Is The Virtual Experience Economy Replacing The Experience Economy?


When the term was first used in a 1998 article by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore – the experience economy created a moment that altered the mindsets of the marketing community.

It was a natural progression, economists and ad gurus philosophized, to follow the agrarian economy, the industrial economy, and the service economy.

The experience economy was defined by its predominant economic offering, what a buyer obtains from a seller in exchange for money with an underlying “psychic load”. Consumers were not buying products as much as they were pursuing experiences that helped cross off items on their bucket lists.

In a report, 76% of customers said they preferred spending their money on experiences rather than tangible goods. However, the experience economy was destroyed overnight by the Coronavirus. Today’s customers are at peace spending more time at home but haven’t let go of their psychic load.

Enter the virtual experience economy – what market research company IBTM World refers to as the new phase of consumerism without the hangover of physical interactions. Customers expect businesses to deploy technologies that accomplish tasks, such as making it easier to order coffee from their cars or buy air tickets online. What they still expect is the delight those transactions should deliver.

What are the trends every tech-preneur should follow?

Using zoom-plus experiences

Many of us will be conducting meetings using video conference calls for the foreseeable future, whether we have Zoom fatigue or not. According to Grand View Research, the worldwide video conferencing market is anticipated to increase to $8.56 billion by 2027, showing a compound annual growth rate of 9.9% from 2020 until then. The main drivers of this rise are the change in views toward in-person meetings and the realization that a lot may be accomplished without taking a plane across the globe.

The virtual experience market, meanwhile, is raising the standard for video conferencing experiences. Zoom calls are already being transformed into enjoyable in-home experiences by creative meeting planners. Instead of having a sommelier lecture viewers about great wines on TV, they will deliver samples of the wines so viewers may participate in tastings together at home.

Virtual and augmented reality is used in some of the most intriguing Zoom interpretations. Wearing a headset allows attendees to participate in a meeting that gives them the impression that they are in a boardroom – or any other setting, for that matter. That’s one way to get the office cabin with a great view. Additionally, individuals can select an intriguing avatar or character.

Using the augmented getaway

While many customers crave a getaway from their daily grind, they are hesitant to board an aircraft. People choose a staycation this year because they feel the urge to connect with nature and the outdoors but are anxious about interacting with too many people. This has led to a rising market for augmented and virtual reality experiences. Virtual reality technology that transfers the use to a new destination is gaining popularity.

The travel industry may have been hit hard, but it’s working towards a strong recovery. If consumers indulged in revenge shopping, one can only imagine how vacations will be back with a vengeance. AR and VR are helping armchair travelers plan their future trips for when they’re ready to board an aircraft once more. Take the example of Holiday Inn Express and Atlantis Dubai, which lures guests with virtual room tours. AR-enabled applications can also provide information to visitors who point their smartphones at sites or create novelty experiences. The Seattle Design Festival held a virtual art exhibition honoring the artwork inspired by Black Lives Matter using the virtual reality software Amp’Up. In London, Holiday Inn developed an app to let visitors view virtual, lifelike photos of well-known sportsmen.

Is experiential learning the future?

Before the pandemic, Technavio’s research “AI in the Artificial Intelligence Sector 2018–2022” estimated a 48% compound annual growth rate for revenue-based AI-powered technologies. The pandemic-induced lockdowns only reinforced that experiential learning using AR and VR can be a gamechanger in the education sector.

For instance, Jon Spike, coordinator of instructional technology integration services at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, used an Oculus Quest virtual reality headset to guide students through the experience of disarming a bomb on the app Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes as a lesson in problem-solving and communication skills. Spike presented this activity at the conference IDEACON in February.

The Department of Chemical Engineering at Loughborough University in the UK is now using virtual reality software developed by Igloo Vision to teach students about safety in a real-world oil & gas process facility where there is no tolerance for error.

Workplace training is also being transformed with the addition of 3D experience.

For instance, an augmented reality software called Tradiebot instructs car technicians on how to proceed after overlaying the procedures on the vehicle to be repaired. UPS is currently using VR for driver training. Siemens has employed AR to teach employees how to install gas burners; the employees wear smart glasses with integrated training manuals.

It is a little unrealistic to expect the economy of experiences before 2020 to bounce back. The new world order includes the virtual experience, and businesses that adapt will lead the race.

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