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June 16, 2023

Immersive email experiences ahead: Unleashing the power of AR/VR/MR.

👋 Hello newsletter enthusiasts,

With the recent announcement of the Apple Vision Pro headset, we got to thinking about email in a world with Augmented, Virtual and even Mixed Reality.

From playing Pokémon GO to trying on glasses from Warby Parker, we've already seen glimpses of the potential of these technologies in our everyday lives.

Back in ~2017, when Apple released ARKit and Google released ARCore, we saw a surge in AR/VR apps and applications. As usage rates increase and consumers become more familiar with AR/VR, it's becoming a natural space for marketers to continue to explore.

And we know Apple has a way of bringing concepts to the masses.

As a first-generation product, it will be interesting to see how it sells.

The demographic may skew to affluent users (The Apple Vision Pro headset has a ~$3,500 price tag).

There will be nearly 1.4 billion AR device users by the end of 2023. - Threekit.com

Companies or brands that also skew towards a more affluent demographic may be thinking about Marketing campaigns to utilize the headset or its features. Trying to be one of the firsts in their industry.

This led us to think about experiences specifically to email marketing.

Why?

Email marketing is a big revenue driver for many companies.

According to insights from Litmus’ 2020 State of Email Survey, email marketing boasts a high return on investment (ROI), with an average ~$36 returned for every $1 spent.

Litmus also mentioned that brands that incorporate dynamic email content, such as location-based targeting, device-specific content, timed content and testing optimization, can generate an even higher ROI of 42:1.

Going deeper into dynamic content with the introduction of a headset, it could be even more immersive.

For instance, imagine receiving an email from a furniture store.

They might be utilizing dynamic content already, like sending a promotional email with a timer, or the content of the email determined by your average order value (AOV) or things left in your cart.

Now, imagine it with the functionality of a headset like Apple Vision Pro.

With the headset, maybe the furniture store could show you what that new couch would look like in your living room. It could know not to suggest one that is too big for the area.

This could be made possible by the 3D mapping Apple mentioned.

Apple


Of course, a lot of privacy concerns here… but we’re letting our imaginations fly!

These experiences in email would likely result in longer time spent engaging with a brand’s content.

The amount of time readers spend in email is dropping.


According to Litmus, the average amount of time readers spend in an email is ~nine seconds. Down from 10 seconds in 2021, 11.8 in 2020 and 13.4 in 2018.

Basically, most users skim email.

There are a lot of reasons for this, and it can depend a lot on your industry, audience and overall email strategy.

We also know Apple Mail Privacy Protection and its implications on reliable metrics like Open Rate, Location Data, etc. so take some of it with a grain of salt.

But, oftentimes, personalization can be a strategy for marketers when engagement numbers drop.

How can we make this more personalized? More attuned to the reader? How can we get them to interact with our content longer?

An immersive experience would really kick things up a notch.


Let’s take an example from Warby Parker

They already utilize augmented reality by being able to virtually try on glasses.

It’s one of the first things you’ll notice on their homepage right now:

Warby Parker

Virtual try-on launched ~2019, and according to Warby Parker, for the third quarter of 2021, compared to the third quarter of 2019: net revenue increased 45%.

Looking at the first quarter 2023 year over year financial results, net revenue increased $18.8 million, or 12.2%, to $172.0 million.

Unsure how much revenue is attributed to virtual try-on, it can be inferred that it did contribute to some increase in conversions and decrease in returns needing to be processed considering its still promoted throughout their marketing materials and on their homepage.

Thinking back, Warby Parker made headlines with their free, home try-on kit with eligible glasses. You could pick five eligible frames, they would ship them to you for free, and you would return them for free.

“Warby Parker’s direct-to-consumer business model was among the first of its kind. Through its ‘Home-Try-On’ program, customers can select five frames that are then sent to their homes at no additional cost, allowing them to ‘test-run’ different styles before selecting which one they’d like to purchase. The company’s framework pioneered the way for other internet-born businesses, such as sneaker brand Allbirds and athleticwear retailer Fabletics. It’s now an archetype for online retailers,” reported by CNBC.

