Virtual Reality Could Help Marketers Create Real Sales

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Virtual Reality Could Help Marketers Create Real Sales

Virtual-reality headsets, such as Oculus Rift, have been described as fetish devices for gamers and fans of immersive entertainment. But there’s another potential audience for VR that hasn’t received as much attention: shopaholics.

In a recent piece in Ad Age, Adrian Slobin, SapientNitro’s managing director and digital strategist, described a scenario in which a customer visited The Apartment by the Line, a luxury home décor boutique in New York’s SoHo. The customer, who wound up buying a black opaline glass lamp, did so from halfway around the world, using a Samsung Gear VR headset.

Slobin said this isn’t a one-off. He believes that that “any sort of product that has complexity attached to it” is a good candidate for a VR-based sales experience. “Think tools at a big-box home goods retailer,” he said, “or anything where the back story to the brand is critical to the product–anything where you want to get the consumer to feel the brand and experience that product’s back story.”

At the moment, somewhere around 1 million people have access to a VR experience. The vast majority are using Google Cardboard, a DIY kit with asymmetrical biconvex lenses that attach to a smartphone and costs as little as $15. The market is expected to pick up considerably in 2016, though, when Oculus Rift, a head-mounted display that is currently available for developers, will go on sale to the general public for $350, and Microsoft’s HoloLens–an augmented reality headset–makes its debut.

Facebook bought Oculus, the company that makes the Rift, in 2014 for $2 billion. That along with Google’s, and Microsoft’s backing, plus the enthusiastic support of people including Slobin, has prompted marketers to take an early interest in VR. Whether they actually believe VR is the next big thing or are merely ensuring that they’re not missing out a potential disruptor in media is unclear. Slobin compared the opportunity to the introduction of World Wide Web in the early ‘90s, though he admitted it’s probably not quite the same.

So how big a deal will VR become?

Already A Reality
Top brands have been swarming VR for more than a year. During the World Cup in 2014, Coca-Cola introduced an Oculus Rift “experience” in which users could travel from the locker room to the pitch to score a goal. (Archrival Pepsi has also launched a few VR experiences.) Hotelier Marriott used Oculus to “teleport” users to Hawaii and London. Dos Equis launched a three-minute Oculus experience featuring its spokesman, The Most Interesting Man in the World, and a lion. Last year, Volvo used Google Cardboard to give users the experience of driving its XC90 SUV.

In 2015, VR is increasingly becoming part of the branding landscape. Virgin Holidays, for instance, uses cardboard VR goggles to let customers experience a hotel or resort before they book it. Some airlines are also providing VR experiences for passengers on long-haul flights.

As the list of brands and uses illustrate, VR is a medium that’s not tied to any particular industry. “Consider VR as a new-media platform,” said Dario Raciti, director of the Zero Code, the gaming unit of OMD, in an interview with “It’s not just a peripheral. It’s not just a device, like 3D TV with enhanced 3D. VR is really a completely new media vehicle.”

“We’ve seen this happen in mobile,” added Greg Isbister, CEO of Blis. “Brands who invested early with the view that mobile was a channel they needed to understand for the future are reaping the rewards today.”

An In With Gaming
Despite the various experiments by marketers, industry watchers say that gaming is likely to be the first mass-media use case for VR as a medium. For brands looking to spread advertising messages, product placement is the most logical route, Isbister told

“[Soft drink brand] Robinsons currently sponsors Wimbledon, but VR could take this ‘flat’ form of sponsorship to enhanced levels, experiencing and interacting with Wimbledon from the umpire’s chair … brought to you by Robinsons,” he said. “That’s a powerful experience, something memorable that will keep the brand at the forefront of consumers’ minds.”

Don Anderson, regional managing director at We Are Social Singapore, said that in addition to getting placement in games, many auto brands are creating “a VR game-like experience through driving simulations.” Such experimentation is good, Anderson told, but “much like what happened when the iTunes app store debuted, we saw a lot of hackneyed attempts by marketers to create branded apps, few of which really found their target or took life. We’re kind of at that point again with virtual reality.”

That said, experimenting with VR isn’t prohibitively expensive. Raciti said it costs between $50,000 to well over $1 million to produce a VR “experience.” Because so few consumers are actually using VR, though, it’s tough to make a case for ROI, except if you measure it in PR buzz or the more nebulous concept of future-proofing a brand.

