Virtual Reality is Transforming Digital Marketing. Are you ready?

Virtual Reality is transforming Digital Marketing. Are you ready?

By now you’ve heard the term “Virtual Reality”, perhaps in the context of the latest generation of video games. Many of us have seen images of people wearing big virtual reality headsets, immersed in some other world, as their body language and reaction to images reflect what they are experiencing inside the headset. But are you ready for what’s coming next?

The industry is poised for explosive growth and as a business owner you need to understand how this emerging industry may impact your business. Sales of headsets are predicted to top half a billion in the next 6 years according to investment firm Piper Jaffray. And Digi-Capital, a mergers & acquisitions firm, claims that the VR market will grow from nearly nothing today to $30 billion in just the next couple of years. With all this interest from key investment capital firms, early signs are that certain business sectors will capitalize on the technology. And for some very good reason.

As a business owner we are going to get you up to speed in this article on what you need to understand about virtual reality systems and technology.

Capitalize on early adopter VR opportunities in your marketing

The technology is changing rapidly. Depending on your industry and sector, your business may be able to tap the power of VR technologies to strengthen the ways in which you build customer value, and give your business a competitive edge. VR may offer your company creative new ways to distinguish your brand and your company from its competition. But you’ll need to act quickly to establish that first mover advantage!

A quick review: What is Virtual Reality?

VR, or virtual reality, is interactive software that puts the user into a detail-rich three-dimensional environment – that isn’t really there. The user dons a special headset to simulate a real experience that moves as they move. The headset responds to the users movements. As they look around inside of the headset, their environment responds to their movements. Think about the panoramic features on your mobile phone or in some photos posted in Facebook. But in the VR world the detail is sharper, and that world responds to your movements.

The experience creates the ability for the user to actually interact with the virtual environment. For example you might fight a dragon with a lightsaber, as you move your arms to respond to the movements of the attacking dragon. The advancements in VR technology open up some exciting new business applications. VR technology is no longer only the domain of the gaming industry.

VR is in its infancy when it comes to marketing, but the demand is growing rapidly and marketers are testing new ideas to serve their customers and attract new customers using VR technology. In the next few years we will see VR seep into many business sectors. For example, brands who value the Millennial demographic, will need to consider VR technologies to continue to be competitive. VR technology will become increasingly important to many sectors and markets.

What does all this mean for the marketing strategy at your firm? Read on to find out.

What Is The Difference Between VR, AR & MR?

There is some overlap between Augmented Reality (AR) and VR. Both of them are “virtual”. However there are differences in the technologies as well as the potential business applications. In brief, AR takes an existing experience and adds to it. VR creates an imaginary experience.

The business applications for each will be far reaching and transformative in our lives.

We are beginning to see AR being used on common devices like a smartphone, and employing tools such as GPS and a camera. A major advantage is that consumers already have this equipment, making some of the AR applications suitable for consumer goods, retail experiences, and entertainment.

In some of these fun new applications of AR, graphics and images are superimposed onto your device’s screen. AR doesn’t place the user in a virtual world or dimension like VR does. Let’s look at some recent examples.

Augmented Reality In Use Today

Do you remember the popular game called Pokémon Go? It caught the world by storm when it was initially released several years ago. Game participants used their phones to find the imaginary Pokémon in real world environments. The Pokémon characters would appear at certain locations when the game participant correctly guessed that location and travelled there.

Another popular usage of AR is being seen in the furniture and decor industries. Businesses like IKEA create an AR app for consumers to preview furniture at the comfort of their own home. All they need to do is point their phone camera at an area, and they can see how that piece of furniture will look like in their home or office. This will help them make the right decision before buying it at the store or online.

What is Mixed Reality (MR)?

There’s also a third type called Mixed Reality (MR). It’s a relatively newer technology and is a hybrid of AR and VR. With Mixed Reality, you can have a simulated environment experience like VR and the ability to see additional digital elements like AR. One example is Microsoft HoloLens that helps people in teams communicate and collaborate more effectively.

Can these new technologies benefit your business? We will dig a little deeper into the types of VR so you can better understand the technology. And from there we will share some exciting examples from early adopters who are rapidly transforming our world and their businesses.

What Are The 3 Main Types Of VR And What They Mean For Marketers

1. Non-immersive Virtual Reality

Non-immersive VR has been around for a while. This is a virtual experience delivered by a computer software, and in which you are not immersed inside of it. Instead, you control a character that is doing certain activities within the software on your computer.

