Customers interact with brands in both narrower and broader channels day by day. The world is moving more digital and less physical by the hour, but emerging technologies like virtual and augmented reality make that transition significantly more complex. Today’s excellent customer experience, let alone tomorrow’s, isn’t just a mobile app, robust website, or strong service offering. It’s all of them and more. Orgs that win will be the ones that can get into every channel to reach customers and deliver exceptional experiences across all of them. Augmented reality and virtual reality application development are key to the future of customer experience.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are technologies that have been around for a while but are poised to grow their impact on customer experience in the years ahead. Widespread availability of devices like the Oculus Quest makes the barrier to entry lower than ever before. Read any technology blog, and you’ll see stories about the metaverse, the connected universe, and how virtual reality is changing B2B experiences like field evaluation.
The appeal to using AR and VR is evident. Quite simply, it allows you to engage customers in an experiential way that other touchpoints can’t. Think about the importance of bringing an experience to life in a virtual space. In retail, IKEA offers an AR experience where you can place their furniture into your area to see how it fits and looks. It’s not the same as bringing your measuring tape to the store, but it’s miles ahead of reading measurements online and hoping for the best.
For companies rooted in traditional development and thinking, integrating virtual reality and augmented reality application development can feel so far away that they’re impossible to integrate. Not only is it possible, it’s necessary. According to Gartner, “by 2023, 50% of all major business applications will include at least one or more types of no-touch experience.[i]”
To continue to deliver exceptional experiences, VR and AR need to be a part of your reality.
A singular need for multiexperience
The key for any organization considering adding VR or AR is where it fits in your digital journey. If you’re not familiar with the term “multiexperience,” here’s a primer.
Gartner defines multiexperience as referring “to the various permutations of modality, device, and app with which users interact on their digital journey across the various touchpoints.” Exemplary customer experience is still a responsive website and a nice mobile app, but it’s also AI-driven chatbots, voice apps, wearables, and, yes, AR and VR.
Multiexperience involves building fit-for-purpose apps across all modalities, providing an experience molded to each customer while also fitting into a core ecosystem with back-end consistencies, no matter how someone interacts with it. The potential is incredible.
When you start to unpack it, though, reality rears its head. Creating customer-personalized experiences across all your touchpoints and platforms is a ton of work, even before you tie back to centralized data and processes. But it’s work that must happen in today’s customer-centric environment.
The good news is that there are tools out there to help, and you don’t have to solve for every scenario to find success.
Narrow your scope
When integrating any new technology, it’s crucial to have a hyper-focused use case. The temptation can be to tack VR or AR onto your existing customer experience. But without the proper plan and connections to your core systems, those kinds of addons almost always fail. It’s not hard to find dozens of stories of hastily-built VR experiences that sound great but end up as nothing more than gimmicks falling by the wayside.
So, ask yourself: What can VR and AR add to your CX without detracting from it? That’s the challenge.
As a purely hypothetical example, picture yourself in the market for a new bicycle. If you could visualize that bike in 3D and walk around it in AR, that sounds really interesting. But what does that augmented reality customer experience truly add anything to your customer’s journey? What kind of maintenance would that require? Exciting-sounding ideas don’t ultimately work if they’re high-cost to maintain or don’t fit into the rest of your ecosystem.
What is your use case for improving CX with VR and AR? No matter what, it’s a touchpoint that’s a part of your customer journey, not the whole journey door-to-door.
Many current commercial applications are B2C but consider your needs in the B2B and EX spaces. According to a Gartner report, by 2023, “40% of professional workers will orchestrate their business application experiences and capabilities like they do their music streaming experience.[ii]”
Processes and training are key experiences that can shape how your org functions. Employees increasingly expect consumer-grade experiences during their workdays, and these are excellent testing grounds for adding VR and AR to your business.
In manufacturing, VR and AR are already widespread. According to PWC, nearly two out of three manufacturers already use or plan to use VR. In addition, 74% of the participants in a 2020 Gartner Smart Manufacturing Strategy and Implementation Trends Survey report having a smart factory initiative at their organization[iii].
