Walmart Adds Twist To Holiday Toy Catalog—Scannable Tech

For the first time, Walmart has added digital barcodes to its printed holiday toy catalog letting consumers browse and shop toys on the Walmart app. Customers with iOS and Android devices can use their phones to utilize the scan-and-shop feature to purchase toys including 150 exclusives straight from the catalog. 

Walmart’s digital twist on holiday marketing is being promoted in 35 million printed catalogs available in Walmart’s 4,800 US stores. Millions of catalogs are also being sent to customers’ homes and major omnichannel toy resellers in the US. 

The scannable catalog is part of Walmart’s major tech-enabled holiday initiative. New holiday shopping features include an online gift finder that yields personalized recommendations based on criteria, the ability to check out with an associate anywhere in the store and expanded abilities to place online orders from the store with an associate’s help.

In addition to offering consumers simplified shopping experiences, Walmart is ramping up in-store experiential events throughout the holiday season. The retailer will host themed events centered on the year’s film releases including Pokémon, Star Wars and Frozen 2

Last year, ahead of Black Friday, Walmart introduced to its app a store map feature that’s created uniquely for each store. The map allows customers to easily find an item’s exact location using new in-store signage that helps customers orient themselves. Also new to its holiday initiative last year was a redesigned website and the option of free two-day shipping without a membership fee.

Walmart’s quarterly earnings topped estimates, thanks to strength in the US, however, sales fell slightly short of estimates. A strong grocery business led to an increase in the retailer’s online sales by 41 percent in the third quarter. 

What’s Working Right Now In AR Marketing

Back in March, eMarketer estimated that in 2019, as many as 68.7 million US customers will use augmented reality (AR) at least once a month. And this year, many brands seized the opportunity to enhance their user experiences with the advanced tech.

The world saw a myriad of innovative augmented reality campaigns: from Net-A-Porter’s AR pop-up window shop to the recent Disney and YouTube AR make-up experience for the roll-out of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and the latest Panera Bread AR ad unit for mobile that allows customers to rotate a menu item and share on social media. Another big plus—the tech is maturing quickly, and all the major tech giants–Apple, Facebook and Google– invested heavily in AR in 2019. 

Despite all this, there are still a lot of uncertainties around AR and its future in marketing. To help marketers understand the ways in which audiences consume immersive experiences, Rene Amador, CEO at AR tech company ARwall, breaks these experiences down into three modes.

The first mode, he explains, is “futurist,” where “AR is a novel illusion” and the target audience is those who seek futurist types of experiences. Avid consumers of media and technology are most interested in how well the experience explores or displays its futuristic and entertainment potential. Snapchat filters and Spark AR are a perfect example of futurist modes of  AR. 

The second mode is “realist,” which is likely how the majority of AR content is currently consumed for education or training. Here the goal is to provide informative content. Success, in this case, is typically defined by information recall, which is appropriate in the enterprise, industrial or educational setting.

The third mode is “escapist,” which is similar to what we expect from cinema. You lose yourself in the action on the screen and begin to identify with the story and its characters as if they were your reality. In these experiences, the content itself becomes far more vital, and a successful escapist campaign requires executing a technical and artistic experience that delivers story, fidelity and performance.

According to Amador, “futurist” mode is the safest choice in marketing right now.

He also predicts that AR tech will soon become flexible enough to be “objective-agnostic.”

“[This] means it [will be] able to lift the overall awareness of a campaign and support the full spectrum of business goals a marketer might have: whether that’s a product launch, recruitment drive or customer service. AR has been a tough nut to crack for marketers because it can feel disconnected from the rest of the campaign, but if you consider that it’s flexible enough to fit nearly any need, you can see that it’s just an immersive and interactive way to build experiences of any kind,” he said. 

Other analysts agree that AR marketing will keep rapidly expanding into consumer retail experiences. Earlier this year, Hanna Karki, principal research analyst at Gartner, said: “Retailers are under increasing pressure to explain the purpose of physical stores, and take control of the fulfillment and return process for cross-channel execution. At the same time, consumers are progressively defining the value provided by the experiences they receive from retailers. As a result of these pressures, retailers are turning to AR and VR to offer customers a unified retail experience inside and outside retail stores.”  