For instance, Patron Tequila’s VR “Hacienda Tour,” a 360-degree tour of the company’s headquarters in Jalisco, Mexico, that was shot with custom-built drones outfitted with seven GoPro cameras, was probably viewed by only a few thousand people, at most. However, Anderson said, “the initiative produced considerable discussion online and earned media coverage. They took the time and made the right level of investment for the initiative to come off as looking cutting-edge. Those who do it on the cheap will most certainly have less effect.”

For brands that are looking to get in on the ground floor of a potentially disruptive new form of media, it could be money well-spent–and many are willing to spend it. “I’ve never seen so many marketers creating content for a device that doesn’t have a significant install base yet,” Raciti said.

AR Versus VR
While gaming and “experiences” are the initial uses for VR, a July report by Forrester Research envisioned some others that employ VR and augmented reality (AR). What’s the difference? With VR you are completely transported to a computer-generated world. AR, meanwhile, augments what you are seeing and experiencing. For instance, an AR app could conceivably let you look at a billboard sign and then superimpose a related message, Pop-Up Video style.

Forrester believes that AR will be more useful to businesses than VR. The report gave several instances of AR in action. For example, phlebotomists can use Epson Moverio smart glasses with technology from Evena Medical to hit veins more accurately when they’re taking blood. L’Oreal’s Yves Saint Laurent unit uses Moverio to makeup counter retail associates to help them perfectly apply makeup.

The lines are blurring, though. Oculus recently announcedOculus Touch, a device that lets wearers use and see their hands in virtual worlds. Picture how that customer at the SoHo store could use such technology to shop at a digital store. “You can reach millions of consumers on AR and VR devices they own to envisage a digital channel that rewrites what it means for them to interact with your brand or product,” the report concluded.

Marketers have heard such hype before–remember how Second Life was going to revolutionize the field? Proponents, however, said marketers are just beginning to realize the possibilities of VR and AR.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be an adopted technology in the future,” Isbister said, “and for businesses who don’t understand, it will be very disruptive to them.”

Read the original article here.

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Partner Spotlight: Q&A with RSi’s Ansa


Partner Spotlight: Q&A with RSi’s Ansa

Question 1: How long have you been at RSi and what is your role?
For the past three years, I have been responsible for creating and scaling Ansa, a web-based solution from RSi – Retail Solutions, Inc., that has enabled over 75 of the world’s largest CPG companies and their agencies to build, measure and maximize the performance of their shopper marketing campaigns running in support of the nation’s leading retailers. I am responsible for all aspects of business development, partner and agency relationships and the overall revenue growth of Ansa.

Question 2: How does RSi help solve marketer challenges?
Shopper marketers’ biggest challenge is to connect their online campaigns to in-store results. RSi’s Ansa solution provides the intelligence they need, based on daily, store-level POS-data from the largest US retailers in order to plan, target, and measure the impact of their shopper marketing campaigns. Retail Solutions Inc. has partnered with the leading ad networks in Shopper Marketing, such as Blis, to make Ansa’s automated analytics available for the world’s largest CPG companies and their agencies. To measure and maximize their digital ad campaigns, all they need to do is ask for Ansa inside their next campaign.

Question 3: What benefits does the partnership with Blis bring to buyers as well as the adtech ecosystem?
With RSi’s Ansa solution, building, dynamically optimizing, and reviewing attribution measures for every digital ad campaign has never been so simple. Here is how it works:
1. STORE-LEVEL TARGETING: automatically get from Ansa your store targeting data as store addresses, lat/longs or by Ansa Digital ZIPs to identify stores with the greatest sales potential prior to launching hyper-local media.
2. IN-FLIGHT OPTIMIZATION: see in real-time how sales are trending in your targeted stores vs. a 52-week historical average, and get access to dynamic optimization lists that can guide budget reallocation.
3. MEASUREMENT & INSIGHTS: get access via the online portal to end of campaign analysis just days after the media campaign is over. Visualizations give you a standardized set of analytics, such as sales lift, incremental dollars and units, confidence level, weekly lift, characteristics of high performing stores, etc. Prove and improve your media to help you fine-tune strategies for your future campaigns.

