It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was a groundbreaking film with a superstar cast, thrilling story and great comedy rolled into one. In fact, it was one of Hollywood’s first dramedies, bringing together the best of both comedies and drama to a single film.
We’re now inundated with combined words like Wikipedia, Groupon, the cronut — all winning combinations born from creativity and ingenuity. But you don’t need the catchy title to get a great combination. Look at virtual reality, for instance. VR applications (and the related augmented reality apps) are growing more popular all the time. Consumers are increasingly calling out for unique and memorable experiences — like the Pokémon Go craze that generated $100M of revenue in just 20 days. And retailers are experimenting with these technologies to enhance their sales and marketing strategies. What they’ve created is one of those great hybrids, but it’s not a single word just yet — simply mixed reality.
In reality (pun intended), the potential functionality and value of these applications is limitless, bounded only by the imagination of the marketers and developers and their access to certain technologies, the physical and online footprints of each retailer or manufacturer, and the products themselves.
So how can you deliver a world-class mixed reality experience to help your consumers reach a new level of shopping enthusiasm? Here are five ways to give yourself the best chance for success.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
Yes, the good old-fashioned KISS principle. The more complicated the app, the more likely it is that users will download it, use it once and then delete it…even more sophisticated users. Your download metrics might seem impressive, but the app won’t lead to much uptick in revenue.
You want your app to be sticky — one that users open again and again. You want them to allow push notifications, which means your notifications have to be useful and timely. Finally, you want every communication to offer another meaningful engagement. Make sure you spend enough time designing the app functionality and user experience before writing a single line of code. And always make it easy to use, easy to understand and easy to see the value.
Focus on the Feedback
As I mentioned, downloads are simply one metric of app performance, but a high download count doesn’t necessarily mean success. The more important metric to track is your app’s average rating. A highly rated app is like a viral video, building on its own success to drive additional downloads. Conversely, a poor rating can quickly kill your app if you’re not careful.
Plan ahead for how to address a poorly reviewed app. Don’t simply discount critical reviewers with a glib “they just don’t get it” reaction. For a new app, theirs are the only opinions that matter. So pay close attention to what they have to say — both in testing and in production.
Optimize the Experience
Remember that these aren’t just shopping apps. We’re talking about designing a special type of app here — one meant for mixed reality (virtual dressing rooms, smart closets, etc.). For this, you must think beyond the screen and consider the whole experience. After all, mixed reality is about moving beyond the borders of one shopping type into another.
Before you begin designing your app, critically examine your current processes and overall customer experience. Assess the strengths and weaknesses. What’s missing? What advantages could be enhanced? Not only do you have a roadmap of where digital content and physical interaction adds value, you also identify your opportunities to fix any holes in your processes.
Make It All About the Consumer
It doesn’t matter how well an augmented reality app interacts with your potential purchases at the store if it doesn’t help you answer pressing questions the customer may have about fit, color or accessories. Likewise, a virtual dressing room that doesn’t provide enough details to get the customer to buy becomes just another fun feature. App development is a significant technological undertaking, as critical as deploying a new ERP or developing your commerce site, so you should approach it with the same user-centric approach.
Market Your Mixed Reality Experience
Last but not least, tell consumers about what you’ve done and invite them to try it. Help them see all that it has to offer and how it can improve their shopping experience. Develop marketing plans for launching and publicizing the app, and create incentives for downloading it, setting it up and using it. If your app requires a physical action from the customer, make those requirements clear. Use geo-targeted emails or notifications to ensure that people know what needs to be done at the store — such as body scans or foot measurements.
These apps have the potential to change the overall shopping experience for both consumers and stores. It could also augment your brand’s perception in the retailing and tech communities. So even if you don’t think you’ve hit a home run, get the word out there.
We will all begin to introduce mixed reality into aspects of our daily routines in the future, with any number of augmented reality apps, interactive smart watches or glasses, connected vehicles or digital assistants. And as the line between the physical and virtual worlds continues to blur, these mixed reality experiences will also continue to redefine how we shop. Are you ready?
Susan Wall is Vice President of Bronto Marketing – Oracle, a cloud-based marketing automation software provider.