The main appeal of AR lies in increasingly convenient applications that customers can access on their mobile devices, which gives companies the advantage of creating immersive experiences that are highly visual. In addition, brands can put a fresh spin on products or services through gamification and other engaging tactics to increase familiarity and drive loyalty. 

If the predictions are right, by the end of 2022, the number of mobile AR users will reach 3.5 billion globally, which will give brands access to an extremely broad audience and will help them generate a high volume of qualified leads.

“For the brand, the richness of the experience opens up opportunities for opt-in capture of email, phone numbers and social media profiles. Those are solid meat-and-potatoes marketing milestones, and I think more and more marketers will realize AR can drive those traditional goals more effectively,” Amador said. 

Don’t Be Held Techno-Hostage By Legacy Measurements

Originally published at AW360 by Charlene Weiser.

Navigating the transition from collecting and mining data to actually applying it in addressable advertising is a talent that Paul Haddad, President, a4, has in abundance. With an engineering background and extensive work in collecting data at the set-top box level from his tenure at Cablevision, he has a keen sense of how the addressable landscape looks and what the underpinnings of data and analytics need to be to ensure a seamless, real-time, targeted experience for both consumers and advertisers.

His evolution from entrepreneur to data geek (an epithet that we both agree is a source of pride) to President has been facilitated by his early work at Cablevision, the mentorship of then Department Head, Kim Norris (currently the Division Vice President, Spectrum Reach), the acquisition of Cablevision by Altice, Patrick Drahi’s support of disrupting status quos, Dexter Goei’s coaching on building growth-driven business, and the recognition by the industry of the value and power of data and targeting.

A One-Stop Advertising Shop

a4 uses data culled from many sources and offers, as Haddad described, “A one-stop shop for audience-driven, integrated, multi-screen advertising and end-to-end ROI analytics across the U.S.” But as complete as that sounds, that is not all it is. Owned by Altice, which purchased Cablevision in 2015, a4 is actually a large advertiser in its own right, representing Altice’s $200 million budget as an in-house agency. So, a4 not only offers capability in both the buying and selling aspects of advertising, it also manages and stewards small $250 campaigns to multi-million-dollar campaigns, as well as national and local accounts through an interface platform controlled by the advertiser. a4 is helping to transition the media world by “inventing the way advertising works,” and it has been very successful. “We now have over $500 million in total media revenue, over 500 employees and the fastest growing business at Altice,” he added.

Going From Local to National

But transitioning from local MVPD operation to a national footprint was not without some internal questions. “What is an audience to us?” Haddad posited. “Is it market-driven or is it location-driven or is it size-driven?” After two years of tests, he realized that “audience targeting has no location or specific size.”

So, the conclusion was that “when it comes to audience, we do not see the world as local or national at all,” he explained. “We do not see the world as TV or digital. We see the world as household targets. We deliver a household-based audience-targeted campaign across all screens anywhere in the U.S., any time, and at any size of segment.” In sum, a4 essentially removes the need to label anything other than audience at a household level–and that appears to be the wave of the future.

Haddad noted that those still operating under the legacy mindset of local versus national are “limiting” themselves and warned that his competitors who stick to the old parameters of measurement are “being held as techno-hostages.”

Finding Intent in Targeting

a4 has access to a myriad of datasets at the MVPD set-top box level, at the device level, at various digital touchpoints and through third and first-party partnerships. To ensure privacy and create effective reach pathways, “our datasets are focused on household targeting,” he explained. “To target a household, you need to understand and provide to our advertising clients the means to create a segment. And the way to create the segment is to collect data that finds intent.” He noted that intent on a household level is based on:

  • Viewing and content consumption (a4 currently covers 12.5 million homes at the set-top box level covering 210 DMAs)
  • Spending patterns (such as luxury items or beauty products or tech-gadgets)
  • Consumer profile data (totaling 300 million homes)
  • Geo-location data (sports stadiums visits or high-end stores or auto dealerships visits)
  • IP targeted data with a platform deployed behind the firewall at most MVPDs in the U.S. (accessing 50 million household data on digital and mobile devices for in and out-of-home addressability).

