The virtual world is no stranger to us. People enjoy consuming content and rely on technology accessible at their fingertips. Digital natives and even digital immigrants feel compelled towards digital because of the convenience it injects into their daily lives.
What does this mean for brands?
If your brand has a virtual presence, your customers can interact with you anytime and anywhere. It’ll also be easier for them to make interacting with your brand a habit.
And with the uncertainty and safety concerns introduced by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s become even more important that your brand’s personal touch continues to shine through in your digital communication.
Virtual interaction avenues also remind your customers that they are always your priority.
These avenues could come in many forms, including social media, mobile apps and complete virtual experiences, which offer the most interaction.
The types of virtual experiences run the gamut. A virtual experience can be anything you imagine it to be, such as:
a virtual version of your brand’s physical exhibit
a virtual tour of your corporate gallery (or office)
an interactive website or webstore
an immersive make-believe virtual world for your brand
But while anyone can go virtual, not everyone can do it right.
In HOL’s playbook, personalisation, data collection and gamification are the secrets to success for virtual experiences. In the virtual realm where attention spans are decreasing due to instant access to information, these golden rules help you cleverly capture and boost engagement with your audience.
1. PERSONALISATION FOR THAT SPECIAL TOUCH
Personalisation refers to tailoring features and information to meet your target audience’s needs and preferences. From personal profiles to feeds curated to exact tastes, the online sphere has proven that it can offer its users just that.
Personalisation feeds humans’ natural gravitation towards what they think will benefit or interest them. And as customers, people all like to be treated as special.
When you use personalisation, you’ll create an experience so reflective of your customers that they’ll naturally want to stay and interact with your brand.
That’s not all. Thanks to personalisation, you’ll remember your customers the next time they return (personalised checkout messages, email promotions, etc.).
All these boost your return on emotion, making your customers feel valued. This encourages return visits and forms the foundation of lasting relationships with them.
To personalise your virtual experience, you’ll need to understand your customers’ characteristics, expectations and technology habits.
But how can you really get to know your customers in depth?
The answer lies in data collection and analytics – all of which have been made incredibly simpler with digital tracking tools.
2. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYTICS FOR PRECISE TARGETING AND ENGAGEMENT
When you monitor trending industry topics, you’ll uncover valuable information that can help predict your target audience’s digital behaviour and the kinds of content they are engaging with in real time.
This information will add value to the strategy and development of your virtual experience.
From free options like Google Analytics to paid alternatives, there are tons of customer analytics tools available online for every business size. If you have a development team, they can also build in tracking devices that monitor every digital footprint and activity that occurs within your virtual experience.
Data collected after your virtual experience is launched will allow you to further refine and improve your experience based on newly learnt user information.
All these will enhance your brand experience and customer relationship management.
But before you dive into the world of analytics, align your data collection methods with your marketing objectives and overall goals.
Clearly define what kind of results you want from tracking engagement with your virtual experience. By doing so, you’ll know what data to collect and how you should interpret it.
Remember: without context, metrics are just numbers.
Above everything, keep in mind data confidentiality. Your customers’ privacy should be your top priority.
3. GAMIFICATION TO IMPROVE MEMORABILITY
The final key to acing your virtual experience is implementing gamification in your model.
Gamification is the use of game elements in non-game conditions to boost audience engagement. Points, leaderboards, immersive world-building and simulations are all examples of gamification.
This technique appeals to younger audiences who expect more interaction with virtual content. Yet, gamification has proven to be universally engaging. Young or old, humans have innate desires to socialise, contribute to their communities, be rewarded for their achievements and be in control of their fates. That’s why they are naturally incentivised to achieve these things when exposed to gamification features. This is especially so in learning environments.
Emphasise on action-oriented moves so users can immerse in your experience and personalise the rewards they stand to gain based on your understanding of their consumer makeup. This incentivises and conditions them to continuously engage with your brand.
What you want at the end of the day is to make users feel emotions like joy, intrigue and excitement. It doesn’t matter whether they are aware of the gamification tactics being used. Invoking emotions makes your experience memorable and increases your brand’s stickiness.
Take for example: the Eye-Spy Pretzel application by M&Ms that took the social media world by storm:
In this cost-effective marketing challenge, M&Ms turned the nostalgic “I spy with my little eyes” game into a quick virtual game that could be easily squeezed in during, say, lunchtime.
Adults and children were in on trying to find the hidden pretzel among the chocolate. When the game was launched, it amassed 25,000 likes for the company’s Facebook page alone. And this was not inclusive of all the word-of-mouth recommendations by players to their networks.
The benefits of going virtual extend past simply granting customers with a good experience while they are on your site.
Providing virtual touchpoints could lead to:
your audience remembering your brand better
more positive feelings towards your brand
increased frequency and duration of interaction with your brand
turning your audience into crucial brand advocates
With the three rules of thumb – personalisation, data collection and analytics, and gamification – even small businesses can start to take on the seemingly big task of going virtual.
Prefer bite-sized experience strategy insights? Check out HOL’s Instagram post for tips you can refer to on the go!