By

Rico Cipriaso, SVP, Digital Strategy and Transformation
and Eric Ong, VP, Technical Director, Concentric Health Experience 

AR and mixed-reality are powerful tools for enhancing visualizations for patients and providers in healthcare marketing.

More immersive digital experiences can drive empathy, helping accurately model experiences and expected outcomes.  

Scaling AR experiences to platforms consumers actively engage with is the top executional barrier for today’s brands. 

Healthcare brands are ripe for the AR and mixed-reality revolution.

Everyone frets about their health. For someone newly diagnosed with a mispronounceable disease, picking up a prescription from the pharmacy for the first time is the culmination of multiple steps of worry, research, and grappling with challenging content. The pill or injection they receive is a reminder of hope and the possibility of a positive outcome. What if we could reinforce that hope with an experience that truly brings to life the sources of life-changing solutions?   

Imagine: a routine scan from your mobile device at the start of your treatment unlocks a window into information about the disease, expected outcomes, and the support you need to get through it. With augmented and mixed-reality, healthcare brands have an opportunity to create dynamic visualizations for patients and providers that arm them with the education to drive better experiences and empathy to drive positive outcomes. AR/VR will help enhance both B2B and B2C efforts. 

Imagine: a routine scan from your mobile device at the start of your treatment unlocks a window into information about the disease, expected outcomes, and the support you need to get through it. 

Rico Cipriaso

SVP, Digital Strategy and Transformation, Concentric Health Experience

Aiding Modern Education

Precision and depth of understanding are essential for healthcare practitioners. With AR and mixed-reality, these professionals’ learning tools can be enhanced with more multi-spatial visualizations of the body, cell and chemical interactions, and more, giving providers the confidence to act decisively in treatment. 

We’ve seen that spirit extend beyond university and medical school settings; throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, public health professionals and medical influencers collaborated on mobile AR data visualization to help people better make sense of the large amounts of evolving COVID-19 data. Applying simple AR layers to social content can help bring life to flat charts with 3D animation, ultimately driving a more digestible and interactive educational experience. 

Driving Empathy Through Enhanced Experiences 

We know emotional appeal is the magic sauce of good marketing. Enabling more immersive healthcare brand experiences in B2B and B2C with mixed-reality can give brands the tools to emulate patients’ experiences, model the impact of new drugs, products, and services, and help translate patients’ lived experiences. In our award-winning work for Sunovion, we leveraged VR to bring Lonhala Magnair’s in-person, interactive “Room to Breathe” to more healthcare providers. We rendered the home of a user of the drug in VR to showcase how each room of the house reflects the product’s unique features, including nigh silent administration, quick nebulization time, and convenient audiovisual feedback. The campaign grabbed the attention of prospective targets in an eye-catching way and helped place them in the patient’s shoes. 

These mixed-reality approaches can also arm those suffering from chronic health ailments with tools for better communicating their needs and experiences. Excedrin’s 2016 Migraine Experience VR campaign used mixed-reality to model the audio, visual, and spatial effects a migraine can have on a patient, adding an experiential layer that helped drive added empathy. Their effort went beyond the VR headset experience to include a mobile app version that let anyone share the experience with loved ones. With the world returning to the office from remote work, healthcare brands will have many opportunities to generate compelling mixed-reality content about navigating and advocating for support in this evolving health environment. 

Finally, B2B healthcare marketers exhibiting at trade shows can integrate mixed-reality into their product demonstrations and showcases to enhance the persuasive element of their presentations.

What to do? 

  1. Think beyond a standard deliverables list, to envision impact first. 
  2. Seek partners that understand the current martech landscape wand are committed to experimenting with new storytelling methods. 
  3. Always develop a plan and allocate funds for extensive testing. 

Exciting possibilities await healthcare brands with mixed-reality, but executional barriers remain, from closed Martech platforms that don’t yet allow AR or VR executions to the difficulty of getting mixed-reality experiences into the hands of target audiences. Rolling out an AR or VR experience now often means introducing a new platform to consumers – and we know consumers find difficulty in leaving an already-familiar walled garden. As a result of this, while the idea behind an experience may be great, brand efforts end up shifting from building more engaging experiences to solving the issue of sourcing new products and tech solutions to make mixed-reality. Realistically, brands will need to create these experiences on apps and platforms their consumer bases already engage with, or the bar is high for scaling adoption. 

The good news: more investment in mobile mixed-reality makes this a ripe time to experiment with these new digital marketing tools to ensure your brand is prepared to leverage emerging mediums of storytelling and consumer connections. 

Now is the time to stretch your creative possibility and think beyond a standard deliverables list to envision impact first. Being able to experience healthcare solutions is more potent than simply knowing about them – how can you use mixed-reality to drive more effective marketing? 

Second, seek partners that understand the current martech landscape and are committed to exploring how newer storytelling mediums unlocked by emerging technology integrate into omnichannel marketing efforts. Be critical about whom you work with: they should be conversant in the potential of mixed-reality while nursing a healthy skepticism for the tactics needed to scale consumer adoption.

