Since March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the speed with which consumers and businesses have adapted and changed. Uncertain times have led to new opportunities, ultimately changing behaviors. Trends continue to show a faster adoption of digital communications, tools, and services that change the way we work, communicate, entertain, and shop.

A Reed Exhibitors’ study of 3,000 exhibitors and 9,000 attendees found that, on average, attendees and exhibitors have tried and adopted 3.5-3.6 new digital services since September. This same survey also noted that 65% of attendees and 57% of exhibitors believe that digital will remain strong even after the pandemic ends. 

Apple, Google, and Samsung are racing to create AR glasses to generate more immersive augmented reality experiences. Event platforms like Nextech AR Solutions are betting that the AR trend will grow stronger. With increased digital adoption of newer technologies across all business segments, event planners will need to reimagine how to:

  • Overcome technology resistance and drive adoption
  • Demonstrate ease of use to overcome technology fears
  • Use social media influencers to demonstrate, support, and immerse users 

“We want to bring AR to the masses as a business tool that is woven into the fabric of everyday life,” said Evan Gappelberg, CEO of Nextech AR Solutions. “AR is the future of so many verticals and we continue to build, grow, and integrate AR technologies into our event platform to help companies deliver more effective event, LMS, training, promotional, and ecommerce programs.”

Digital Events Aren’t Going Away – And They’ll Grow 23.2% from 2020 to 2027

Virtual events were on a slow growth pace until the pandemic changed everything. Revised forecasts estimate that virtual events will contribute more than $96 billion to the US economy by 2027. With such an aggressive growth, planners need to recognize the potential to reach both people who want to meet in person as well as those who may not travel. 

According to a Julius Solaris Event Manager blog, “Hybrid events are set to dominate the future of the event industry. While 2020 undoubtedly belonged to virtual events, 62% of event planners agree that the hybrid model will lead the way for B2B gatherings as soon as the threat of COVID-19 subsides.”

Now is the time to accept new technologies; refine digital event strategies; and deliver seamless, engaging, and immersive experiences, especially as we transition into the hybrid event model.

Augmented Reality (AR) is Changing the Event Landscape

AR combines real-world objects or activities with virtual, to create, enhance, or differentiate an experience. 

Augmented reality is already a part of our everyday lives. Have you ever noticed websites on which you virtually tried on glasses or rotated clothing and other products for a 360-degree view, or even placed furniture in your home to see how it fits? These examples of augmented reality demonstrate that AR is here to stay and will change the way we view hybrid or virtual experiences. Imagine creating AR product demos, adding a hologram image of someone speaking about a product, rotating a product, and looking inside or placing a product in your lab, office, or home. Ryerson University and Carnegie Mellon are just a few universities using AR to enhance their virtual lab experiences. 

“AR technology creates unique 3D digital content and holograms that are changing the way we engage and interact with content,” said Dawsyn Borland, Vice President of AR Innovation and Content at Nextech AR Solutions. “Consumers don’t need to be tech savvy to view or create immersive experiences. AR can be app or web based, depending on the desired use case, and is accessed by scanning a QR code or clicking a button. This innovative technology enhances the user experience, taking traditional 2D content, such as videos of keynote speeches or product pictures, and transforming them into interactive 3D, volumetric experiences that can be placed directly into your home or office.”

With global AR growth expected to reach $67 billion by 2027, planners need to take note and embrace the benefits of AR:

Ease of use – AR does not require the user to have technical expertise. For virtual events, the user scans a QR code with a smartphone. An app is downloaded and the experience plays on the mobile device. 

Enhanced experience – The user experience is no longer about merely watching a screen. Now consumers can view, interact, and engage with holograms, products, destinations, experiences, and more. The boundaries are limitless. 

  • Increased learning retention – AR can increase learning retention by creating engaging virtual labs, learning management systems, and training programs.
  • Process improvement – Engineers, developers, and product marketers can use AR to improve product development by interacting with product designs before they are released.
  • Tourism – Through AR portals, people may visit historic locations, as well as hotel and resort properties, or experience an adventure without leaving their living rooms. 

What planers should realize is that AR is a more advanced way to learn and interact with products, people, and places. Integrating AR changes events into an experience.

According to Think with Google’s AR Shopping Data Insights, advances in technology have made AR experiences more immersive, realistic, and accessible. More than 90% of Americans currently use, or would consider using, AR for shopping. Ninety-eight percent of those who have used AR while shopping found it helpful. What do these insights mean for hybrid events? Consider this: In a virtual showroom, AR provides a 94% higher conversion rate than products without AR. 

In other words, we’re never going back to the in-person-only events. Part of that is because people have discovered how comfortable it is to attend these events from their living rooms, but another part of it is because innovators like Nextech AR Solutions are providing innovative and immersive AR and platform solutions that engage attendees. 

Digital events will not go away even as in-person events return, and the overall success of your event all goes back to your event goals and the strategy taken to achieve them. These critical steps are the backbone of every successful digital event and cannot be overlooked. Start early, plan comprehensively, and be flexible. As a digital-event strategist, I can help you reevaluate your event strategy and prove value for your events. Let’s talk about how I can help. Get in touch.