The Psychology of Consumption: Preparing for a Virtual World


When it comes to the future of Extended Reality, or XR, we need to consider the ethical and moral consequences of using such a powerful technology.

XR is an umbrella term given to all computer-generated environments that either merge the physical and virtual worlds or create an entirely immersive experience for the user. XR covers three distinct categories: Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR).

With unprecedented real-world applications, XR has the power to enhance large swathes of the business world, from medical innovation to retail shopping and competitive gaming. For businesses looking to enter the XR space, regulation and respect for consumer data will be pivotal to success.

Brands should not underestimate the power of public perception, nor should they ignore the difficult conversations that must be had.

Doubt, mistrust and uncertainty

In the wake of widespread data scandals and the abuse of consumer records, many shoppers have grown wary of tech companies. Likewise, new technologies have a tendency of arousing consumer suspicions and trepidation.

According to research from PWC, 94 percent of businesses consider data on customer and client preferences as critical or important, but just 8 percent of consumers trust retailers with their data. It’s no surprise, then, that Facebook ranked dead last on AdWeek’s list of ‘how much do consumers trust the world’s 100 biggest brands.’

With the XR market share set to grow by 800 percent to $215 billion in the next three to five years, now is the time to consider the moral and ethical ramifications of using this technology.

Lessons from the smartphone generation

When it comes to the future of XR, it’s hard to fully quantify its far-reaching potential. The closest parallel may be the release of the iPhone in 2007, which saw an explosion of new business models, frameworks and innovations. Although the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone produced, it was the first one that was commercially successful.

While we can scarcely imagine a world without the smartphone today, this was certainly not the case 2005. Few, if any, could have predicted a hyper-connected digital world linked instantly and seamlessly by a global system of mobile networks.

According to a recent report by Deloitte, smartphones are now the most frequently used devices in the UK, and 95 percent of people who own smartphones have used them within the last day.

As mobile devices soar in popularity, a worrying trend has emerged: smartphone addiction. The average British consumer spends at least three hours per day on their phone, unlocking it more than 150 times per day(!).

In the smartphone analogy, we have seen what happens when society blindly adopts new technology without an honest discussion around responsible use. To avoid the pitfalls of mass addiction, brands need to lead with clarity and ensure an open dialogue can take place.

The need for an open dialogue

In the coming years, building consumer trust will be a crucial aspect for brands and marketers. At SYZYGY XR, we’re strong proponents of using this technology to enhance our lives, not replace them with a virtual world.

Clearly, we need to address these worrying behavioral trends and stem the flagrant disregard for keeping consumer data safe. This isn’t just a business problem, either. It’s something that must be tackled as a collective, meaning involvement from governments, regulators, businesses and consumers alike.

Our mission should not be to put everyone into XR. On the contrary, we want to understand these technologies and use them in ways that actually make sense. We must educate people about the potential dangers of misuse or overuse, which will help ensure that XR technology is used in the pursuit of valuable applications.

When you think about it from this perspective, XR is actually the most human technology and will enable us to catch up with rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. As humans, we’ll be able to learn faster and maximize our potential. But we must make sure this is done in a safe, responsible and reasonable manner.

Building trust in an age of doubt

 At SYZYGY XR, we recently conducted a consumer research survey where we polled 1,000 British consumers on questions about the future of XR.

Consider this: 72 percent of consumers believe that XR will become part of their daily routine as the smartphone is now. Younger generations are even more confident. In fact, 81 percent of 16- to 34-year-olds believe that XR will play a ubiquitous role in their daily lives.

Given these responses, it’s extremely important that we plan and account for the changes that are set to come. As the world hurtles towards a more immersive digital ecosystem, the convergence of XR and human behaviour will open a new window for discovery, interaction and purchase.

Our focus shouldn’t be on technology for technology’s sake. It should remain firmly fixed on the human experience.

When we use XR technology to enhance the user’s journey and solve real-world problems, then we can take one large step towards a truly “Augmented Humanity.”

About Author

Group XR Director at SYZYGY Extended Realities, Founder of Ars Thanea
Entrepreneur, speaker and founding partner of Ars Thanea, the award-winning CGI creative production studio, Bartek Rozbicki is curious about how to enhance the interaction between mankind and the environment with the use of XR. With more than two decades of experience in the creative industries, Rozbicki made his first career steps in computer design. He is especially interested in XR technologies: augmented, virtual and mixed reality and how to use those technologies to create additional value in business. He is also a renowned tutor and lecturer. He was a lecturer in Warsaw Gamedev School, teaching about business models in games and a panellist at China Bookfair (Beijing), Quo Vadis (Berlin), Viseult (Oslo), WebExpo (Prague) and DDD (Geneva, Milano) just to name a few.



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