“So, when you put it all together,” he explained, “you can use the data for audience creation on the front of a campaign. You can then use the ‘same’ segment to plan when and how to reach them. And finally, you measure and report all the impressions for that ‘same’ segment across all their devices, and clearly analyze the effect and whether you reached these audiences or not and what was the ROI.”

In addition, a4 gives the client an on-boarding, self-service, full stewardship platform, where proprietary CRM data can be uploaded privately and safely and matched with all of a4’s data free of charge and within hours, not days. So, from audience creation to media planning to media activation across all screens (which includes linear and optimized TV, OTT, digital video and display, social media, mobile display and in-apps banner), “we provide the measurement at the household level, plus all of these screens for the campaign, from the exposure to the medium to how often, and then we post at the end of the campaign.” This all done through one company, which offers cost efficiencies for the advertiser.

As far as privacy is concerned, Altice applies a strict and disciplined compliance approach to all its data operations and business use cases “privacy is extremely important and serious to us.”

Time For a “Datalution

Giving the client full access and control over all aspects of a campaign by targeting the intent of households is something that few companies offer. Haddad shepherds his company in a new direction that is poised to change the business of advertising as we know it. “The advertising world is broken into a fast lane of born-data companies and the slow lane of legacy processes. The slow lane has no choice but to revolutionize the way they do business. It’s a question of time.”

The clock is ticking.

Panera Seeks To Highlight Transparency With AR-Powered Mobile Ad Unit

Panera Bread launched an augmented reality (AR) ad unit for mobile devices that lets customers rotate a menu item and share the content across Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. 

Given the AR experience utilizes OS-level frameworks in iOS and Android, it requires no app download, making it the first of its kind in the food space. This new technology allows a user to place Panera’s Mediterranean egg white breakfast wrap anywhere in front of them, enhanced by interactive buttons that animate in the menu item name, nutritional information and ingredients list. 

Panera’s interactive ad unit is running exclusively on sports site Bleacher Report and can be reached by clicking on an ad. When visitors encounter the ad, they’re encouraged to, “Play with your food, open in AR below.” Unlike other brands utilizing AR ads, Panera gives users the option of sharing the AR banner assets across three different social media platforms. 

Compared to an online menu, this kind of ad allows consumers to find information fast and help Panera push an overall category innovation, according to Panera VP of marketing, Scott Nelson. Nelson added that measurement of the ad’s success will be determined via shares and engagements. The company has plans to expand the ability to a variety of menu items.

Highlighting food transparency through AR technology could be Panera’s attempt at ameliorating the public backlash caused by a leaked video last month. The video, which was posted by a Panera employee to her personal TikTok account, showed her dipping a frozen pack of the chain’s white cheddar mac and cheese into hot water then removing it and emptying the bag’s contents into a bowl before serving. The clip received 950,000 likes on the app.

Earlier this year, Panera’s first foray into AR arose in conjunction with South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. There the company launched four Snapchat AR lenses that let users create “hacks” of Panera’s soup offerings, visually adding other menu items to customize their own.

How To Build Consumer Trust And Encourage Data Sharing

Originally published at AW360 by Jake Pryszlak.

A well-oiled brand should do three things:

  1. Ask consumers for feedback on the products they purchase, and the experience given to them.
  2. Spread the name of your business so it’s easily recognizable to the average consumer
  3. Make your brand name one that consumers associate with trustworthiness

Failing to inspire faith in your brand with consumers can sink your entire operation. The trust between a company and its customer base isn’t built overnight. Consumers need proof of dependability before they commit to brand loyalty. As innovations in technology make private information increasingly public, the struggle to gain consumer trust has found a new battleground: Personal data use. While customers seek out personalized commerce experiences and are willing to share their data to that end, there are growing concerns regarding how brands are using it.

Customers who share data with brands are seeking something in return. However, for the brands themselves they are asking… Do we have too much data and not enough understanding?

This was a recent article I wrote about InfoObesity and how brands are gorging on so much data and information that we don’t know what to do with it all. On the other side, more data means more risk in terms of GDPR and data privacy.

You only have to think about recent breaches including Marriot being fined over 100 million pounds. So this is now a big and real deal for brands.