It appears to still be somewhat viable considering it is still an offering from Warby Parker, but not nearly as promoted as their virtual try-on.

~61% of consumers say they prefer retailers with AR experiences. - Threekit.com

Thinking of the shipping costs and additional work behind managing that process… and then the time between ordering the eligible glasses, trying them on and then dropping them back off at the post office and then going onto the website to order… Phew.

When the home try-on kit launched, it was pretty awesome, but there was some additional friction in the experience.

Now, you can just hop on the site, try on a bunch of glasses for free and not spend time waiting for glasses to arrive.

We don’t have Warby Parker specific data to include here, but we can imagine users using virtual try-on are quicker to purchase and may even have higher satisfaction with the process and purchase than the at-home kit.

“When brands offer AR experiences – the ability to put a product in one’s space virtually or do virtual try-on–shoppers are exponentially more likely to engage with the products,” according to threekit.com. Adding on that the more time consumers spend in customizing and experiencing the product in immersive ways, the more likely they are to buy.

This application goes beyond glasses too. From clothes, to shoes, to makeup and more (more examples below).

Currently, it’s estimated ~70% of technology leaders anticipate that the AR market will surpass the VR market in revenue. This is largely attributed to the hurdle of the headset.

“Virtual reality, which is fully immersive and requires a headset, has long been used by consumers, particularly in the gaming space. However, it is largely impractical for retail use because of the extensive hardware requirements. Because AR is accessible from a smartphone, something the majority of shoppers already own, it is poised to become far more ubiquitous than VR.” - Threekit.com

But, again, Apple has a way of reaching the masses.


The impact of major tech companies

Apple's recent ventures in Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality experiences are making waves in the industry, and it's worth exploring how these developments might reshape the tech landscape.

From the highly anticipated Apple Vision Pro headset to their encouragement for developers to “code new worlds,” Apple is positioning itself at the forefront of these innovations.

This suggests that Apple is actively fostering a community of developers and creators who will contribute to the growth of AR/VR/MR experiences. With Apple's immense influence and dedicated user base, their entry into the space could be a game-changer.

The impact of Apple's initiatives also extends beyond their own hardware.

As a tech giant, Apple has the power to shape trends and influence the direction of the industry as a whole. Their investments in AR/VR/MR research and development are likely to inspire other companies to follow suit, leading to increased competition and innovation in this space.

While Apple's advancements are significant, they are not the only major player in the field.

Companies like Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, Microsoft and others are also investing heavily in these technologies and platforms.

These tech giants are competing to create compelling AR/VR/MR experiences, driving the evolution of the industry and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

As AR/VR technologies become more accessible, there will be opportunities for individuals and businesses to leverage these tools without extensive coding knowledge. However, staying informed about the latest advancements, understanding the potential applications and exploring how AR/VR can enhance your marketing strategies can give you a competitive edge in this rapidly evolving landscape.

The future of AR/VR/MR is intriguing, and the involvement of major tech companies like Apple is a clear indication of its potential impact. As these technologies continue to mature, we can expect more exciting developments, innovative applications and transformative experiences that will shape the way we interact with the digital world.


Let’s take a look at some more examples of how brands are leveraging these technologies

These examples demonstrate the power of immersive technologies to captivate audiences, drive engagement and create memorable brand experiences.

1 - Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO

Remember when Pokémon GO first launched? Wow. It revolutionized the gaming industry by combining augmented reality (AR) with location-based gameplay.

Players explore real-world surroundings to find and capture virtual Pokémon characters, immersing themselves in an interactive and engaging AR experience. This global phenomenon generated excitement around the brand.

2️ - Sephora

Source

Sephora addresses the challenge of buying makeup with “Virtual Artist”, a virtual try-on experience available in its mobile app ~2016. They also offer an in-store virtual try-on kiosk.

Customers can use AR technology to see how various makeup products will look on themselves without physically trying them on. This immersive experience enhances customer confidence and encourages online purchases.

