Now that virtual meetings have become commonplace for everything from small groups top large events, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t capitalize on making the virtual space you meet in reflect your brand. We believe that virtual brand spaces, web-based spaces unifying physical and digital brand offerings, offer businesses an innovative way to augment existing communications touchpoints. Transcending geographies, pandemic-safe, accessible, and always on brand. What’s more we can help you create impact in six steps.
1. Test existing formats and learn from them
The global COVID pandemic has gripped the world for almost a year now. Right at the beginning of the crisis, many organizations were forced to virtually model physical events such as fairs or conferences. Individual formats that were indispensable were transformed at full steam into online events or virtual fair presentations. Accordingly, in most organizations, there is a broad spectrum of individual formats that were developed in isolation from one another. These are frequently neither technically nor visually consistent and do not pay off for the brand. In an initial review, all existing formats should be tested in terms of their functionality, the target groups addressed should be analyzed, and a decision should be made as to which of these should and could be integrated into the new virtual brand space.
2. What purpose does your new virtual brand space serve?
Virtual brand spaces are designed to meet a number of requirements: This involves not only giving the brand a virtual space, but also creating a digital ecosystem – a space for experiencing products as well as for the integration of training or events. A typical use case is the virtual expansion or the hybrid addition of a classic fair stand. Define what exactly your space will provide later on: For example, should it be integrated into the marketing process, to familiarize key accounts and business partners with your innovations? Or should an offer for end customers, freely accessible for everyone, be created – similar to a showroom or a shop? Even though virtual brand spaces are flexible and expandable as desired, a clear goal should be set in this phase in order not to overload the project with excessively high ambitions and unfulfillable expectations right at the beginning.
3. Who would you like to invite into your virtual brand space?
Identify your target group as precisely as possible. Core questions are: Will internal employees be the main users of the space? How great is the digital competence and what effect does this have on navigation principles? How complex can the space be without having a negative effect on orientation and intuitive navigation?
This also applies if the space will be designed for end customers. How much guidance do the users need? Everything is possible, from a curated and guided tour through the virtual brand space to absolutely free exploration. It is important to keep in mind that the application should be fun for users. Regardless of how complex the virtual brand space will be: All the end user needs is a web-capable end device (mobile or stationary) and a stable Internet connection.
4. True to reality, or experimental?
How will my brand look in terms of space, if the space no longer has set physical boundaries? A virtual brand space doesn’t need walls and doesn’t necessarily have to follow spatial rules. The visual implementation of such a platform can range from a 1:1 translation of an already existing space (e.g. a fair stand) to abstract, artificial constructs. Think about what kind of space suits the purposes of your use cases, meanwhile always taking into account that spatial design, even in abstract realization, should also pay into the brand.
5. You determine the framework for interaction
How should the user interact virtually with my brand and my products? Do I integrate simple text and videos, or let users “take products into their own hands” and explore independently? And if yes, what narrative creates the context? Should a chat function be integrated? Where would it make sense to go from a three-dimensional space to a “traditional” website? All of this affects the scope of the implementation and the contents to be developed. A narrative motif, action sequences, and offers of interaction should build upon one another comprehensibly, allowing for the level of knowledge, skills and motivation of the target group. The virtual brand space should remain exciting without becoming overwhelming.
6. Think big, but start small in implementation
Virtual brand space implementations are complex, and technical possibilities are now developing further at a rapid pace. Gather experiences and regard the process as iterative. Unlike material spaces, in virtual spaces nothing is set in stone; many things must simply be tried out sometimes in little test balloons. And often, product data are already well prepared and available in three dimensions, so that “only” designing the space and integrating media are involved. If you are starting from “square one”, you should plan on at least two to four months for developing a basic structure.
If the basic structure is already up, the space can be expanded as desired. In the truest sense, the room has no set boundaries.
Find out more about Virtual Brand Spaces and how we supported Kärcher in building one.
_Caroline Ernst is Client Director at MetaDesign's MetaSpaces unit in Berlin