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New Horizons In Event AR/VR

They’re dazzling and memorable, engaging and fun. They’re also expensive to produce and often hard to prove the ROI. We’re talking about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), of course. Though new digital technologies such as VR and AR offer almost unlimited possibilities for engagement, many executives, event planners and marketers are asking the tough question:

How can we know AR/VR is really worth investing in?

The honest answer is: we can’t. At least not by traditional measures. Calculating AR/VR’s ROI in standard terms—such as impressions or sales generated—can be difficult because the format is so new. Some have suggested that one way to calculate the ROI is through “a mix of engagement and click-through sales” (Smart Insights) or by tracking coupon redemptions. But even this method relies on traditional perspectives.

A few brands have leveraged these older measures to their advantage. For example, at Christmas of 2017, Cadbury Chocolate debuted an AR advent calendar in the UK that was tied to purchases of the company’s chocolates. The campaign generated £2.5 million ($3.3 million) from 570,000 units sold. Such stories featuring hard numbers, however, are few and far between.

Additionally, the entire internet is changing. How we engage with content, experience digital media and even buy products will shift in the next five years to a more immersive model. For this reason, calculating ROI in the traditional sense may be putting the cart before the horse. We are looking backward at old forms of ROI while these technologies tug us strongly toward the next “version” of the internet.

The Real ROI of AR/VR

If we can’t calculate ROI in old fashioned terms, how can we calculate it? Most industry insiders agree that brand affinity is the best metric to measure AR/VR ROI. This means using non-tangible measures—such as number of unique engagements, brand loyalty and post-event surveys with emotion-weighted questions. A recent Rosetta research study has shown engaged consumers buy 90% more frequently; therefore, though this outcome is not as easily quantifiable as sales figures, it is still powerful for driving sales.

AdsReality suggests this is a critical shift in how we think about ROI, because the entire internet is shifting to a matrix in which we experience reality differently. By holding up a device, or putting on a headset, we enter a brand-new space that is internet-facilitated. In this world, purchases will occur within immersive experience, but neither technology nor buyer expectations and experience has caught up to this next-level reality.

New Opportunities for AR/VR at Events

With ROI reframed in this new way, let’s take a look at some of what’s coming down the road with this exciting technology. Overall, new trends in AR/VR in meetings and events focus on creating not just one-off experiences in a single space, such as a trade show booth, but on creating shared immersive experiences that define the event itself.

One exciting possibility is the development of a virtual venue, allowing attendees to use their screens and devices to see a wildly different environment overlaid on their existing one. This enables meeting planners to immerse attendees in a variety of different places and experiences—no matter what the actual event location.

We’re also seeing greater attention to large-scale virtual product demos, which allow brands to save on product shipping costs, as well as, design and architectural costs. They also offer attendees an engaging and wow-inducing way to explore the products in question. Look for more of these on a large-scale, with demos happening on a main stage and attendees each viewing with their own device rather than a one-off experience in a single architectural footprint.

Overall, we will also see AR/VR bring more virtuality to the concept of the meeting itself. Look for virtual speakers, virtual meetings and even digital hangouts. These tools enable meeting planners to reach a greater number of attendees across the miles, or bring in a powerful keynote speaker who may not have been able to travel due to his or her schedule constraints. In each case, the technology enables immersive experiences that allow meeting planners to focus on the content, while the technology shapes the space of delivery at a much lower cost point than a traditional venue.

A VR Case Study

At LSAV POWERHOUSE, we believe in the emotional ROI of augmented reality, to foster brand affinity and engagement. Recently we worked with a large client to develop several VR interactives for their annual leadership meeting and a subsequent outdoor activation in San Francisco. The brand’s goal was to inform employees and get them excited about all the features of a new service package they are offering to customers. At the outdoor activation, they wanted to generate the same excitement and buy-in among existing customers.

Using virtual reality glasses, we recreated the new experience, enabling employees and customers to step into this luxurious new experience—including seating, food and even lounge space. Though traditional metrics were not used (especially in the customer activation) to track potential leads or sales, the overall goal of this VR was to immerse employees and customers in the experience, to create a powerful emotional impression.

Excited about the possibilities of AR/VR but unsure how to leverage it for you event? Let the dream team at LSAV POWERHOUSE walk you through from strategy to the big wow on site. Contact us to schedule a 1:1 consultation to learn more.

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