Today’s report focuses on 3 topics: the concert experience of the future; using virtual reality to teach people with autism; and creating great customer experiences in women’s fashion by focussing on consumer pain points.
Virtual Reality (VR)
I’d heard a lot about VR since arriving at South By, so I decided to go to a couple of sessions on it today. The first was on VR and concerts, and the second was about using VR to help educate people with autism.
Virtual Reality and the Evolving Concert Experience
Ever wish you could be at Madison Square Gardens to see Lady Gaga? Or go to an intimate concert with Ed Sheeran? Or see Rhianna performing before she got big? Well you will soon be able to.
VR will enable to go to any concert, anywhere in the world, anytime. While sitting in the front row with your friends. Pretty cool!
VR and concerts has really started to evolve in the last 90 days, with some of the best so far being Jack White concert from Boston, a Chris Milk concert with Beck on sound & vision, and a Paul McCartney concert. There’s a long way to go, but it’s exciting to see how this space is starting to evolve.
What is the state of VR for concerts now?
A lot of pieces are there
- Cameras are there but will continue to improve
- Camera doesn’t move and doesn’t point at anyone, so people don’t act differently, meaning you get a true concert experience
- Sound is coming. You can capture sound well, but it can’t always be delivered well due to poor quality headphones.
What is not in place?
Less than 90 days since it’s been out, so there’s lots to go
- Headset adoption – people have to try the headsets on because no one has experienced it before. It’s tough to get it to the masses, Samsung just started selling devices through certain retail stores in the US
- There’s a shortage of content – a handful of concerts, some NBA footage from the all-star weekend
- Headsets need to get lighter and smaller, plus more immersive and take up your full field of vision
- Next step would be to have social cues within VR – most people go to concerts with friends, so you want to be able to have your friends in the experience with you
- The zoom environment (only manual zoom in VR currently)
- Need to make it easy for people with a vision to get their content to life in VR
How will artists make money?
Once VR takes off it will open up lots of revenue streams for artists, including:
- Pay to attend VR concert, with premium pricing for premium (e.g. front row), intimate concerts or backstage seats
- Advertising embedded in the VR experience
- Brand sponsorships
- Multiple versions of music videos that could be sold
- Selling experiences of the band practicing (for diehard fans)
The most important thing will be learning about the technology, and developing experiences specifically for VR, not just filmed with VR cameras. Jaunt is currently best in class, and Revolt have partnered with them to deliver a series of VR concerts in unique locations this year, so look out for those.
Check out #vrconcerts for more
Virtual Reality building healthier social brains
This was the most inspiring session I went to all week. It focussed on how the Brain Performance Institute (BrainHealth) is working with VR gaming to deliver educational programs for autism sufferers focussed on developing skills for different social situations.
Did anyone have a brilliant first ever date? Anyone think I absolutely nailed that?
No! It’s because you’ve never done it before, and your brain has to learn what to do in that situation.
This is just one example of a social situation that can be difficult. But for people with autism and Aspergers, there are lots of tough situations. They long to make friends but don’t know how to express their feelings and emotions, and they don’t know how to read other people either. Social cognition is the most complex data for your brain, and it takes practice for the brain to learn.
BrainHealth have developed a VR educational game for autism sufferers, where they can practice all sorts of social interactions – from going on a date, to talking to a teacher about a date, dealing with a bully, a job interview etc. It’s a 10 step program that teaches them how to respond in different ways to different situations.
The clinician and participant meet in person, photos are taken and avatars are created. At the meeting in the real world, the clinician explains what’s going to happen, and then they both go into VR world. A real world situation happens (e.g. bullying at school), and the participant engages while the clinician steps back and observes. When it starts to go wrong, the clinician pulls the participant aside in the VR world and coaches them as to what they want to get out of the situation, what ideas they have, etc. Then they resume. And it’s all a video game, so it’s fun and it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong.
It gives people a safe place to practice, and has been designed to transform the fear of the unknown into meaningful interactions. To date they have helped hundreds of people with some amazing results.
The crowd at the end came up with a number of ways that the same/similar technology could be used for other audiences:
- Training prisoners in jail on how to handle different situations when they get out, helping avoid reoffending and additional time in jail.
- Training hospital workers/healthcare workers to deal with difficult situations with different types of patients
- Training teachers to deal with different situations with different kids.
For more info check out BrainHealth at the Brain Performance Institute, University of Texas.
Solving Consumer Problems in Retail using Technology
This had nothing to do with VR. It was a talk by three senior women about how their companies have used technology to solve consumer problems in women’s fashion.
Megan runs marketing at ThreadFlip, an online marketplace for women’s accessories and fashion. It’s a bit like eBay except it’s full service, so they do it for you; Heidi is founder of ThirdLove, whose mission is to provide every woman with the perfect fitting bra.
Amy is also the founder & CEO of Madison Reed, which is reinvented hair colouring by taking out all toxins. All are running their businesses using direct to consumer models.
ThirdLove have used technology to improve the bra fitting experience. Based on the insights that women hate going for bra fittings and 85% wear the wrong bra size, they have developed an app women can use at home to measure themselves without anyone else’s help. You take photos from your belly button with the phone being the reference point, and from the reference point they can size everything else. In 5-10 mins you get your exact measurements and can order a perfect fitting high quality bra.
Madison Reed have reinvented hair colouring using a combination of digital technology and non-toxic ingredients. Their insights were that there’s a lot of very bad things in hair colouring, and lots of women make mistakes when colouring their own hair. They did research in 54 women’s bathrooms while they coloured their hair and learnt where people went wrong. Then they reinvented the hair colouring product and process, with a voice controlled mobile app that runs you through step by step instructions to make it easier and healthier to colour your hair. At the end of the instructions it automatically starts a timer.
ThreadFlip have made it easier to sell your good quality, but unused clothes and shoes. They used the insights that most women have good quality clothing in their wardrobe that they don’t wear, along with the facts that they think it’s too good to give to charity, but it is too much hassle to sell it on eBay. ThreadFlip have made it easy to sell these products by introducing a full service marketplace where they take care of the details.
How to increase conversion on mobile
The first point here was apps and the mobile web are very different and serve different purposes. In the case of ThirdLove and Madison Reed, the app serves as a utility while the mobile web has been designed to drive first time purchase.
When it came to increasing conversion, they talked about four major areas:
- Designing everything mobile first, so as well as standard design principles, considering things such as photo size and load time
- The payments system (as it’s a pain to put your credit card into a mobile) – this is phenomenally important
- Content and incorporating user generated content (especially images) into the mobile experience
- Tracking, analytics and regular testing
What current mobile technologies are largely untapped?
ThirdLove – personalisation. Creating a very unique experience for every person. They have another level of data about their customers that most retailers don’t have – not only do they know product preferences, they know body type, and what other people with same body types have bought.
Madison Reed – personalisation. They ask a lot of questions about your hair when you first come to the site including what percent grey you are and how often your colour your hair. This allows for reselling opporuntunties because they know when they will be out of product. Then cameras will get to a place where they will take your picture and show you what you will look like with all the different colour variants.
Threadflip – Have looked at what efficiencies could be achieved with users in close proximity to one another. For example, technology tools to facilitate a better buyer experience, so you can choose to get stuff sooner.
The commonality between all three was that they have all been successful because they have really focussed on improving the customer experience, and in particular on solving key pain points for consumers. The technology has just been the enabler.