Question 4: What are use cases for the Blis + RSi partnership? (Please provide a few examples from different verticals).
If you are a shopper marketer, maximizing your budgets, understanding performance of your marketing tactics and generating key learnings from those marketing tactics are tasks that are essential to your business.

Running a digital marketing campaign with Blis, and Ansa’s daily, store-level sales intelligence helps make that extremely for the CPG community and shopper marketers specifically.

For existing products, Blis campaigns using Ansa targeting can reach a targeting efficiency of 2:1 vs. campaigns that do not use Ansa store-level targeting thereby ensuring that every dollar is spent driving sales to your most important retailer locations.

Blis campaigns optimized with Ansa typically identify and heavy up investment around 16% of stores that are trending significantly ahead of the average store during a campaign and identify and decrease investment around 14% of stores that are trending significantly behind the average store, therefore ensuring that your budget is being optimized surrounding stores that are over-performing during a given campaign.

After each Blis campaign, Ansa automatically generates measurement of Featured Item Lift and Halo Item Lift at both the total event and week levels. Results are completed 5 business days after the end of each campaign and allow you to learn quickly and improve continuously, all at an amazingly affordable price.

Question 5: What shopper marketing measurement trends do you predict for 2018?
Optimization in-flight based on store sales trends during campaign. Optimizing on engagement, intent and / or clicks may be ok for some campaigns but more and more frequently shopper marketers are tasked with driving sales at their most important retailers. And understanding how their marketing tactics performed 5-6 weeks after a campaign has finished is just not fast enough anymore in today’s fast paced world and puts media providers at a severe disadvantage. By utilizing automated reporting that allows Ansa partners like Blis to understand and optimize their media in-flight based on daily, store-level POS sales data you now empower your media partner to act on supporting the stores that are driving your product sales which can ultimately provide a powerful boost to a shopper marketing campaign.

Question 6: If there was one piece of content you think every marketer should read, what is it?
(Other than this blog post of course!)

Think with Google and Facebook IQ are two fantastic sources of resources. Articles, trends, case studies, POVs, insights, etc… pretty much everything you need to read to keep you up-to-speed in this very fast-paced environment.

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Meet, Greet and Keep: How Mobile Can Help Brands Throughout the Sales Funnel


Meet, Greet and Keep: How Mobile Can Help Brands...

Our mobile devices give us more than just a way to call or text friends and family: Today, they are our maps, books, radios, and miniature shopping malls. We turn to them for news, entertainment and answers. And from dawn till dusk, we keep them at our sides like our most faithful companions.

So it’s no wonder mobile devices have become integral to an advertiser’s ability to reach their ideal audiences at every stage of the sales funnel. Here’s how brands can employ effective mobile advertising strategies to acquire, engage and retain customers.

Win Over New Customers

One of the best ways for advertisers to identify new audiences is to see where they shop. But without access to a competitor’s first-party purchase data or information about their website traffic, how can advertisers find this out?

Mobile devices provide the answer. By revealing where consumers go, mobile location data can tell brands which consumers spend their time browsing similar products at a competitor’s store. Let’s say Target wants to reach out to consumers who usually shop at Walmart. They can use location data to identify—then target—those who frequently visit the competitor yet still live near a Target store.

But brands need to be careful before jumping to conclusions about consumers. Real-time location data provides important insights, but they can be strengthened when paired with historical location data.

For example, just because someone visits a high-end boutique like Chanel, it doesn’t mean that person has the budget to shop there—they could just be browsing. How can an upscale fashion brand find out which of those Chanel visitors are actually potential shoppers? Here, historical location data can help. It can reveal, for instance, which of those visitors go to private airports a few times a month or regularly visit Giorgio Armani or Versace stores. Chances are, these consumers will be a better bet for the fashion brand seeking to acquire new customers.

Keep Them Interested

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? For most of us, it’s look at our phones to turn off our alarms before checking the weather and scrolling through our Twitter feeds. And throughout the day, we continue to stare down into the faces of our mobile devices: checking the news on the train, sending an email between meetings, or watching videos from our living room sofas.

In order to engage consumers on the devices we use day in and day out, advertisers will need to serve ads that make sense for the consumer depending on where they are during the day. To do this, advertisers must first ask the question: What do consumers want to see on their mobile devices and when? Consumers spend a third of their time online watching videos, for instance, but they aren’t going to watch a 30-second video ad while walking down the street.

