Virtual Santa Visits Showcase The Future Of Digital Engagement Strategies

December 17, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_1833940126 Young family staying at home on Christmas holidays and having online lockdown party. Mom, dad and son looking at computer screen during video call with Santa Claus who's waving hand to greet them

After a year of virtual school, work and parties, it’s no surprise that Santa visits are now virtual, too. Like so much else in 2020, the holidays have been about making the best of a different situation, from ordering everything online to Zoom holiday dinners

Technology has been a big part of the story this year, facilitating the necessary connections of work and home life during the pandemic, and allowing brands and retailers to adapt to consumer needs. This year, many of the technologies and brands that make virtual life possible, and more fun, are creating Santa experiences and looking beyond the holidays to see what’s next in 2021. For companies like Cameo and Zoom, the future likely means creating opportunities for advertising and adding new features, while technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will continue to be used by brands and retailers to create more interactive access online for consumers.

Cameo: Changing How Celebrities Interact With Brands

Santa Claus may be the biggest celebrity of them all, especially this time of year, and Cameo, a video-sharing site where people can pay to have celebrity shout-outs sent to friends and family, is making it possible for kids to get personalized messages from the big man himself. According to Nicole Gallucci for Mashable, “The [Cameo] platform has a variety of Santas to book, ranging in price from $25.00 to $75.00. You can request a video from the slightly pricey yet extremely official-looking ‘Cameo Santa’ or ‘Santa J Claus,’ though if you're tired of classic Santa you can switch things up and opt for Santa in puppet form, a singing Santa, or even an aquarium-diving Santa.”

Looking ahead to 2021, Cameo is hoping to put a new spin on celebrity spokespeople, a concept many associate with z-list celebrities hawking bad music collections, but which Cameo believes can be reimagined. The Cameo platform recently hit “one million unique customers who have purchased 1.5 million videos” and has experienced major growth during the pandemic. The site hopes to leverage their newfound popularity into relationships with businesses like auto dealerships, which may not be able to afford a typical celebrity endorsement or major ad campaign, but can afford a Cameo pitchman. Cameo has created a self-service ad product that will make the execution of these campaigns more turn-key. Additionally, Cameo is entering into strategic partnerships with major brands like Don Julio and Call of Duty, that boost brand awareness and offer the chance for major revenue generation outside the $500 a pop celebrity cameos.

Zoom: Pivoting As The Country Returns To Offices… Eventually

Shutterstock_1837824535 Over shoulder view of Santa Claus video calling kid girl on laptop greeting child by webcam talk open Christmas gift box by virtual online videocall using computer sit at workshop table on xmas eve.

Although many kids have spent most of the last 10 months seeing their teachers and friends on Zoom calls, nothing compares to Santa. There are several different options for parents looking for a Santa Zoom call for their kids, from small start-ups that offer a variety of different Santa encounter packages to companies, like Santa’s Club, selling the full Zoom Santa experience, while also incorporating a charitable angle. 

After posting 355% revenue growth year over year in September, the future for Zoom now depends a lot on when and if people go back to offices and how Zoom is able to pivot their digital solutions in a pandemic-free work and school environment. With slowing sales in recent months, as Zoom reaches market saturation, and the promise of a vaccine that will get people out and about again, “Zoom announced more new products in October: OnZoom, a video events platform that will allow people to sell tickets, and Zoom Apps, which lets people navigate to other workplace apps like Dropbox and Slack within Zoom. Zoom sees these new products as commonsense additions to its core tool,” reported Rani Molla, for Recode. As Zoom expands their functionality, the capabilities could prove valuable to brands and retailers seeking to create personalized or exclusive experiences for their loyal customers.

AR & VR Experiences: Brands Plan To Continue Offering Sophisticated Virtual Engagement

Interactive experiences facilitated by AR and VR have seen a surge in popularity during 2020, and Macy’s adopted AR for their virtual Santaland this year, with interactive games and Santa encounters reminiscent of the in-person event that has been a tradition at Macy’s flagship stores for generations.

The use of avatars, AR experiences that boost ecommerce sales and AR/VR in the gaming industry have all gained major traction during the pandemic, and, as consumers get more comfortable with virtual interactions, are likely to be increasingly deployed in 2021. Many brands continue to take advantage of branding and promotional opportunities that AR filters and experiences offer in apps and across social media, with Snapchat a great example of a platform known for AR innovations and successful brand partnerships. Additionally, leveraging AR to let shoppers virtually try on clothes or arrange furniture allows brands to reach consumers in ways that the last decade’s online shopping can’t, with these virtual options likely to become an expected feature for consumers in the future.

Casey Campbell, managing director, North America at Gameloft, a video game developer, believes AR is going to continue to grow in 2021, with the technology offering delight and usability that consumers and brands both like. “AR’s ability to bring a brand into their customer’s reality can make for some fun and engaging moments, instantly shareable across social networks for increased reach and viral appeal,” said Campbell. Adding, “The technology is stable and established, and unlike virtual reality (VR), is readily accessible via most mobile phones. AR still has novelty and a ‘Wow!’ factor that means clever campaigns really stand out.”

Digital technologies that allow advertisers and consumers to connect have been successful in 2020. Brands that continue to innovate and leverage technologies that create enhanced experiences and connections in the future are likely to captivate their audiences with uniquely personalized experiences that result in sales.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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