Sports footwear and apparel company New Balance has recently jumped on an up-and-coming bandwagon: using the combined power of augmented reality and voice technology to enhance the customer experience. In collaboration with Snap, the brand launched a lens that allows users to verbally answer questions using the app’s speech-recognition technology to receive a gift recommendation through an AR unboxing experience. Many more companies are following suit in a similar fashion, using both AR and voice tech to change how products are marketed and how customers shop. Though the two have been used in a variety of ways in retail for some years now, their combined potential can yield even more interesting results in the world of marketing.
AR and voice technology in the retail world
Augmented reality (AR) combines the real world and computer-generated content. Through devices like smartphones or tablets, users can see virtual images placed on top of a view of a real environment and can now visualize certain objects within that area. Augmented reality’s impact on our world has long been felt in marketing, particularly with Swedish retail giant IKEA and their IKEA Place project. This utilizes Apple’s ARKit technology, thereby allowing buyers to scan their homes and see if IKEA Furniture items will fit. Similarly, makeup retailer Sephora also has its own AR app, which shows users how products will look on them before purchasing.
Meanwhile, voice or speech-recognition technology is the ability of a device or program to receive and interpret spoken commands and carry them out. Users can verbally make a request to their device and ask it to perform a certain task, like sending a message to a certain person or playing a specific song. Like AR, voice tech has played a major role in people’s lives—from smartphone features like Siri to home devices like Amazon Echo—and have been a big help in increasing convenience for users. Walmart is also dipping its toes into voice technology. With its partnership with Google in 2017, Walmart allowed customers to order products using a Google Home device or their Android phones. Its acquisition of startup Botmock is also now giving it more chances to tap into conversational applications that can give people an easier way to shop and connect with their stores.
How AR and voice technology will change marketing
Both AR and voice technology aren’t new innovations, but there’s a big opportunity for brands to utilize the two of them together to bring a more seamless and convenient way to interact with a company and its products. With AR alone, two-thirds of people who used it in their shopping were less likely to return their purchases; couple that with speech recognition that can give them more control of their decision-making and that can further enhance their experience, keep them engaged, and increase trust in a brand.
Gathering data and research applications can also be made easier with these applications as they're adopted in emerging platforms. Notably, the Metaverse can be a ripe source for important and actionable information that can be gathered using voice technology. Through voice chatbots, companies can gain consumer insights through questions and surveys that they can utilize for marketing and business development. The visual element of the Metaverse will lend a more natural feel to these interactions as well.
These immersive digital experiences akin to in-person shopping will be more sought after due to the convenience they can bring without users ever having to leave the comfort of their homes. Accessibility and comfort will be big motivators for adopting both AR and voice tech to increase business and customer satisfaction.