Once broken, trust is a trial to rebuild. It only takes one bad experience for a consumer to drop your brand forever.

So, the question: in a market where they seek both personalized shopping experience, as well as a real measure of privacy, how do you get customers to trust your data use?

Be Transparent—And Flexible

Given the growing concerns about personal data use, just having a privacy policy page statement is no longer enough. It should be the first thing they see when they go to your website. From the moment they land on any of the webpages owned by your brand, customers should have a clear idea of exactly what data you’re collecting through their use of your site, as well as the ability to consent (or not) to it.

Consumers should also have an option to adjust their privacy settings. If your website has an option for ecommerce—and therefore an option to create an account—there’s no excuse to not have these options accessible under account settings. The good news is that, with the exception of social media sites, most consumers aren’t going to go out of their way to change those settings, and you should be free to collect all the data you need.  Still, having the option available shows your commitment to protecting consumers’ data and being worthy of their trust.

Drive The Message Home

User-friendly privacy policies and terms and conditions are great places to start building trust with your consumers, but you need to take it a step further. If having a data use policy that protects your consumers is a priority for you, they should know the measures you’re taking to ensure they have a positive shopping experience with your brand.

Make a transparent privacy policy a cornerstone of every online communication you have with your customers. Sending a newsletter?  Include the policy statement.  Sharing a special deal on social media? You know what to do. The more you emphasize how important it is to you that you use consumer data in an ethical way, the less reluctant your customers will be in sharing that information with you.

Focus On The Pros

The comments surrounding the collection and use of consumer data is mostly focused on the negative outcomes of when that data is misused, however, I actually think that many of your customers may not be aware of how sharing their information can enhance their shopping experience.  When you collect their data, let them know that it’s being used to make their time on your website better.

Whether it’s to send them deals targeting their specific interests, or rewards based on their personal data such as special birthday gifts, offers on Mothers and Father’s Day, focusing on the benefits of sharing more of their personal data will incentivize your consumers to do so. If you ever have the chance to frame the narrative about how you use data into something positive, you can use those opportunities to build your brand’s reputation and the trust your customer base has in it.

Always Ask For Feedback

Just as it takes time to build trust, maintaining that trust requires work and energy. Keeping that positive relationship between brand and customer alive is a continuous and never-ending process. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. No one knows better what consumers want from a brand than the consumers themselves—and, hey, seeking that feedback offers you yet another way of collecting consumer data in a way that is not only ethical but also makes the customer feel good and heard.

You can never be 100 percent sure that your customers trust you but asking for their input is a pretty reliable way to get a good idea of how they view your brand.  In the meantime, getting customers to trust your data use should be a known priority in every element of your business, from the CEO down to the customer clicking “proceed to check out.”

What’s The Impact Of Proposed CCPA Regulations On Digital Advertising?

Data collection and management have fed digital advertising for a quarter-century, but the industry is facing major changes, as this month, California Attorney General announced a notice of proposed rulemaking and draft regulations for California’s new consumer privacy law–the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The act is slated to take effect on January 1, 2020, and is expected to significantly restrict how companies collect and manage consumer data. 

The Law 

In a nutshell, the proposed act means that California citizens and California state itself will be able to sue any company that violates their personal data sharing rights under the law. In a press release issued on October 10, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said: “Knowledge is power, and on the internet, age knowledge is derived from data. Our personal data is what powers today’s data-driven economy and the wealth it generates. It’s time we had control over the use of our personal data. That includes keeping it private. We take a historic step forward today to protect Californians’ inalienable right to privacy. Once again, California leads the way putting people first in the Age of the Internet.”

The CCPA includes the following key requirements:

  • Businesses must disclose data collection and sharing practices to consumers
  • Consumers have a right to request that their data be deleted
  • Consumers have a right to opt-out of the sale or sharing of their personal information
  • Businesses are prohibited from selling personal information of consumers under the age of 16 without explicit consent

Also, for-profit organizations that do their business in California and collect consumers’ personal information will be responsible for complying with the CCPA if they have an annual gross revenue that totals $25 million or higher; purchase, receive, sell or share consumer data from 50,000 or more consumers, households or devices and finally, make the majority of their annual revenue from selling personal data. 

