Brands must 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 that. 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"?
Virtualization: Bridge between analogue and digital world
Anyone who types the term "virtualisation" 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% coherent.
Although both areas are involved in the virtualization of brands and companies, the core of the matter is different. Because the term "brand virtualization" is much broader in its meaning than it may seem at first.
Virtualizing a brand or a company is not simply transferring it into a virtual or digital environment. It rather means creating a real strategic "bridge" between analogue and digital brand experience. In the end, both sides benefit equally from this connection.
The crux for many companies is still that the brand experience before the pandemic was too much focused on the analogue space. Now the opposite is being attempted, namely to strengthen the brand experience digitally by all means.
What we mean when we talk about brand virtualization
In fact, a strategy that provides seamless transitions between analogue and digital marketing and sales touch points seems to make more sense. Analogue enriches digital and vice versa.
A good example for 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 sales talks. At the same time, the personal component remains intact and is ultimately even strengthened by a perfect experience. Virtualized B2B events such as virtual trade fairs or hybrid events achieve the same effect. 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 that allow people to try out hair colors or place 3D models of furniture in their 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.
The implementation: networking touch points in the digital and analogue world
In terms of implementation, brand virtualization must begin with the development of a strategy 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.
Altogether, the channels and media used need to create a coherent overall picture that covers the digital and analogue world like a net. During their customer journey, users repeatedly come into contact with the nodes - the touch points - 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 touch points, 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 can be provided - at least in the purely digital area - in all possible formats. For example, in the form of videos, virtualized exhibition stands, interactive presentations, digital brochures, campaigns with landing pages, AR or VR experiences, product renderings or even 3D animations.
Content for the virtualized world: informative, emotional and personal
The way we think about and develop content must of course be adapted to the new understanding. Content used for virtualized brand experiences does not focus on promotional messages, but prioritises other values. The aim is to deliver informative, interactive and exciting content at the touchpoints that focuses 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 both in 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.
The right strategy for a virtualized customer experience
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 analogue space, at which point interfaces between both spheres exist or can be created and how customers take in 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. 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.