Whether its in retail, hotels or restaurants, consumers have the opportunity to do a lot more for themselves.
In its press release announcing its new Virtual Presenter, 3M says to "[i]magine a world in which you don't need to speak to a car salesperson to get a trade-in quote, or a restaurant hostess to find out the wait time, or a hotel concierge to find the hottest city attraction."
The company best known for Scotch Tape and Post-it notes keeps itself involved with a wide variety of technologies and innovations, and has incorporated its Vikuiti Rear Projection Film into what it says is its "first fully integrated, interactive Virtual Presenter," which it debuted at this year's South by Southwest Interactive show.
SXSW attendees interacted with three of the lifelike digital avatars through nearby touchscreen interfaces to get conference panel recommendations, learn more about 3M through a game-like interface and share information about their Virtual Presenter experience with friends on Facebook and Twitter, the company said, adding that the "addition of a programmable touch panel to the 3M Virtual Presenter now unlocks the possibility for countless interactive applications."
Bill Hibbard, the business development manager for 3M Digital Merchandising, said in a recent interview that the company has been working on the Virtual Presenter for less than a year and is looking at using it as a merchandising sales tool for targeted brands and targeted retail applications.
The company's first targeted retail application is automotive dealerships, he said, and is seeing it deployed to replace or complement a salesperson stationed in the service department, providing a low-pressure, non-confrontational opportunity for customers to learn about trade-in programs or other promotions.
"So in this application it is acting as a merchandising sales tool, and that's what we're trying to do at 3M in terms of focusing our digital solutions toward true merchandising applications that have a measurable ROI," Hibbard said.
Another example of a good use-case for the Virtual Presenter would be for applications in experiential marketing for key brands, he said.
"We're working with key brands to look at how you can create a fun experience in a public venue," Hibbard said. "So whether that's a concert or a sporting event, it can be used to engage consumers and walk them through a fun example of what their brand can do."
The unit also can promote products and specials when it's not being interacted with directly, and it obviously has "a ton" of potential wayfinding applications, he said. And the interactions can provide real-time measurable analytics and customer data for brands.
According to its announcement, 3M will be launching the Virtual Presenter in April in auto dealerships, "providing dealers with an innovative, less intrusive way to generate sales leads." And the company already is market testing the solution in dealerships in New York and Florida.
There have been previous stabs at similar virtual avatars, notably the Tensator Virtual Assistant seen at Duane Reade pharmacies in New York City and at London Luton and Birmingham airports in the U.K. Hibbard, though, said in the press release that the 3M Virtual Presenter "represents the next generation" in this kind of interactive digital communication, and its interactivity and analytics capabilities set it apart.
"While virtual presenters have been seen at trade shows, airports and drugstores during the past few years, 3M's new integrated, interactive virtual presenter provides the opportunity to capture data, generate leads, customize content and drive social engagement."
Watch a video of the virtual presenter below:
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