Adding to the anxiety is the fact that, at the moment, businesses don’t have a clear understanding of how to interpret some aspects of the law and don’t have a finalized bill to review.

Daniel L. Jaffe, group executive vice president, Government Relations for the Association of National Advertisers explained: “The California Consumer Privacy Act is going to go into effect in less than three months, on January 1, 2020. Before it goes into effect, possibly, the rulemaking by the attorney general will be completed. He has come out of his rulemaking proposal on October 10 and [how these] proposals usually work is that you get a 45-day comment period. And then, if there are major changes that could be made to the rule, you get another 45 days. So, it’s either 60 or 90-days of time for comments. That at the very least will push the final rules to the limit of the legislation going into effect.” He added: “This, I can see from talking to [ANA] members, created a great deal of anxiety, confusion and general problems because companies don’t have a finalized bill to prepare for. When you are shooting at a moving target, that’s very difficult and there is at least a possibility that the rules may not be finalized until after the effective date of January 1, 2020.”

The Impact  

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) estimates, the act will cost businesses tens of billions of dollars. Dave Grimaldi, executive vice president of Public Policy at IAB said in a press release shared with AList: “[…] A recent CCPA economic impact assessment, prepared for the Office of the Attorney General, asserts that CCPA could cost companies in California up to $55 billion in initial compliance costs alone. Considering these high costs, it is imperative that implementing regulations provide strong protections while avoiding unnecessary costs to innovation, content development and general services that could be devastating to small and mid-size California businesses, including potential job losses.”

And of course, it is quite possible that the act will affect not only businesses but customers as well.  “Eventually, consumers are going to pay for this through a hidden tax because it’s going to [cost companies billions of dollars]. Somehow, [the state] is going to have to handle that massive [losses which will result] in higher costs for services and products,” Jaffe said. 

The Strategy 

Unfortunately, it’s estimated that smaller businesses will face the biggest obstacles as they don’t have access to all the resources of their larger competitors. “A lot of small and mid-size companies may not be as well prepared to respond to [the proposed regulations] because they don’t have armies of lawyers, IT experts and other [specialists] to depend on,” Jaffe said. 

So, what can brands do to get ahead now? Jaffe says that most importantly, companies must be able to track the data they are collecting and from whom and put it together ASAP in a presentable format to be able to provide if and when requested.

Also, according to Matthew Baier, COO and CMO at Contentstack, to get compliant with CCPA, brands need to: 

  • start a campaign for CCPA compliance with CMS
  • understand automated consent management and validation
  • organize easily-accessed and adjustable consumer profiles and consent records
  • set up thorough permissions settings
  • build adaptable and extensible site architecture

It is also important to develop “right to be forgotten” workflow, as according to the act, a customer will be able to request his or her personal data from the system at any time. “Because of this, you’ll want your CMS to be constantly tracking where all the pertinent data associated with a single user lives so that you can find and remove it during the allotted time frame,” Baier writes.

Paid Search Becomes Mobile-First Experience

More than 70 percent of all paid search impressions and clicks were on mobile devices in Q3, according to a study from Kenshoo. The report found that paid search overall has grown over the last five quarters, with a seven percent year-over-year spend increase in Q3. 

The signs have been pointing to a future where mobile is the most popular channel for paid search, and it’s finally reached a threshold. Q2 marked the first quarter where mobile search reached 50 percent paid search spending. In Q3, over half (54 percent) of paid search ad spending was on mobile devices–up four percent from the prior quarter.

The rise demonstrates continued long-term growth for the last five quarters. Paid search remains the most consistent channel in digital marketing as brands have realized that keeping this channel “always-on” is a necessity, not just a best practice. Paid search impressions were up 29 percent YOY and paid search clicks rose 15 percent YOY, both growing faster than total spend. These findings reflect the fact that marketers were able to generate higher impressions and clicks without the need to increase spending. 

Meanwhile, paid search quarter-over-quarter (QOQ) gains only saw a two percent increase in spend, three percent in clicks and five percent more impressions than Q2. While click-through-rate (CTR) was down 10 percent YOY, the drop in ad engagement was offset by marketers paying less for their clicks as the average cost-per-click (CPC) in Q3 decreased seven percent from the year before.

