Consumers seek and expect exciting things from brands. Moving beyond just products, brands must provide unique experiences to gain the love and loyalty of its audience.

In a recent BrandSquare webinar, Maxwell Luthy of TrendWatching offered five consumer trends that are changing the experience economy as we know it.

Watch the entire webinar here:

With improvements in hardware and software, with regards to virtual reality, we are seeing a massive shift from an internet of information as a search tool to an internet of experiences. Many consumers are now interested in emersing themselves in very “real” feeling experiences — things that stand out and allow them to participate in something new.

Welcome to the virtual experience economy.

This has been years in the making, and will finally become a reality as digital experiences, including augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), become real status currency for consumers.

Can you create virtual experiences that are a real status currency for your customers?

READ: Augmented Reality in CPG Storytelling: The 3 E’s of Consumer Interaction

While it is still important for brands to create something memorable that consumers will share, consumers are expecting brands to go beyond traditional measures to provide a way for them to fufill a fundamental human need by giving them the control to create.

As you may already know, half a billion (with a B) consumers last year embraced Pokemon Go in just a few months. These consumers experienced first-hand that they can go collect virtual experiences in the real world — creating their own virtual world. Of course, far more people are aware of the app now, which has led to heightened expectations for brands to deliver the similar sense of wonder and excitement.

With so much money invested in this realm by VC funds, we will continue to see a lot of devleopments in this space in the future. In fact, according to Goldman Sachs (Jan. 2016), $3.5 billion is the value of the 225 AR and VR venture capital investments made in the last two years.

Due to the advancement in technology, we are starting to see a lot of add-ons from brands looking to enhance consumer experience, like the VAQSO VR device that adds scent to VR games. While brands continue to introduce software that enhances the way humans perform, emotional intelligence and emotional conncections should also be considered amid development. Adding these elements is key to our emotional responses, memory and how we experience things — improving the virtual experience economy as a whole.

When the internet of things (IoT) becomes the internet of experiences, brands must not only connect consumers to experiences, but also allow them to participate in them.

If these digital, virtual experiences, are getting better by the day and can reach people around the world, what does that mean for your brand?

The virtual experience economy is an exciting new possibility for retail — providing a dynamic approach to storytelling that unlocks all kinds of new things consumers may otherwise not be able to afford or participate in.

Be sure to register for the next BrandSquare webinar featuring our Tim James, senior director of packaging and innovation: Structural Packaging 101: Insight Driven Innovation