From VR goggles to voice-based assistants, consumers today are faced with a rapidly increasing set of ways to experience content and interact with brands – but how many of those mediums will actually matter in the near term?

A panel comprising representatives from Pandora, Marriott International Inc and Samsung Electronics America discussed how brands are experimenting with emerging forms of media and the potential for these new technologies to become staples in consumers’ evolving media diet.

Toni Stoeckl, global brand leader and vice president of distinctive select brands at Marriott International Inc discussed the challenge of consumers’ worrying about privacy, following the introduction of a “Chat Bot-ler” to hotels.

Pandora senior vice president of strategic solutions Susan Panico talked about how her children, aged between eight and 12, only interact using their voice: “We have now moved from a touch world to a voice world.” Panico continued that Pandora wanted to ensure it was seamlessly connected to users wherever they went and that marketers should think about their sonic identity as much as their visual one.

She discussed how an audio ad might describe a beach which activates the “theatre of the mind”, with every user picturing a different beach, making the experience a lot more personal and humanising.

Samsung Electronics America head of VR marketing Bachir Zeroual stressed the importance of partners that are willing to test something new, measure the impact and compare: “We ask brands ‘What are you trying to achieve? How can VR disrupt that? How can we measure that?’”

Zeroual added that VR has been found to be twice as engaging as 2D, describing it as the “ultimate empathy machine”, activating senses that 2D can’t. Stoeckl’s company is using VR to design rooms, allow customers to witness the rooms and see what best resonates with them.

“Experiences trump things,” said Panico, of the finding that millennials are more prepared to spend on experiences than objects. With that in mind, Zeroual continued that there is a need to understand tech unique to an experience, like spending a day with a player or visiting a stadium before a Football match.

“People are looking for an experience they can brag about when they get back,” added Stoeckl, “people collect experiences, they don’t collect things, so don’t do something for the sake of tech, do it because it’s what consumers want.”

Panico discussed the false perception that voice activated devices were for young techy consumers, saying that a quarter of users were over 45: “Voice activation has become mainstream”.

Part of working in these technologies is having first-mover advantage, unlocking potential and new user cases, according to Zeroual. In his opinion, social VR will be the next big opportunity.

“You have to be in the space to try new things,” said Stoeckl, “one new thing leads to another.”

Zeroual added that the key is to truly understand your customer, what they are interested in and trying to achieve, while Panico stressed the importance of contextual awareness helping brands connect with consumers at the right place and time, making them willing to have their experience interrupted.

“The future of VR is B2B2C through partnerships with the right brands,” concluded Zeroual. “We can learn a lot of things about you but what’s important to me is how we manage to disrupt new industries. Data is most important.”