To boost engagement, brands can use knowledge about a consumer’s historical and real-time whereabouts to reach out at the time and place that will produce the greatest level of engagement. To effectively grab the attention of a consumer that’s out and about, a banner ad may work best. Later that evening, when the consumer is at home using a tablet or laptop, a longer video on a larger screen may work well.

Inspire Loyalty

How can brands make sure they retain the new and existing customers they’ve worked so hard to gain? They must first recognize and show appreciation for their most loyal customers.

Most advertisers identify loyal customers by looking at newsletter subscriptions and online purchase histories, but they may be missing other valuable customers who prefer to shop in stores. By identifying devices that frequently visit a brand’s store location, advertisers can make sure they are recognizing—and thanking—all their biggest fans. When an existing customer comes into a store a certain number of times, for example, advertisers can deliver a thank-you message—perhaps offering the loyal customer a generous coupon to redeem in-store.

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Retailers’ Golden Ticket to Reviving Brick and Mortar Stores


Retailers’ Golden Ticket to Reviving Brick and Mortar Stores

Interested in understanding how to connect mobile experiences to physical stores? Or how mobile can be the extension of a retailer’s store? Maybe you’ve wondered about the new Cost-Per-Visit metric? Look no further. Blis’ location data experts will be answering these questions on a weekly basis over the next few months in our ‘Retail Series’ which aims to equip retail marketers with the right insights and top tips to stay ahead of the game.

Following its decision to buy e-commerce company last year, Walmart recently agreed to acquire Bonobos, a retailer with a strong online presence and generous shipping policies. If these moves weren’t sign enough that the physical and digital retail worlds are merging, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is the ultimate wake-up call.

Retailers everywhere are realizing that while brick and mortar stores are still critical, they’ll need a strong digital strategy to keep them filled with happy customers. Mobile devices are retailers’ golden ticket to connecting with consumers and reviving in-store shopping.

Understanding Consumers though Mobile

Whether they are going to work or going shopping, consumers carry their phones with them wherever they go. As a result, mobile devices provide retailers with a constant stream of valuable consumer insights. GPS and Wi-Fi data can tell retailers, for instance, whether a consumer is at a desktop at work, connected to Wi-Fi at home, or walking past a retailer’s store.

Beyond real-time location data, retailers can use historical location data to understand a consumer’s habits. For example, some consumers might visit a luxury jewelry brand on Fifth Avenue just to browse, even if they have no intention (or monetary means!) of buying. Thus, for that specific retailer, in-store visits may not indicate ideal customers. Instead, that luxury retailer can look at historical location data to identify their ideal consumers: perhaps individuals who frequently stay at the Four Seasons Hotel or regularly check in to exclusive country clubs.

But retailers shouldn’t rely on mobile data alone. By layering mobile insights with other valuable sources of data, advertisers can gain a holistic picture of their perfect audiences. Data collected from laptops, for instance, can reveal browsing histories and online shopping patterns; however, consumers won’t be opening up their laptops while shopping in stores. The trick is for retailers to match the data across devices to unique mobile device IDs. Only then will they gain a more holistic understanding of consumers and will be able to target or retarget them with products they are likely to go buy.

Driving Foot Traffic Creatively

Once they’ve gotten a clear and thorough understanding of their ideal audiences, how can retailers use mobile devices to drive foot traffic? Proximity targeting—delivering ads to consumers when they come within a certain distance of a store location—is a common approach. Retailers can maximize the power of proximity targeting by crafting unique and imaginative creatives.

For instance, advertisers can deliver ads to shoppers already in the area to tell them about an in-store sale, or offer them a coupon they can only redeem in person. Retailers can also deliver ads that feature a handy map telling consumers how to find their store.

Sometimes, targeting consumers when they are walking by a store may be a little too late. A QSR wanting to boost its 10 am breakfast crowd, for instance, may want to target consumers when they wake up around 7a and begin planning their day. Otherwise, the consumer has most likely already made their breakfast choice.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for retailers looking to connect with consumers and drive in-store sales, a strong mobile strategy is key. As the digital and physical worlds continue to blend, retailers must harness the insights and capabilities of mobile to reach their unique brand objectives.

Tune in next week to read all about how mobile is fast becoming the extension of a retailer’s store.

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