Brands will have to be virtualized in the future if they want to continue to reach their customers at all important touchpoints in the customer journey - we at RECORDBAY are convinced of this. The pandemic has once again reinforced our view of things.
Companies and brands that had already largely virtualized their marketing and sales activities before the outbreak of Covid-19 were generally able to benefit from this advantage during the crisis. But what exactly do we mean when we talk about "virtualized brands and companies"?
Anyone who enters the term "virtualization" into a search engine will initially come across technologies from the IT sector that replicate or make accessible resources such as hardware or software in the cloud. The similarity to the term "virtual reality" can also initially lead in a direction that is not 100 percent coherent.
Although both areas play into the virtualization of brands and companies, the core of the matter is different. Because the term "brand virtualization" is much more comprehensive in its meaning than it may seem at first.
The virtualization of a brand or a company is not merely its transfer into a virtual or digital environment. Rather, it means creating a true strategic "bridge" between analog and digital brand experience. Ultimately, both sides benefit equally from this connection.
The crux for many companies is currently still that the brand experience before the pandemic was too strongly focused on the analog space. Now, the opposite is being frantically attempted, namely to strengthen the brand experience digitally by all means.
In fact, however, a strategy that provides for seamless transitions between analogue and digital marketing and sales touchpoints seems to make more sense. In this, analogue enriches digital and vice versa.
A good example of this are sales talks in the pandemic. Conducted via video chat and supported by digital product configurators or augmented reality experiences, the advantages of digital technologies can be used for the sales pitch. At the same time, the personal component remains intact and is ultimately even strengthened by a perfect experience. The same effect is achieved by virtualized B2B events such as virtual trade fairs or hybrid events. Through digital technologies, they enable customer-oriented and personal communication in the digital space, which ultimately also strengthens and simplifies the customer's relationship with the brand and sales staff in the purely analogue area.
Experiences for virtualized B2C marketing that were already successful before Covid-19 and continue to be so now are, for example, WebAR experiences with which hair colors can be tried out or 3D models of furniture placed live in the living room at home. These examples also show a clear connection between analogue and digital, between real and virtual spaces.
This is what we mean by virtualizing a brand or a company.
In terms of implementation, brand virtualization must begin with the development of a strategy that is supported by a creative team and modern technologies. This strategy defines the network of offers with virtualized content that picks up potential customers individually and personally where they are at the moment they are addressed.
Taken together, the channels and media used must create a coherent overall picture that covers the digital and analog worlds like a web. During their customer journey, users repeatedly come into contact with the nodes - the touchpoints - of the virtualized brand network. They find interactive, immersive, informative and emotional content that must function seamlessly in the virtualized world.
The various points of contact between the customer and a brand can be found in the purely digital area on apps or mobile experiences, social media, websites or in e-commerce shops. Customers also find digital content at analogue touchpoints, such as at the POS through digital signage or in face-to-face consultations, which can be supported by an AR product configurator.
The content offered - at least in the purely digital area - can be offered in all conceivable formats. For example, in the form of videos, virtualized trade fair stands, interactive presentations, digital brochures, campaigns with landing pages, AR or VR experiences, product renderings or even 3D animations.
The way we think about and develop content must of course be adapted to the new understanding. Content that is used for virtualized brand experiences does not focus on advertising messages, but prioritizes other values. After all, the aim is to deliver the most informative, interactive and exciting content possible at the touchpoints, focusing on the needs of the target group. What excites users is the visible personality of a company and emotional stories that are charged through skilful storytelling.
Content for the virtualized world must be customer-oriented and convey tactile brand stories. This applies to both the digital and analogue space. In this way, the perception of the brand as such and also the values it stands for are differentiated from the pure product presentation and users develop a positive relationship with the company - no matter where they are.
So the first step in brand virtualization is to develop a strategy for creating content for the virtualized world. For this, brands must first ask themselves how their target group moves in the digital and analog space, at which point interfaces between both spheres exist or can be created, and how customers absorb and pass on information there.
We are convinced that in the future, brands will have to be positioned with a perfect virtualized brand ecosystem - in addition to analogue touchpoints - if they want to survive in the market. Ever new digital trends, increasing digital offers in the analogue space(keyword: "Smart Cities") and a look at user behaviour are just a few indications that speak for this.
Find out what this new path can look like for businesses and how to take the first steps in virtualization in our free whitepaper.