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This past year, virtual (VR) and augmented (AR) reality technologies had a reasonably slow start, with the cancellation of major projects like Intel’s Project Alloy and the HTC Daydream headset. However, despite drawbacks like these, users and business owners alike still believe that VR has a bright future with a lot of potential. Some brands like Sony even saw their sales exceed expectations when it came to the release of their PlayStation VR headset, with over 3 million sold to date. Plus, by 2020, VR technology is projected to generate more than $20 billion in revenue, and reach a global market size of over $209 billion by 2022. Virtual reality, augmented reality and even mixed reality (MR) experiences are expected to dominate the digital space in the coming years. Why? Because 2D just doesn’t cut it anymore! We all remember the fire that Pokemon Go ignited — and it wasn’t just a frenzy, it was an international sensation. Users were enthralled that they could enter the Pokemon universe and interact with Pokemon in the streets, in their offices, and throughout their cities. And although the fire cooled to a slow ember for that game specifically, users still have a fascination and intrigue for VR, AR and MR technology. VR is the future of digital design and user experience. Are you ready? Brands Using Virtual Reality Business owners are looking into virtual reality not only for entertainment, but also to enhance their brand. Dozens of companies are currently working to integrate VR to their user experience, and some companies have already done so. A great example of a notable brand that’s welcoming web design services and VR into their UX is Lowe’s. Visualizing and conceptualizing home projects can be difficult, even when they’re illustrated. With the launch of their Lowe’s Holoroom, users can get an intuitive experience to constructing and viewing the room of their dreams thanks to VR and AR technology. IKEA is also a great example of a major brand embracing VR. However, instead of helping users visualize a room, they’re giving their customers the opportunity to go virtual reality shopping! Another company that’s offering VR experiences in a different way is YouVisit. YouVisit, an immersive tech company that’s powered by Aria, gives users the ability to dive into an immersive and interactive experience in 360°. You can participate in a virtual tour on a college campus, or view a hotel room all from VR goggles. Among their clients are colleges like Harvard University and Ohio State.

Starbucks Integrated Marketing CommunicationsFew brands have truly harnessed the power of integrated marketing communications as well as Starbucks. They embraced the concept of integrated and multi-channel marketing techniques well before most other brands, recognizing early on the value of, for example, a direct mail campaign that's supported by e-mail and echoed in social media. When it comes to the holistic picture of integrated marketing communications, Starbucks continues to blaze a trail that other big brands – and small businesses alike – should carefully examine. The foundation of Starbucks' strength in IMC is twofold: consistent branding and consistent customer recognition. Visually, the Starbucks brand is undeniable. Travel to any major city around the world, and quite a few less major ones, and you'll see the familiar Starbucks face peering at you from coffee cups held by passersby. You'll identify a place to get the coffee you love in an airport, or wandering down some strange new street. There are other brands for which this phenomenon also occurs – like McDonald's – but whereas the reaction fast food creates can be mixed (especially when the restaurants are very close to historic or religious landmarks, which seems tacky), the concept of a soothing cup of coffee or cooling Frappucino is almost universally well received. Starbucks is also meticulous about getting to know their customers, and maintaining long-term relationships. They've always understood the value of perks like birthday gifts, delivered via postal mail to customers like an actual present. And they have a website dedicated entirely to customer feedback. My Starbucks Idea brings together a global community of Starbucks lovers. Customer ideas can be voted upon by others and the company provides feedback. Some ideas have even been implemented. At this time, 214,553 ideas are cataloged on the site. My Starbucks Idea is powered by Salesforce, so there is a huge CRM component behind it.