Let’s face it, there are many different options for shoppers today. From store brands that are seizing control of the shelf space to online shopping behemoths that are stealing away market share — gaining and keeping the mental awareness of your shoppers is more difficult than ever before. Shoppers are not only looking for a product, they also want a story that they can believe in and support. Brand storytelling can help humanize your brand, allowing you to authentically connect with shoppers regardless of their physical location. There is rarely enough physical space within a retail location or even online, but there are emerging technology options that provide you with the opportunity to expand your brand narrative, sharing the values of your brand and what makes you unique. When you combine an exceptional knowledge of shopping and demographic data with in-store technology, you are able to create an immersive experience that is difficult for your competitors to duplicate.
Role of Brand Storytelling
Storytelling has been utilized for hundreds if not thousands of years to pass down legends and share experiences. We may all remember the way we heard a particular story as a child, or invested in purchasing a brand because you heard on the news that they’re doing great things in the world. This brand storytelling helps differentiate your product in a crowded marketplace by illustrating your mission and values. You are also connecting with your shoppers on a deeper level than simply sharing why they should purchase your brand instead of another one. You’re touching their emotions in a way that leaves a lasting impact. More than 92% of shoppers want ads that feel more like a story — content that is clearly linear and expresses a clear narrative. The most compelling advertising engages our emotions: with audio, video, text and perhaps even an in-store experience. These stories can be up to 22x more memorable than a simple printed ad.
The Intersection of Brand Storytelling and Tech
Emerging technology is playing a key role in brand storytelling, and that role is likely to expand in the future. There are a variety of factors which are combining to form the perfect strategy in marketing: broad consumer acceptance of new technology, a cultural bias towards brands that provide an experience, the expanding reach of digital influencers and fundamental changes in the way that shoppers are consuming content. Taken together, each of these concepts builds towards a new type of storytelling that is immersive, engaging and much more tactile in nature — impacting how content is created, distributed and monetized.
This shift has allowed brands to expand their idea of advertising to unlock new dimensions of storytelling, such as using AR (augmented reality) in stores. This one emerging technology can be leveraged in a variety of ways to drive different outcomes: deeper engagement with shoppers, driving conversions, creating a visceral association for brand positioning and even providing a way to create gamification of the content. These exciting trends provide brand marketers with more storytelling options than ever before.
Rising Trends in Retail Technology
Here are just a few of the emerging tech options that are already impacting the retail space:
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality allows users to view a computer-generated image that is superimposed on their view of reality. This often happens through a smartphone, and provides a composite view of the world. According to Retail Perceptions, more than 61% of shoppers prefer stores that offer AR experiences. Even more interesting, 40% of these shoppers would also be willing to pay more for your product if they were able to first experience it in AR.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality allows a user to almost literally step inside a virtual world, viewing 3D computer-generated images that allow an element of interaction between the viewer and the virtual environment. Virtual reality can truly be immersive, and 62% of shoppers feel that a brand who offers a VR experience is more engaging.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning
The terms machine learning and artificial intelligence are often used interchangeably, but they quite different in practice. Technically, machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence, in which we provide machines with a broad pool of data and allow those machines to determine next-best recommendations based on correlating vast amounts of data. Artificial intelligence occurs when computers mimic behavior that humans would consider “intelligent”, such as planning, learning, recognizing sounds and problem-solving. As marketers, it’s not difficult to see the value in a program that can quickly correlate valuable data that can be used to impact our decision-making processes. In fact, more than 84% of marketers are planning to implement or expand their AI/Machine Learning footprint in 2018.
Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) Technology
Have you ever wondered how some systems seem to be able to infer who they’re communicating with, even before you directly input your data? That’s the textbook definition of the range of the AIDC
technologies that are used to collect information without direct data entry. This includes tech such as RFID and biometric systems, and this sector is expected to explode to a worth of $71 billion by 2022.
3 Ways to Use Emerging Tech for Brand Storytelling
Brands are leveraging these exciting new technology options to create a new era of storytelling: one that is riveting for shoppers and often lots of fun for marketers to create. The possibilities for creativity when combining AR, VR and the enhanced datasets that are available with AIDC are virtually limitless. Here are three ways that big brands are dipping a toe in:
- Immersive Storytelling
Marketers are bringing their shoppers directly into their brand story; often featuring the shopper as an active participant in how your story unfolds using completely unique stories and environments that are new and surprising. The smart storytellers at TOMS created a “Walk in Their Shoes” journey that allows shoppers to travel from California to Columbia to meet the child who benefited from his shoe purchase.
- Enhance the Shopping Experience
Creating a frictionless shopping experience is a key element for growing sales. Lowe’s is leveraging AR in their revolutionary new In-Store Navigation that helps lead customers to what they need to find. Macy’s is utilizing similar tech to re-imagine room design and actually enter the space in VR.
- Improve Personalization
Untold brands are employing AIDC, AI and machine learning to deliver hyper-relevant messaging to shoppers, including discounts and special offers — often based on the shopper’s characteristics. Sephora’s Virtual Artist is delivering product recommendations based on skin tone and features, for example.
These new technologies are exploding onto the marketing scene, providing marketers with a new canvas on which to paint their digital stories. Augmented and virtual reality, machine learning and AIDC are powerful tools for connecting with shoppers on a more authentic level — allowing brand storytellers to differentiate their products and truly stand out from the competition.