The Glimpse Group reported, “Sephora saw a 25% increase in add-to-basket rate and a staggering 35% increase in conversions.”

3️ - IKEA

IKEA

IKEA incorporates AR technology to enhance the furniture shopping experience. With the IKEA Place app, users can superimpose to-scale 3D models of furniture into their own living spaces, enabling them to visualize how different pieces will fit and complement their existing decor. This interactive AR tool simplifies the decision-making process and may even boost customer satisfaction.

IKEA had also announced IKEA Studio, a revamp of the AR offering that would use LiDAR sensors in iPhones to generate a more immersive experience, but there hasn’t been much update since.

4️ - StubHub

Source

StubHub implemented AR features in its mobile app to help ticket buyers make informed decisions. Users can visualize their seat location and the overall stadium experience through a virtual 3D model. This immersive AR tool minimizes the risk of purchasing undesirable seats and enhances the ticket-buying process.

5️ - Toyota

Source

Toyota utilizes VR technology for hazard identification training, allowing employees to practice handling dangerous situations in a safe virtual environment. VR training can enhance employee preparedness and safety in real-world scenarios, according to VR Vision.

6️ - Baume & Mercier

Baume & Mercier

Luxury watch manufacturer Baume & Mercier launched a virtual try-on feature for watches in the Riviera collection, straight from the brand’s website.

No need to download an app, or view it in a social media platform, or print out anything to measure your wrist.

“This advanced augmented reality technology embodies the Brand’s innovative outlook and its ultimate objective: to meet customer expectations as best it can,” according to Baume & Mercier.

7️ - Etsy House

Etsy

In 2021, Etsy debuted Etsy House, an interactive experience that enabled shoppers to tour a virtual home decorated with curated items Etsy.

“With photorealistic and true-to-scale renderings, seamless navigation, and 360-degree visuals, The Etsy House transports shoppers to a one-of-a-kind virtual home filled with holiday decor and gifts, Etsy Design Awards winners (both past and present), bespoke furniture and artwork, and other fun surprises. Even better, the house is shoppable – when you hover over select items, a pop-up will provide more information on the product and a link to purchase,” according to Etsy.

8️ - Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers, an NFL team, generated a lot of buzz with this campaign.

Jon Slusser the owner of The Famous Group, who helped create the panther, mentioned they “…started getting calls from around the world asking, ‘What is this? And how can we do it?"‘“ in an article from NarraSoft.

Sportico reported that Slusser mentioned “activations of this kind require a six-figure investment,”

“But one week in, the effort is already paying dividends. According to calculations from Excel Sports Management, the clip generated more than $60,000 in value for the Panthers, the team sponsors (most notably Bank of America) whose logos appeared in the video, and other brands mentioned in related online posts,” Sportico reported.

These examples represent just a glimpse of the creative possibilities that AR/VR/3D technologies offer.

As the usage of these technologies continues to grow, more brands across various industries are likely to explore and experiment with these innovative marketing strategies. From interactive product demonstrations and virtual try-ons to immersive brand storytelling and virtual events, the opportunities are vast.

These technologies provide an avenue for brands to showcase their products or services in unique and interactive ways, ultimately driving customer engagement, conversion and loyalty.


How does it all translate to emails?

Oftentimes, email will be a vehicle to AR/VR/MR experiences.

You’ll receive an email to download an app to have a virtual experience, or you might have to open up a new webpage to “try on the watch”.

But let’s get our creative thinking caps on and think of how one day, email could play another part in these experiences.

3D product showcases

Instead of static product images, emails could include interactive 3D models that allow recipients to rotate, zoom in and examine products from different angles.

Maybe you could “throw” the new armchair into your physical space and see how it looks right then and there.

This provides a more immersive and engaging experience, making it easier to visualize and understand the product's features and details.

Virtual try-ons

AR technology is already being used with things like Warby Parker and Sephora’s virtual try-on experiences, but what if an email could be tailored and personalized to you?

We know with the Apple Vision Pro headset it takes a “map” of you creating an avatar-like version of yourself.