Social advertising spend grew 32 percent YOY, driven by Instagram, video and product ads. Impressions grew roughly the same rate as spend while clicks on social were up 26 percent over the previous quarter. Dynamic product ads made up 37 percent of the Q3 total for social advertising. 

Social’s average cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) saw a four percent decline QOQ and three percent decline YOY. This suggests that the channel’s pricing remains stable, allowing marketers to increase spending while maintaining efficiency for their investment.

Findings are based on data taken from over 3,000 advertiser and agency accounts across 40 industry verticals and over 150 countries. 

US Digital Ad Revenues Increase, Growth Projected For AR And CTV

US digital advertising revenues reached $58 billion—a 17 percent increase year-over-year—during the first six months of 2019, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) “Internet Advertising Revenue Report.” Though the growth makes it the highest spend in history for the first half of the year, digital is beginning to show signs of maturing.

The data shows an uptick in revenues across the board. Internet ad revenues in the US increased seven percent from $28 billion in the first quarter of 2019 to $30 billion in the second quarter. Mobile ad revenues, which make up 70 percent of total internet ad revenues, totaled $40 billion in the second quarter of 2019 compared to $31 billion in the first quarter. Audio adspend is also rising with the emergence of smart speakers, up 30 percent YOY to a total of $1.2 billion for the first half of 2019.

Smartphone ownership and social media is nearing saturation, pushing the industry to focus on new channels for growth such as connected television (CTV), augmented reality (AR) and 5G.

The report notes that marketers must evolve their strategies alongside technological advancements, particularly immersive media. Respondents cite AR ads as having the ability to foster an emotional connection, leading to increased brand recall, positive brand associations and sometimes, increased brand awareness. Connected device usage is also gaining traction, broadening marketers’ opportunity for contextual targeting. However, as marketers foster one-to-one marketing and develop personalized ads, they should remain transparent with consumers about data value exchange. 

Advertisers still rely on Nielsen to measure households for linear television but seek a congruent measurement across linear television and digital video. Despite the fragmentation of cross-channel measurement, marketers are investing more in over-the-top (OTT) content and CTV as viewers are shifting their behavior towards CTV.

The report also notes that the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will stifle innovation and force brands to redirect resources that comply with these privacy regulations.

Report findings are based on a quantitative web survey commissioned by the IAB and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Virtual Reality Marketing In The Time Of Oculus Quest

In 2015 through 2017, virtual reality (VR) campaigns were a hot trend that brands were experimenting with, but VR in marketing quickly stalled. A lower than expected adoption rate of VR hardware among consumers is largely thought to have been the culprit. This year, things started looking up for VR in marketing, as the technology has become more convenient and affordable given the introduction of the Oculus Quest headset in May. The big question for marketers to consider is whether VR is now here to stay and if so, how can it be used to drive engagement and reevaluate communication models with the customer. 

“What you saw happening with VR is happening with every new technology. The [term] ‘hype cycle’ perfectly illustrates how evolving tech develops over time,” explains Nils Wollny, co-founder and CEO at holoride, an in-car VR experience start-up. “There is usually a big hype around new technology, so everyone is jumping on it, and then this gap of disappointment comes, where everyone says, ‘Ok, the expectations are not fulfilled by this great new technology.’ And then [the tech] reaches the Plateau of Productivity and becomes a part of our general life. This is exactly what happened to VR, but it’s not an unusual development for any new tech. Every new technology has to go through this [process].” 

As recent as last year, analysts were skeptical about the VR tech utilization among consumers. In the report, “Virtual And Augmented Reality Users 2019” eMarketer researchers anticipated that this year, only 42.9 million people would use VR and 68.7 million would use AR at least once per month, prediciting that VR would slow down as AR picks up. Another survey from Perkins Coie showed that 41 percent of respondents felt that the most tangible obstacle blocking mass virtual reality adoption was user experience issues, such as uncomfortable hardware or technical glitches. 

The VR/AR experts’ predictions for 2019, however, were more optimistic. In January, Ricardo Justus, CEO, Arvore Immersive Experiences told AList his expectations for VR in 2019 were “steady growth of the home-use space, amazing new location-based experiences and new and surprising device announcements.” 

