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Even Small Businesses Can Benefit From Immersive Technologies Like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

All small businesses want to increase customer engagement. After all, the more engaged your customers are, the more loyal they will be to your small business. Immersive technology is a new strategy successful businesses are using to attract the attention of customers and prospects. Augmented reality and virtual reality are two examples of immersive technology, and while that may sound too complex for your small business, they’re not. Here’s how these relatively new technologies can help your small business.

Previously associated with the gaming industry, immersive technology refers to technology which allows the replication of the physical world by creating a surrounding sensory feeling—creating a sense of immersion. The technology includes virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality; small businesses are just beginning to find uses for engaging experiences.

Augmented reality (AR)

You’ve probably seen augmented reality (AR) in action plenty of times without realizing what the technology could mean for your marketing strategy. AR places digital images on top of real-world video the same way Snapchat and Instagram filters work. Remember the popularity of Pokémon Go a few years ago? Users walked around neighborhoods seeking digital “species” hiding in real-world locations.

Furniture businesses use AR so users can choose a piece of furniture and virtually place it in their rooms to see how it fits/looks. Many eyeglass websites have similar applications so users can virtually try on eyeglass frames before they buy. In the beauty industry, AR allows people to try on makeup, like lipstick and nail polish, virtually to see how it looks.

Snapchat has made creating and using AR simple for businesses by providing a production tool called Lens Studio. It allows businesses to create both Face Lenses (front camera experiences) and World Lenses (rear camera experiences). The tool provides several templates for businesses to start creating attention for their companies.

Virtual reality (VR)

Virtual reality (VR) is a complete immersion technology comprised of a computer-generated replication or simulation of a real-life situation. Users feel like they are actually seeing and hearing things in the environment created by the technology. VR is used prevalently in the real estate industry for home seekers wanting to tour homes without actually having to be there.

Even more than AR, VR allows marketers to connect with customers in a more personal way by bringing the company’s features and solutions directly to the consumer. Furniture and home product retailers can provide online shopping like never before with VR showrooms. Likewise, architects, designers, and construction companies can show real-world examples of their work and/or create a mock world of what could be created. Travel and tourism entrepreneurs can give potential travelers a taste of an experience and locale without leaving their computers.

Like AR, the technology exists and is ready for small businesses to take a test drive. Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear VR/VR 2, and Oculus from Facebook are just three VR systems businesses can use to apply VR to boost customer experiences.

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Mixed reality (MR)

Mixed reality is what it sounds like—a mix between AR and VR—and is currently being used by small businesses for training, project development, and sales. Going beyond mere overlays, MR allows users to anchor virtual objects to the real world for interaction. It’s the blending of physical and digital spaces by employing cameras, sensors, and microphones working together to recognize and react to the surrounding environment.

As expected, retailers have adopted MR to enhance customer experience in apparel, home décor, and accessories. MR tech currently available includes Microsoft HoloLens 2, Vuzix smart glasses, and Magic Leap.

Are your customers ready for immersive technology?

If you’re wondering if your customers are ready to interact with your business using immersive technology, a recent Nielsen global survey indicates a positive reaction. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents confirm their lives are busier and more complex than they were two years ago, and as a result, many are turning to technology to help provide the solutions needed to simplify their lives. The study also shows 51% are willing to seek out immersive technology as a way to assess purchases and making shopping less stressful.

For businesses looking to build brand awareness and make memorable customer experiences, augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality technology has the potential to create the kind of engagement that keeps customers coming back for more.

RELATED: Virtual Reality Is Finally Here—Is Your Business Ready to Benefit From It?

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