VR can be used to train on things like chemical handling, leading to reduced risk, or visualizing new factory floor layouts, which can highlight inefficiencies. All are driven by actual data, all leading to better and more informed decisions. You can easily continue following these threads into areas like predictive maintenance.
In insurance, VR is being used to help improve underwriting by allowing underwriters to get a full 360-degree view of any space. By seeing an accurate representation of a situation without physically being on-site, insurers avoid needless risk and can make the right decisions for cheaper.
Many insurers are also allowing users to upload photos with their claims. Imagine an adjustor using AR to see that from all angles. Plug that into the claims process, and you can see how multiexperience brings all the pieces together. A claims workflow might start in a back office, with someone making a claim through an app or over the phone. That claim feeds everything to the adjuster, who turns up at the property with all the data in the right place and having already viewed the scene in an AR setting. That leads to a conversation with the customer that’s easy and productive. The customer’s interacting with the insurer in multiple ways but will only see a good or bad overall experience.
Drive CX with MXDP
Put yourself in the shoes of your core customer. Think about all the ways they interact with your business. Are there any weak links? Customers having to give the same information across different systems? Just one disconnect starts customers down the road to a negative experience. Developing with multiexperience in mind helps bring the entire customer journey together.
So how do you make it all work? It’s possible to do it using existing technologies, but it’s challenging and expensive. Platforms are emerging that bring together everything you need. Gartner has started publishing their MXDP (Multiexperience Development Platforms) Magic Quadrant to help orgs understand their options.
MXDP includes all modalities for customer experience and employee experience, including VR and AR. Gartner recently predicted that “by 2024, one out of three enterprises will use an MXDP to accelerate the speed of IT and business fusion teams to deliver successful digital products.”[iv]
Mendix is an enterprise leader in the MXDP Magic Quadrant and specializes in bringing the idea of multiexperience to life, allowing you to bring your capabilities into a solution framework and wrap them with your data. Low-code enables organizations to add workflow, data, and automation seamlessly around existing systems and processes.
Integrating an MXDP allows you to use a single innovation platform and framework to create multimodal touchpoints where you’re able to meet a customer on any platform they’re using. Combining all that using a single visual, model-driven language ultimately means that you can deliver exceptional experiences across the board without having to create multiple different skillsets and multiple different teams.
In other words, Mendix is an MXDP that allows you to simplify the complexity of bringing all these technologies together. That enables your org to better scale, add, and pivot.
The long and winding road
Think back to your mental audit and take it out to your teams. How many of your customer experiences are integrated with your core systems? Where are your gaps? How quickly could your company add in new technology (like AR or VR) if that’s where the market heads? Even asking those few questions will show you where you are and how to plan your next steps.
The modern customer journey isn’t a straight line from awareness to purchase. VR and AR are just the latest platforms that innovative orgs need to think about adding to their connected customer experience. Pivoting to a multiexperience development mindset now prepares you to add emerging technologies to their offering for years to come. Take that step and face the future today.
[I] Gartner, Success in the Digital Experience Economy Requires Connecting MX, UX, CX and EX, Jason Wong, Gavin Tay, Michael Chiu, Brent Stewart, 26 May 2020
[ii] Gartner, Success in the Digital Experience Economy Requires Connecting MX, UX, CX and EX, Jason Wong, Gavin Tay, Michael Chiu, Brent Stewart, 26 May 2020
[iii] Gartner 2021 Top Trends in Manufacturing Industries, 04 June 2021, Michelle Duerst, Ellen Eichhorn, Ivar Berntz, Mike Ramsey, Marc Halpern, Christian Hestermann, Bettina Tratz-Ryan, Sohard Aggarwal, Arjun Boparai, Simon Jacobson, Kristian Steenstrup, Pedro Pacheco, Jonathan Davenport, Don Scheibenreif
[iv] Gartner, Technology Insight for Multiexperience Development Platforms, Jason Wong, Adrian Leow, Arun Batchu, 7 May 2020