Today, brands from diverse sectors are indeed tapping into the technology in more creative ways.

Google recently partnered with the Château de Versailles and now takes VR users on a private tour of the French royal residence. Fashion companies have incorporated VR influencers into their marketing initiatives with Chanel, Prada, Vans and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty currently leading the pack of established companies that drive brand awareness with VR characters. Balmain even created a whole “Virtual Army” on influencers.

In the world of auto, Porsche debuted virtual reality technology and Land Rover, wowed the crowds with the new Defender VR experience at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. 

Wollny points out that VR marketing has an important place in gaming and entertainment. Earlier this year, DreamWorks collaborated with Walmart to promote How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World and allowed the fans to dive into the movie world right at select Walmart parking lots during the promotion of the film. Additionally, Universal Studios partnered with Ford on a campaign that started on October 14 at Universal CityWalk Hollywood, where people were able to jump into a Ford Explorer for a Bride of Frankenstein-inspired experience. 

It is quite possible that brands that master VR in the coming years will be the most successful at harnessing the medium’s creative potential. These brands need to remember, though, that while a fully immersive experience that shuts out the physical world makes a great tool to deliver a company’s message, a successful VR marketing campaign, first of all, caters to the customer’s desire for personalization and delivers a truly exceptional experience that consumers can’t find elsewhere. 

So, what is the future of VR marketing? According to experts, we’ll soon see the Plateau of Productivity of VR in action, meaning the technology will be more relevant in customers’ daily lives.

“We can already see that with devices, like Oculus Quest, which is an affordable, stand-alone virtual reality device, VR will have greater impact on the daily life of customers in the coming months, bringing new opportunities to marketing. There is also a big opportunity for brands to build stories for interactive experiences that don’t feel like a commercial or campaign but [offer] infinite worlds to build on and provide new experiences. We’ll also see things like product placement but in a smarter way than product placement in a movie, for example, because a product or a brand can be a part of the story people interact with, which feels more natural than simply placing something somewhere and have it captured by a camera,” Wollny said.

Brands Report Need For Additional Data Skills, Budget In Martech Strategies

Globally, 68 percent of brands have an increased need for data skills when it comes to utilizing marketing technology (martech), according to WARC’s “Martech: 2020 and Beyond” report. Published in association with BDO, the report assesses martech’s growth over the last year, addresses how agencies are balancing data with creativity and where respondents plan to focus budgets next year.

Since 2018, martech investment has seen year-on-year growth of 22 percent with a current estimated market size of $121.5 billion globally. In addition, the combined UK and North American market of martech is now worth $65.9 billion.

According to respondent feedback, a lack of expertise on the brand side is a key driver to outsourcing martech functions to agencies. Whether in terms of upskilling internally or hiring discipline specialists, brands are exploring ways to increase skills. Opinions on which skills should be the focus differ among businesses.

For brands and agencies alike, there’s a need to use data to guide creative strategy, but each side has different priorities. Forty-nine percent of brands cited creativity as one of the most important skills for hiring into the marketing function whereas 21 percent considered strategy and data a top priority. Comparatively, only 25 percent of agency respondents chose creativity as an important factor, ultimately citing data literacy as their top priority. 

The majority of respondents have found a use for martech tools in established disciplines. Over three quarters of brands use martech to assist them with email and social media, and nearly two-thirds of brands use martech for analytics, content and CRM. Still, 76 percent of respondents feel the need to add more martech tools to their belt while only 24 percent of global marketers believe they have all the martech tools they need.

In addition, brands are focusing on customer experiences over specific media, resulting in the growth of experience optimization and tracking in the martech industry. Over half of the respondents noted that customer experience optimization is a high priority for their organization. Despite this, less than 50 percent of brands are using martech to track customers between channels. 

Half of global respondents agreed that budget constraints are the main barrier to martech investment, up from 36 percent last year. Forty-three percent of marketers globally, however, expect their martech budgets to increase over the next 12 months. On average, North American and UK brands are spending 26 percent of their budgets on martech compared to 23 percent last year.

Report findings are based on an annual survey of more than 750 brands and agencies in North America, UK, Europe and Asia-Pacific.