerating the development of new features for Facebook Live that will make live streaming video accessible to more people, as well as more lucrative for those broadcasting the video.
Live commerce allows brands to interact with their consumers and create buzz around new products. Any eCommerce platform that incorporates live stream offers their audience a textured experience of simultaneously watching an influencer and peer whom they like and trust. As already experienced in China, popular live streamers have generated incredible brand loyalty. You could liken this to QVC shopping for the digital age.
Beauty brands in particular have been using live streaming for some time now. In 2016, Maybelline launched a live streaming campaign to promote its new lipstick line that was broadcast across nine popular platforms to over five million people. Maybelline sold more than 10,000 lipsticks (to the tune of $210,000) in two hours.
It will only be a matter of time before this powerful marketing tool will accelerate the way other sectors reach out to their target audiences.
Let’s check out some of the sectors it is already successfully infiltrating.
The health and fitness sectors, of course, are a perfect fit for immersive experiences, especially with limited access to gyms and even the great outdoors, and it seems many of these are addictive enough to keep us locked in long after we are set free.
Supernatural takes the full-body workout into virtual reality, Mirror links us to top trainers and other fitness fans all from the comfort of our home, and Peloton takes us cycling on any terrain we choose without getting our wheels dirty.
These kind of new workout systems are creating an entire ecosystem of new services that are partnering with music, video, and live streaming to help consumers “be their best selves.”
Healthcare is another natural fit as companies such as Eko keep patients connected to their care teams from the safety and comfort of their homes. Patient-facing applications can video chat with their providers and navigate the likes of a self-operated stethoscope exam.
We live in an age where the idea of live broadcast is ubiquitous with digital streaming; what 10 years ago was considered “TV” is today expected to be at our fingertips on our mobile devices.
While broadcast media has enjoyed a massive digital revolution through mobility and accessibility, the fundamental experience of broadcast hasn’t changed. Whether you turn on a TV or tap to watch on your mobile, the viewing experience has largely remained a 16:9 “boxed window” of events edited to give you as much perspective as possible.
Of course the next real big advance for immersive experience is riding on the backbone of the digital evolution, and will rely on Virtual Reality (VR) to truly deliver a new age experience.
So far we have only really seen a glimpse of the potential of live VR broadcasting and streaming, but that is about to change.
In February 2020, Scott Buchholz, Deloitte’s emerging tech research director, told CNN Business that “[The VR market] is likely to continue to grow, particularly as we see an increasing convergence of AR and VR gear, as well as prices continuing to drop and capabilities continuing to rise”.
At the time, there were some concerns that live VR concerts could mean fans would no longer travel to actual performances. It seems amazing that, a month on, the world as we knew it flipped.
Being able to participate in live concerts, take personalised fitness classes, have our health properly monitored, and discuss our skincare requirements with an expert are just some of the experiences we can enjoy without having to leave our home. The very fact that we are now having to discover this will undoubtedly impact the way we consume in the future, and brands in every sector need to learn how best to tap into the power of immersive digital.