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This article was written by Charlton Monsanto, EVP Digital Customer Experience, Capgemini Americas and Mike Buob, VP of Experience and Innovation at Sogeti US, part of the Capgemini Group.

As consumer habits and preferences keep changing, it’s clear that the experience brands offer is what sets them apart. In late 2020, 80% of customers and businesses agreed that “the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services.” More brands are now leveraging technology to integrate different and more modern types of experiences at various touchpoints — and the result is engagements that are not only personalized but also go above and beyond in terms of convenience and sensory appeal. These immersive experiences are becoming a key differentiator for brands that want to stand out from the competition and strengthen customer loyalty, even as engagement platforms and customer expectations keep changing.

What is an immersive experience?

We define immersive experiences as multisensory interactions that a person has with any kind of brand service, system, or space across a journey. It is more than virtual or augmented interaction — rather, it is about the positive emotional connection a person experiences at the moment of interaction. That includes experiences across three levels:

  • Flat user interfaces, such as traditional web and mobile app experiences.
  • Natural interfaces, like spatial, speech, sound, gesture, scent, and haptic (touch) experiences.
  • Extended reality experiences including augmented, virtual, and mixed reality.

When brands creatively design experiences that use a combination of these modes, they can create multisensory customer experiences that evoke a sense of wonder, freedom, and joy among customers and employees that lead to emotional connections.

For example, let’s say a traveler is using an airline app to buy a ticket with points. After that purchase, the app and other channels can make the rest of the experience more efficient and engaging. The app pushes a notification so the traveler can also use their points to book a rideshare to the airport. Or, if the customer is driving their own car, the app can show them where to park and remember where they left their car to make the return trip easier and convenient.

The app can also prompt the traveler to check in before their flight, so that when they get to the airport, they can tap into biometric authentication to walk through certain areas faster and easier. Wayfinding features in the app can help the customer navigate quickly to the lounge and admits the customer without making them wait for a person to check them in.

In the lounge, they can relax because the app will let them know when it’s time to go to their gate, where they can use the app instead of a printed ticket to board. When the traveler arrives at their destination, the app has tracked their luggage and lets them know exactly where to collect it.

The airline has leveraged data, AI, biometrics, wayfinding and more to make the entire journey — from buying a ticket through being in the plane to arrival — immersive and positive and as stress-free as possible for the traveler.

How do brands benefit from providing immersive experiences?

Positive immersive experiences add emotional value that increase both customer and employee loyalty and advocacy. These experiences can help brands differentiate, retain, and energize. That’s especially important in industries where products and services have become commoditized, such as travel, field service, and ecommerce.

Immersive experiences can also increase engagement and conversion rates. For example, someone shopping on an e-commerce site who can interact with a 3D product is likely to spend more time engaging with that product than they would with a flat (2D) image. One home furnishings retailer lets shoppers upload pictures of their rooms to its app, and then they can arrange the store’s products in their rooms to see how they’ll look in their own homes. When customers are confident that a purchase will work out, they’re more likely to buy and less likely to return the item.

Immersive experiences can also help brands deliver a more efficient and superior service by helping field technicians and service representatives to virtually “see” the problem they’re trying to diagnose so they can find a solution and solve the problem faster for the customer. For example, an appliance technician with access to augmented reality-enabled content about a customer’s broken refrigerator will be able to identify the problem more accurately and make the repair faster than a technician who has to rely on a printed manual, online searches, or their own memory to troubleshoot and fix the problem. That enhanced service quality can drive customer loyalty, too.

Where should a business start with immersive experiences?

First, bring in all the relevant stakeholders to ensure that the program has the support it needs to succeed. Then start by looking at the unmet needs of either your customers or your employees and decide what issue you’re trying to solve and how you can elevate that experience. Once you have a goal, then you can review the customer or employee journey to identify all the touchpoints. Then you’re ready to look at each touchpoint and think about how you can enhance it using the right mix of immersive technologies.

For example, a resort property that’s struggling to fill open jobs and deliver the experience that guests expect might find that an in-app virtual concierge would help improve the guest experience without relying on employees at every touchpoint.

Looking to the future with immersive experiences

For a company to thrive by creating immersive experiences, there often needs to be a culture change. Some companies will need to strengthen their culture of innovation and experimentation to succeed with immersive experiences. That’s because technology and consumer preferences now change so rapidly that whatever is a great thing today may not be desirable a year from now, so brands have to constantly experiment and pivot.

Building a culture and a process to support launch-and-learn experiments allows brands to quickly create immersive prototypes and get rapid feedback from customers and employees. Then, they can keep delivering the kinds of experiences that strengthen emotional connection, add value, and drive loyalty and advocacy.

Charlton Monsanto is Executive Vice President, Digital Customer Experience at Capgemini Americas. Charlton applies his experience in technology management consulting, IT functional leadership, marketing, and strategy formulation to develop and manage strategic client and partner relationships.

Mike Buob is VP of Experience & Innovation at Sogeti, part of Capgemini. Mike has a diverse background in technology, innovation and strategy which has allowed him to play a critical role helping organizations with their transformation and innovation initiatives.

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