COVID restrictions have forced many companies to search for new ways to pivot, redefine and remake themselves. The pandemic has changed how we interact, but not our need to socialize and connect. As a result new technologies have been developed in its wake. Brands and retailers are rebuilding a better and a stronger future, and a major part of that future will include some kind of ‘virtual’ experience.
Because of COVID, places in world became more isolated and socially distant, but closer through new virtual technologies. And as we continue to embrace new ways of doing things, connecting while being safe has given way to virtual solutions and virtual events in all types of business and in all walks of life. Yes, we will return to physical events and activities, but many will be augmented with virtual technology. The name for this is ‘hybrid’; a combination in-person and virtual event.
The physical portion of the event can be a brand activation, product launch, grand opening, etc, at an actual location, and the virtual element includes simultaneous online engagement, usually with QR codes and augmented reality; allowing a greater reach to newer, larger more diverse audiences.
There were great examples during the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where many companies demonstrated their latest projects and products in interactive exhibitions and displays. One such booth hosted Polaroid, where they gave guests the chance to experience the new Polaroid ‘OneStep’ analog instant camera. The oversized replica of the camera was the centerpiece. The booth featured interactive stations that showcased the product’s features such as double exposure, light painting and noise trigger.
A much more tactile hybrid activation was featured at JAMNOLA, in December 2020. Along New Orleans’ historic River Street, a 5,400 sq foot experiential exhibit was set up, and became the City’s ‘Instagramming Superstar’. The 60 minute interactive museum tour hosted 12 rooms, showcasing and often paying tribute to all things uniquely NOLA. Rooms hosted a crawfish & cooking pot, highlights of Mardi Gras parades, bayou tours, Black Indian costumes and the music of jazz. The displays were engaging, unique, immersive and COVID safe.
One more take on the use of virtual engagement has been the use of QR Codes. Placed around and on merchandise labels, they provide detailed product information, product holograms, and omnichannel carts; a virtual shopping cart with the options for in-store purchase, curbside pick-up, or home delivery. Linking QR Codes with social media profiles have been an excellent way of gaining more likes, shares, and email subscribers. This has proven to be very effective for brand awareness, increasing audience reach, and consumer interaction.