By Christophe Castagnera, head of connected experiences, Imagination
Since the late 1990s, the mobile phone has become increasingly popular, to the point where few would argue with its status as an essential item of personal technology. The consistent rise in mobile use has revolutionised the way people and brands can communicate. Whether Apple or Android, mobile technology has changed the world of experiences in multiple ways.
Being able to freely access additional, explanatory and personalised content – no matter where someone is – has transformed the way people interact and gain information in a myriad of environments. In our industry, from live experiences to Brand Homes, this has meant richer, more immersive experiences have been possible, as people have increasingly used their mobile phones to connect, share and play along with the experience content.
As mobile platforms have developed, so too has the level of sophistication of brand interactions. Initially it was primarily limited to event apps, often focussed on helping with event check-in. But mobile technology has also evolved to track attendees and audiences which, in turn, has led to better measurement of ROI.
But it was the explosion of social media that proved the biggest gamechanger. As social media gained currency, this social connection has allowed a degree of commentary and influence that stretches far beyond anything previously imaginable when an experience was confined to physically present, invited personnel.
Social media allows people to reveal and share every moment of their experiences – often instantly – to their preferred platform and, more recently, the addition of the live stream function has helped gather wider audiences, beyond the actual live footfall. At minimal or no extra cost, significant extra reach can be achieved.
When thinking about mobile’s role in helping track direct sales, integrated mobile payment has been a critical development. Not only has this allowed for instant sales, it has also meant instant commercial return tracking for brands.
Further advances in the technology have introduced gaming aspects to experiences, adding more immersive, fun options to enhance people’s experience. For instance, microlocations technology such as location tracking has opened the door to more thrilling ‘treasure hunt’ journeys through experiences as seen with Pokemon Go – as well as adding personalised, bespoke experiences for luxury audiences.
The way gamification has been introduced into experiences through mobile is also evident with the use of augmented reality – especially on iPhones. By integrating AR into experiences, guests can open second windows of AR content on their mobile devices, while playing with interactive displays. A great example of this in action is the Defender AR app. Originally designed as a digital sales tool, the Land Rover Defender AR app is a product visualiser that enables prospects and fans to fully configure their favourite all-terrain vehicle and play with its 1.1 scale wherever they are. The AR app was part of our multifaceted experience campaign to launch the new Land Rover Defender.
And we’ve also seen a renaissance of QR codes. Initially heralded as a key piece of technology, QR Codes had fallen a little out of fashion until they roared back into action on the back of their popularity in markets such as China – where QR codes are the de facto ‘digital handshake’. In addition, the pandemic has made QR codes much more commonplace, as the benefit of this touchless technology has come to the fore, be it to access paper-free menus or to log the presence of a person at a specific venue.
The next most significant milestone in this area will be the arrival of 5G and associated innovations, which will pave the way for high quality streamed video content. The speed that 5G brings to mobile interactions, means near-instant interplay is possible between the physical space of a live experience and the digital space. In this context, the mobile phone becomes a ‘hybrid’ portal – always controlled by the guest.
For more than 10 years, Imagination has used XPKit – a suite of software services that connect touchpoints across the customer journey with a client’s own CRM and business intelligence systems. It means we can connect the dots between live spaces and the digital space and as the technology has changed and features evolved, we have built more and more connected points and interaction modes to extend our spectrum of ‘connected experiences’. This means we can create an integrated mobile app which becomes a digital portal that enhances and personalises every aspect of the experience journey.
The past year’s global crisis has seen the uptake of virtual experiences accelerated, as well as the evolution of hybrid experiences. And as the pandemic extends and is managed differently across regions, it seems likely hybrid experiences will become a permanent fixture. So, all the advances in mobile technology and associated applications will continue to support and enhance the experiences industry, as it adapts and innovates brand communications in the current climate.