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Monday, July 26, 2021

Immersive Experiences Enable Robust Remote Interactions

By Gabriel Bridger — SVP Executive Creative Director

The line between digital and physical is slowly but steadily fading away. Whether it’s virtually experiencing a physical store or looking through an augmented reality heads-up display while driving, Immersive Experiences represent the future of how consumers interact with brands and products; they envelop the user in a world, either virtually or physically, enabling meaningful engagement with brands, products and people. This allows for digital experiences to become more tangible and effective, creating deeper connections with consumers.

Thought: Immersive Experiences Enable Robust Remote Interactions
Immersive Experiences Enable Robust Remote InteractionsSVP Executive Creative Director — Gabriel Bridger
Thought: Immersive Experiences Enable Robust Remote Interactions

What are Immersive Experiences?

While Immersive Experiences can have high barriers to entry, there are now plenty of ways to enter the space with less significant investments or time commitments. This is supported by advancements in hardware and software that allow for quicker and more sophisticated experimentation.

Perhaps just as important is increased consumer engagement in this space. The growth of this technology, coupled with the needs brought about by the pandemic, has forced adoption at increased speed. For example, the widespread adoption of QR codes in American restaurants taught millions of consumers about how to interact digitally with their physical environment. Further advancements in gaming and screen technology are introducing us to virtual and augmented worlds that are more than proofs of concept. The door is wide open for broader adoption and engagement with brands at an immersive level. 

Why are they important?

Few traditional digital experiences have the impact that Immersive Experiences can offer. The nature of many of these experiences puts control in the hands of the user, allowing them to explore brands and products in an organic way, resulting in higher levels of satisfaction and increased ROI for brands. According to The Experience Brand Index by Jack Morton, companies that prioritize experiences over developing new products can see a 25% rise in customer loyalty and increase the likelihood a customer will refer their brand to a friend by 200%.

These kinds of experiences expose little moments of joy that capture customer attention and demonstrate some of what makes customer experiences so critical.

What do they look like?

The full answer is that we don’t fully know yet. The pandemic expedited customers’ willingness to digitally engage with brands, meaning we are currently navigating uncharted territory, and there exists little consensus on what Immersive Experience can and should look like. This is ultimately a good thing—the possibilities are changing by the minute. The key to producing these sorts of experiences, then, is to maintain a healthy level of curiosity and humility: We all still have a lot to learn. 

That’s not to say Immersive Experiences can’t be immediately successful. We witnessed the power of encouraging customers to embrace their pandemic habits in working with Cost Plus World Market in 2020. The company had been forced to cease its in-store holiday shopping plans, including decking their halls with holiday cheer, and realized that simply posting photos of decorations wouldn’t do the company justice.

In partnership with Rightpoint, Cost Plus World Market wanted to spark some joy for its customers who may be wary of an in-person visit and prefer to complete their shopping from home. We first surveyed the company’s customers and determined what kinds of experiences they would respond to, and in the process validated that in-store exploration was a key part of the brand most customers sorely missed. We built an entire virtual environment for customers to walk through as if they were in-store. They explored store aisles and were inspired by displays, all while adding items to their cart as they would in person.

Rather than push customers through the experience along a predefined path using invisible guideposts, the holiday store allowed for a self-guided experience, resulting in more engagement—including visitors who weren’t necessarily looking to make a purchase at all, but may have wound up with something new anyway.

The Immersive Experience we built for Cadillac represents a different take on an Immersive Experience. The work was a complete re-think of the Cadillac brand in-car operating system and how the driver should interact with the car. The experience is centered within a 34” curved display that’s capable of producing over a billion colors and rendering 3D scenes in real-time using Unreal.

This technology allowed Rightpoint to offer a new kind of interaction design. Leveraging the concept of the Z-axis, we created an interface and experience that provides drivers and passengers with a sense of dimensionality not seen before in any competing experience. More akin to gaming experiences, the work leverages this technology to not only present something visually stunning but also to create a greater understanding of hierarchy and functionality. Furthering this is an augmented reality heads-up display that paints the road in front of the customer with relevant road and directional information. The result elevates what might have been a forgettable experience to one that is truly engaging.

What’s next?

Immersive Experiences represent one of the most effective and engaging ways to differentiate digital experiences and bring brands to life. And the time is right. The confluence of technology advancements, cultural change and customer needs are creating a perfect opportunity for brands to redefine what’s possible.