This leads to our final advice: always ask your mixed-reality partners to develop to plan and allocate funds for extensive testing. Because of the high engagement barrier inherent in these solutions, you want to ensure your brand comes to your customers with a fine-tuned, new and expansive way of telling your story, absent any kinks in the user experience.

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Marketing Frontiers is a new series from Stagwell exploring the methods, mediums, and messes modern marketers will grapple with over the next decade as they chart transformation in the discipline. This January, Stagwell is exploring the new frontiers of Augmented Reality.

Retail happens at the convenience of the consumer. 

AR can change when and where brands build experiences, the discovery-to-purchase funnel, and how brands navigate the blended shopping experience. 

Three trends will lead retail AR: Try Before You Busy, New Discovery Dimensions, and the Gamification of Retail. 

The next decade of retail will no longer unfold on a brand’s terms. Digital transformation and the blending of in-person and physical experiences means commerce happens at the consumer’s convenience: on mobile devices, in between meetings, on the subway, and everywhere in between. This pivot will fundamentally change when and where brands build experiences, the discovery-to-purchase funnel, and the need for solutions that adopt the functional convenience of brick-and-mortar retail across any digital platform. 

This change is more of an opportunity than a challenge. Mobile AR in retail has unlocked three trends worth capitalizing on for brands seeking creative strategies for adopting AR across their retail experience. 

Try Before You Buy 

Apparel and home goods have fine-tuned the use of mobile AR to “try before you buy,” allowing consumers to scale clothing sizes to their figure using their cellphone’s cameras or gauge whether a futon will fit in their apartments. Brands that haven’t sought ways to activate mobile AR yet should jump on the trend. Those who have should look for opportunities to push beyond rendering individual products in mixed-reality to build entirely virtual closets and storefronts, in line with the experiments brands like Kohl’s, FaceCake, and Snap have pioneered.

Give consumers the ability to purchase, try on, see reviews, engage with a customer specialist, and more without leaving the comfort of their homes, and you crack the convenience code. Imagine the world of possibilities for more addressable marketing, influencer integrations, and social commerce.

AR isn’t just landscape for apparel and home goods. Food and CPG brands might foray into more AR content experiences that illuminate how their products can be blended to create exciting recipes. Picture Kraft or Nestle emblazoning their packages with QR codes that activate AR chef’s assistants on mobile to teach you the perfect way to blend pantry staples to make a complicated feast. 

New Dimension for Discovery 

The importance of convenience for consumers in the digital era doubles as an attention and discovery problem. Besieged by brand messaging, consumers have difficulty finding relevant and valuable marketing and promotions when they desire them. Those with smaller marketing budgets struggle to make noise in the din, barred from prime advertising real-estate. AR unlocks a new layer or dimension of marketing that can power intelligent, sustainable content opportunities to aid today’s brands in discovery. Location-specific AR overlays can add flair to major promotions, bring virtual participants closer to the brick-and-mortar experience, and transform common areas like subway trains or city parks into rich canvasses for marketing integrations. 

Savvy businesses might partner with regional publishers for guerilla OOH activations, placing QR codes at major city throughways that open up an AR directory of local retailers, shopping centers, and other nearby experiences. This would allow consumers to access an engaging universe of directional content while cutting expenses for regional media distribution and carving out more stages for branded placement and authentic advertising. 

Gamification of Retail 

The trend towards experiential retail underscores a key point about today’s consumers: digital experiences are never wholly individual. It’s why AR shows such promise for live events and retail. If you can add a layer of shared competition to your retail experiences, you can power deeper consumer engagement. Sporting apps that pit peers against each other to meet fitness goals could enhance that experience with an AR layer that allows for connection with nearby runners, displays local challenges like conquering a particularly steep hill, and rewards users with a coupon or digital assets.  

 In-store brands might roll out limited-time activations like scavenger hunts to encourage shoppers to engage with as many AR-powered product displays as possible to unlock additional savings at the counter. A retailer might also add an AR layer encouraging added engagement with overstocked items, bring product displays to life with virtual influencers rendered in AR, or use augmented reality content to add local color about in-store products. With experiments in NFTs and other virtual tokens and commodities, brands have an array of new tools at their disposal to encourage and reward hybrid engagement. 

What to do?

Our verdict: now is the time to experiment with and fine-tune brand-relevant strategies for working AR layers through the marketing stack. Mixed reality can be a serious investment. Brands should look for existing partners who can help deliver AR technology via platforms consumers are already engaging with to minimize the start-up costs of a new foray into AR. 

The question of budgets and investment aside, our advice about AR mirrors our advice about many new marketing frontiers: before running blindly in their pursuit, ensure the technology is additive to the digital layer of your brand. Ask yourself how AR will add dimensionality or a compelling new flavor of experience to the products and services you provide your consumers. We are bullish that AR’s value is creating shared experiences and enhancing convenience for today’s consumers. If your AR strategy doesn’t accomplish those two goals, you may be better off experimenting with other modern digital marketing tools. 

Finally, AR and the industry-wide focus on the metaverse is an opportunity to push innovation and creativity further than ever before. Don’t just replicate content and experiences in AR; redefine them. View augmented reality as an opportunity to unlock new ways to connect and communicate with your brand’s consumer base and zealously chase a more creative future. 

 

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