Apple

What if that could be used to display different glasses on you? Or different makeup styles?

The email could be images of you in the products the company is promoting.

Might be a little strange at first, but doesn’t it take a step out of the process?

It not only eliminates the need to visit a physical store or use a separate app or open a webpage, but it provides a convenient and personalized shopping experience directly within the email.

Interactive demos

These technologies can also enable interactive demos within emails.

Brands can showcase the functionality and features of their products by allowing recipients to interact with virtual elements.

For example, a tech company can include a VR simulation of their latest gaming console, allowing recipients to navigate through a virtual environment and experience its capabilities firsthand.

Immersive brand storytelling

Brands can leverage these technologies to create immersive storytelling experiences within emails.

Think about opening an email that includes an interview with someone, but instead of a static video, it could play as if they were sitting across from you.

Or let’s take National Geographic Explore on the Oculus Quest.

An email could be sent to you to check out the latest National Geographic Explore. The big call-to-action button typically found in an email could be a “Launch me to Machu Picchu”, and since you already have your headset on, you’ll be immediately immersed in the Machu Picchu experience.

By incorporating interactive elements, animations and 3D visuals, brands can take recipients on a virtual journey that showcases their brand values, product narratives or upcoming events.

This is not only an immersive storytelling experience, but it can also bring their message to life and captivate the audience.

Virtual events and experiences

With the rise of virtual events, these technologies can enhance email invitations and experiences.

Brands can create virtual event previews or interactive 3D tours of event venues to generate excitement.

Recipients can explore the event space, interact with virtual booths or view sneak peeks of presentations, fostering engagement and anticipation.

These examples demonstrate how these technologies are transforming, and its potential impact on email marketing by making emails more interactive and immersive.

By incorporating these technologies into email campaigns, brands can capture attention, increase engagement and provide unique and memorable experiences for their recipients.

Bonus

We were not able to find many examples of experiences with an email client in a headset, but we did discover Spike, a collaboration tool, available on the Oculus.

Spike

It appears to offer video messaging, notes and an email experience.

Using Spike in virtual reality allows users to focus on their emails in a virtual environment, providing a unique and potentially productive experience.

According to a Lifewire article it “makes even work emails fun.”

“There's nothing like answering emails while sitting in a virtual Japanese inn with crickets chirping in the background. The experience of being able to focus while in a virtual world checking messages made me realize how much more productive I could be,”

It was noted that wearing the Oculus headset for extended periods can be uncomfortable.

However, Spike offers a way to experience email in VR.

As future generations of headsets become more streamlined and comfortable, the potential for immersive email experiences will only continue to grow.

Side note:

This also brings up the question of technical limitations with emails.

We know AR is available on web browsers now. This is apparent through permissions like when it asks to use your camera, or demonstrated by virtual try-ons like the one from Warby Parker.

This brings it a little closer to email.

Email clients could potentially leverage the same functionality.

Maybe when you open an email and it has headset features, it may ask to use your headset.


🔑 Key observations

  • The release of the Apple Vision Pro headset and the increasing usage of AR/VR/MR technologies present opportunities for marketers to explore immersive experiences.
  • Email marketing remains a significant revenue driver, with a high ROI of approximately $36 for every $1 spent, and incorporating dynamic content can further increase ROI to 42:1.
  • The integration of AR/VR/MR technologies into email marketing can create more immersive and personalized experiences, such as 3D product showcases and virtual try-ons, resulting in longer engagement and potentially higher conversions.
  • Major tech companies like Apple, Meta (formerly Facebook), Google, and Microsoft are heavily investing in AR/VR/MR technologies, driving competition and innovation in the industry.
  • Brands like Warby Parker, Sephora, IKEA, StubHub, Toyota, Baume & Mercier and Etsy are leveraging AR/VR/3D technologies to captivate audiences and possibly drive engagement and enhance the customer experience. These examples demonstrate the potential of these technologies across various industries.
  • The future of AR/VR/MR is intriguing, and as these technologies continue to evolve and become more accessible, there will be more opportunities for immersive and interactive email experiences.

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