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How XR is revolutionising the customer experience

Fri 25 Jan 2019 | Daryn Mason

AR and VR applications will creep into our everyday lives as part of the fabric of our customer experience, writes Daryn Mason

The best customer experiences are often ambient; they just happen without you noticing.  To get this right, organisations need to focus on personalisation and effortless execution. And they need to do this at scale.

This is why AI and machine learning (ML) are so important for CX. AI and ML are slowly creeping into all aspects of customer experience, from online chat services to voice assistants in our home. As we browse the web, we’re offered products and services based on our intent. And even our favourite video on-demand service seems to know what we like to watch. This is a silent technology revolution that most of are not even aware of.

Extended Reality (XR)

What about those leading-edge technologies extending our perception of the world: virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)?  This category – collectively known as extended reality (XR) – seems to have been waiting in the wings for a while, never taking centre stage.

It would be fair to say that mainstream use of XR has so far been limited to gaming applications with few organisations being brave enough to launch consumer applications aimed at extending the customer experience.

As with any new technology, it will take time for it to find its true place in the channel mix.  Early versions might be a little clunky and unattractive.  It’s a great time for companies to experiment and test the tech with their early adopters.

Are XR Technologies Polished Enough?

From a customer experience perspective, AR shows great potential for commercial organisations, since for basic AR applications you only need your trusty smartphone. In 2016 Nintendo launched one of the most popular smartphone games in recent years – Pokémon Go!  It achieved 500 million downloads in its first year and was based on AR and location-based technologies. This was an excellent testing ground for AR technology and drew the attention of commercial developers looking to exploit AR.

In terms of wearable tech for AR, the industry is holding its breath for the relaunch of Google Glass (although this is likely to be initially targeted at professional industries for workforce applications).

VR is a different animal in terms of both the kit and the processing power required. There are low-end solutions like Google Cardboard and even the freebie McDonalds Happy Meal box that converts into a makeshift headset. Just slide in your smartphone with the required app loaded and you’re ready to go.

“Those that are experiential by nature – such as retail, hospitality and real estate – are prime areas for disruption by XR technologies”

Why Businesses Should Start Thinking About XR

The pace of change in technology is breathtakingly rapid. If you look how quickly new channels gain mainstream adoption only those organisations already experimenting with XR will be ready to exploit it. What seems crazy today will be in widespread use in three years’ time.

Some industries will be more obvious candidates than others. Those that are experiential by nature – such as retail, hospitality and real estate – are prime areas for disruption by XR technologies.

XR can improve experience in many ways. It’s only limited by your own imagination. For example, the novelty of XR can be a great marketing tool to grab attention. Take the recent example of the AR bus shelters piloted by Pepsi in London; an experiment that went viral on social media.

Use Cases

From a more functional perspective, AR is being used for try-before-you buy experiences by several organisations. Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA allows you to see how furniture will look in your own home through your iPhone. US DIY chain, Home Depot enables you to see how a new colour would look on your walls; again, just by scanning your smartphone around your room.

The fashion and beauty industry are also cashing in on AR. Timberland have launched a virtual fitting room to see what their latest fashions look like on the wearer.

And even cosmetics giants like L’Oreal and Sephora are extending their reach by allowing customers to give themselves a virtual make-over. These are products that, up until now, have been very difficult to sell online.

Extended Reality (XR): All real-and-virtual combined environments and human-machine interactions generated by computer technology and wearables

Apart from marketing and selling, AR also has a big future in transforming those traditional “user guides” and “owners’ manuals” by a more relatable experience. Check out this example from Hyundai showing vehicle owners how to navigate under the hood of their car.

As mentioned at the beginning, CX is all about lowering customer effort AND boosting the experience. This example from online retailer Alibaba shows how you can shop around the world from the comfort of your sofa using a basic VR headset.

As processor speeds accelerate and miniaturisation continues, the future of XR in all its forms is exciting.  The novelty value of using XR will act as the initial attraction for early adopters, but expect AR and VR applications to creep into our everyday lives as part of the fabric of our customer experience very soon. XR is here to stay.

Experts featured:

Daryn Mason

Independent Speaker, Writer & Facilitator


ar Augmented Reality customer experience cx Virtual Reality VR xr
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