Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality: Which One Makes for a Better Customer Experience?

Illustrator: Adan Augusto
virtual reality and augmented reality customer experience

The ways that people are using virtual reality and augmented reality in different settings continues to grow. From using VR and AR in the classroom to facilitate learning to offering unique shopping experiences, there is no doubt that these two types of reality technologies are going nowhere soon. 

At the moment, we are only starting to understand and utilize the capabilities that these technologies can bring to our world and the digital landscape. 

So, if you are a business owner looking to create the ultimate customer experience, which reality technology would be better for you, and how would you like to interact with your customers?

Let’s look at some of the ways business owners are currently using VR and AR to reach their customers and how these technologies can help internal operations by improving efficiency. 

How do VR and AR Work?

Before we can start discussing how businesses use reality technology to interact with customers and improve internal processes, we should quickly understand how these technologies work. 

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality creates a virtual world using rendered 3D images to create an entirely immersive experience in an interactive environmental simulation a user experiences through a VR headset.

The 3D images required to create these immersive environments are huge regarding file size. That is why these images are typically rendered using the computing capabilities of cloud services like Amazon Web Services or the Google Cloud Platform and then streamed directly into a personal VR headset. 

As more individuals and companies become increasingly reliant on the cloud for different aspects of their lives — cybersecurity, SaaS, business, and entertainment — companies like Amazon and Google have made massive investments to ensure cloud security for all data transmitted through or stored on the cloud. 

Augmented Reality

AR is different from VR in that it simply adds digital elements like images, texts, and other forms of media to your live real-life surroundings rather than immersing you into a completely different virtual environment. The computing power necessary to make AR a truly interactive experience is astounding. 

Augmented reality technology needs to accurately register real and virtual objects in real-time within a user’s immediate environment and overlay sensory information. The sensory information can be visual, audio, haptic, olfactory, or somatosensory. 

How do Businesses Use VR and AR to Enhance Customer Experience and Improve Processes?

When it comes to using VR and AR in the business world, there are two main types of use — external-facing and internal-facing.

External-facing uses include utilizing VR and AR to enhance the customer experience. Internal-facing VR and AR can increase organizational efficiency and enhance employee experience. 

Let’s look at some of the ways companies are using VR and AR to enhance both the external and internal-facing operations of their business activities. 

External-Facing VR and AR

When it comes to how a business interacts with its customers, there are many ways that VR and AR can be used to their advantage, including: 

  • Customer support: One of the companies' biggest challenges is to address all customer concerns as fast as possible while trying to save resources. Many companies use AI-powered chatbots to give customers the immediate attention they require. However, the scripted text conversations of the past are growing tiresome for many. Now imagine if a customer could interact with an AI virtual avatar using VR or AR. A chatbot represented through an avatar rather than a simple text message window adds a new level of personalization that can make customers feel appreciated as they wait for their concerns to be addressed.  
  • Customer shopping experience: VR can be used to create entire virtual storefronts where customers can browse and select their favorite products, add them to a cart, checkout, and receive their shipment a short time after. AR can enhance a customer’s shopping experience as they browse a brick-and-mortar location by giving product details, prices, and other relevant information to help them make a decision. By using an AI shopping assistant, businesses, either in the virtual or the augmented world, can effortlessly make product recommendations and upsell to customers to increase revenues. 
  • B2B quotes for goods and services: Business sometimes moves at the speed of light. An idea emerges, and a business owner may want to inquire about the products or services of another business, and they need answers, including customized pricing, immediately. Lengthy quote processes can cause a business to miss out on opportunities and new partnerships that could bring revenue and relationships that could be fostered for future growth. With a real-time VR or AR chat AI specializing in your products and services that can provide immediate customized pricing, you can seize more of those opportunities. 

Internal-Facing VR and AR

Though most of the industry’s focus is on consumer application, AR and VR technologies offer businesses many opportunities to improve employee skills and productivity as well. Here’s how internal-facing AR and VR applications can help your organization.

  • Conference calls: With the creation of the metaverse and other platforms that can connect people virtually, conference calls and meetings can take on a new level of interactivity and personalization with VR and AR. A presenter may be able to show graphics like charts displaying quarterly profits or projections to all participants who can interact with those graphics in real-time and digest the information in a more kinesthetic way no matter where they are in the world. 
  • Tracking real-time profits and losses: Having up-to-date information about profits and losses is a powerful tool for any business. Using AR to have an accounting team monitor real-time sales and expenditures can help a business stay current and make adjustments as needed to save money and address any immediate concerns. 
  • Employee education and training: Virtual and augmented reality are already being used by universities and schools worldwide to educate students by giving them an interactive tour of the great pyramids or by virtually dissecting plants and animals. Why not use them in the corporate world for education and training purposes, too? For example, augmented reality could be used to provide step-by-step instruction and detailed information to assist someone in real time on how to complete a task most efficiently. This can cut down costs caused by human error and ensure uniformity across an entire organization. 

So, Which is Better?

As a business leader, it is important to remember that you have two types of customers — internal and external. Yes, the external customers are the ones who drive sales and bring in revenue; however, the internal customers are your employees who are equally as important to the success of any business. 

When used properly, both virtual and augmented reality can improve the experience of your internal and external customers. But which technology is better for your business?

For internal customers, using VR and AR can improve processes and efficiency, making their jobs easier and the customers feel more useful and appreciated. For external customers, virtual technologies help improve how they interact with your brand. Rather than a faceless entity, you can give them a more authentic customer experience that is mutually beneficial and makes them feel like they matter. 

Regardless of the use you put them to, the capabilities of both virtual and augmented reality will be instrumental in the future success of every company.