Advances in technology are bringing the physical and digital worlds together. What implications does this have for marketing and for the ways companies interact with consumers?

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality have the potential to reshape marketing in industries ranging from automotive and real estate to retail and consumer packaged goods. Technological advances—from smaller headsets to improved user interfaces—are ushering in an age in which brands will be able to provide deeply engaging experiences for consumers in their daily lives.

Virtual reality (VR) immerses users in constructed surroundings that depict actual places or imaginary worlds. To date, VR has been used primarily in gaming and entertainment applications. Augmented reality (AR) uses technology to overlay contextual information on physical environments—for instance, by projecting sales and inventory data onto products on store shelves. Mixed reality (MR) is a blend of VR, AR, and the internet of things, creating environments in which digital and physical objects can interact. For example, MR could allow marketers to put virtual products in consumers’ hands and gauge their responses.

“VR, AR, and MR will fundamentally change how companies communicate with customers and how consumers interact with data in the world around them,” says Jay Samit, vice chairman, digital reality at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Brands will be able to interact with consumers as they walk, drive, shop, and work, and enhance their lives by providing relevant information.”

Some potential applications for these technologies include allowing car buyers to customize and test-drive automobiles in virtual showrooms, delivering coupons to users via smart glasses as they approach physical stores, and letting home buyers rearrange virtual furniture as they tour physical properties.

“Marketers can start experimenting today,” Samit says. “The technology still may be in the early-adopter stage, but learning about which interface to use or how consumers can interact in this world can give companies a head start.”

Jay Samit is the best-selling author of the book “Disrupt You!” This column originally was published in the Wall Street Journal May 18, 2017

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