How Virtual Experiential Marketing Affects Customer Intentions and Loyalty

Experiential marketing uses various touchpoints to engage with customers and increase brand awareness, loyalty, and eventually, sales.

From website pop-ups to in-store demos, brands use various techniques to engage with customers in real life and bring them back online to make further purchases. These brand experiences help customers become more familiar with your brand, offering them a deeper connection and increasing the likelihood of coming back for more. In fact, according to HubSpot Blogs research, customers whose purchase decisions are heavily influenced by an in-store experience are 13% more likely to be repeat buyers.

While the benefits of physical store visits are undeniable, virtual reality (VR) has opened up new possibilities for marketers. Today we’re going to take a look at how VR marketing affects consumer behavior and loyalty, and how you can use the technology to engage with customers and drive them towards your products or services.

Why Virtual Reality When Traditional In-Store Marketing Metrics Are Still Valuable

You might be wondering why you’d need to explore VR marketing since most of the benefits come from in-store experiences, particularly when it comes to marketing metrics like conversion rates and repeat business. Truth be told, though, the ability to interact with customers through VR and other digital tools is transforming how businesses approach marketing and sales. These new methods provide customers with a safer, more comfortable way to explore products and offers, whether in-store or online. It is, therefore, not surprising that 74% of Gen Z use virtual reality to research products and make purchase decisions, according to a recent survey from Ingenious digital.

“Customers expect to see brands supporting and engaging with them via different digital spaces, especially as more companies adopt hybrid working,” said Sarah Greenfield, Founder and Director of Ingenious digital.

“However, there is also a threat to traditional store measurements as customers expect to see more brands creating digital experiences that include digital and physical elements,” she continued.

How VR Influences Customer Behavior

Let’s say you’re a business selling fashion accessories, and you pop up online one day with a deal on a particular item. Would you expect that customer to click on your link and make a purchase, or to visit a store and physically try on the piece of clothing or accessory in question?

In a time when most customers are researching products before buying them, virtual reality presents an opportunity to engage with customers where they are.

“Customers are increasingly likely to have a diverse set of touchpoints when researching a purchase, with many preferring to do their shopping online, but with a high proportion visiting stores to try on the items they are researching,” said Simon Daukes, Senior Manager of Marketing at HubSpot.

“Businesses need to ensure they utilise all available touchpoints to ensure they maintain a high level of brand engagement with customers at each stage of their journey—from awareness to purchase and post-purchase. This can be achieved via physical stores, online stores, and mobile apps, among other digital platforms,” he continued. “VR allows customers to try on the products they are researching, discovering additional benefits and features that might not have been uncovered via a simple click on an online link.”

What Features Will Impress Consumers In Store?

Even if you’re marketing your product online, customers can benefit from a rich in-store experience. For example, if you’re selling swimwear, you may want to consider renting a private pool for a day so you can float around in the water and show off your product to its best advantage. Or, if your product is a fitness tracker, you may want to consider setting up a gym with the brand and using its members as human models to demonstrate how the device can improve their lives.

How Can VR Aid In Customer Education?

If a customer is researching a product online or via a smartphone, and wants more information, it’s easy enough to direct them to a website. However, what if they decide the information isn’t sufficient? What if, instead of going to a website, they want to try out the product and get some expert advice?

With VR, customers can literally step into your store and try out your product. If they have a question, you have an employee standing by to help. Or, if they’re exploring different styles, you can show them different garments in different colors so they can see how the fit.

VR Marketing: The Future Of E-commerce?

Marketing in the digital sphere is changing. It used to be that customers would visit a business’ website and everything would be laid out there—the prices, the terms and conditions, the product reviews. Nowadays, customers are more likely to click on a deal, only to be directed to a merchant’s website where they’re faced with more questions. In the end, they might decide the product is not for them and leave without making a purchase.

With VR, customers can try out your products without leaving the comfort of their homes. If they click on a deal and make a purchase, the joy of retail will be present in your virtual store.

Even if they don’t make a purchase, they will have engaged with your brand and hopefully, become a customer for life.