You’re not directly interacting with it in your environment. And neither is the environment interacting with you.

This is commonly used in video games. You control a character. And you move the character around, interacting with the environment in a virtual world and it will do certain animations.

This isn’t only used in games. The US Defence Force is also using this technology to develop planning and strategies for the Army.

2. Fully Immersive Virtual Reality

Fully Immersive Virtual Reality is at the other end of the spectrum. You get the full experience of a virtual world, as if you’re physically there and everything is happening to you seems real in this enclosed virtual world.

The experience involves gear such as headsets, gloves, sensor and movement detectors. Your body movements, reactions and even eye movements are detected by the sensors, and the computer software provides appropriate responses. Your environment in this virtual world is reacting to you accordingly.

As you can imagine, the equipment can be expensive. Thus, uses are quite limited but growing rapidly as costs decline. Currently, fully immersive VR is being used in medical training where surgeons can carry out virtual surgery to gain experience and practice. This technology is helping to train and prepare surgeons, enabling them to attain a higher level of proficiency and success rate in their surgical practices.

3. Semi-Immersive Virtual Reality

Semi-immersive virtual reality falls between non-immersive and fully immersive VR. In a virtual world in which you place yourself, you can move around, either on a computer screen or through a VR headset.

Of course the experiences involving VR headsets or boxes will be more interactive. You can see the virtual environment and have a more realistic experience.

Some semi-immersive VR experiences are available on your mobile phone. As you move the phone in different directions, the virtual environment changes accordingly.

Semi-immersive VR is a good balance of cost and user experience, which makes it ideal for marketers.

Many businesses are beginning to use it to create virtual tours, and it’s success grew exponentially during the COVID-19 shutdowns of 2020. The experience can be accessed using a VR headset or with a web-based set up. For example, real estate businesses offer virtual open houses, hotels can provide facilities tours, and restaurants can share what’s going behind the scenes in the kitchen.

VR’s Heady Impact on Digital Marketing

Virtual reality technology is bringing a convergence of the physical and digital worlds, according to Smart Insights. Sales of VR headsets are expected to surpass half a billion in sales by 2025 and with this growth, the costs of headsets will continue to fall. This means that as awareness regarding VR grows digital marketers will find ever more unique opportunities to use the technology.

This is a great time for your brand to consider the technology as part of an Experiential or Event Marketing activation. Creating a fun and novel brand-related experience with a VR game at your booth at trade show is a great way to attract attention and lots of new consumers to your brand. Develop a creative virtual reality experience that they will want to share over social and digital channels, and your VR content will go viral!

Using VR to distinguish your brand from the competition will provide a huge competitive advantage. Embracing the platform early means you’ll have the chance to test and innovate before the technology goes mainstream. When it does, you’ll be at the forefront.

The Current State of VR

According to Convince and Convert in their article, What the Rise of Virtual Reality Means for Marketers, big companies including Facebook, tech manufacturer HTC, and Google, have big plans for VR. They are actively driving advancements in the technology. And regardless of the cost, companies are buying into it.

Most recently we are seeing content publishers rapidly adopting the technology. With big-time companies like The New York Times, CNN, USA Today, YouTube, and Facebook making the investment, the opportunities are impossible to ignore.

The New York Times has hired the world’s first VR editor, Jenna Pirog. Her job is to figure out how to apply the immersive video format to New York Times articles. The Times introduced its first VR Film in October 2018, with six more produced since then. The films are establishing an early advantage in telling compelling human stories.

Non-profits should be watching these developments closely, as should companies involved in advancing the human condition including health providers, social justice agencies, and environmental initiatives.

Does this resonate for your brand? Ask yourself this question: “What virtual adventure experience can we take our consumers on that will be engaging and informative?” Stay focused on building consumer value with your VR creation. Keep in mind, using it as a post-sale tool to build customer education can be as powerful as using it as part of a pre-sale digital marketing strategy.

Essential VR Marketing Trends Every Business Owner Must Understand

VR Marketing opens up exciting new story-telling opportunities for brands. In the article 5 VR Marketing Trends Digital Agencies Need to Know in 2019 some early successes are uncovered! Story-telling is the key component in each strategy, revealing that VR has a place in your evolving content marketing efforts.

VR offers new ways to tell your brand story by allowing your consumers to interact with your great content:

  • Conduct “Hands-on” demonstrations to allow consumers to see how your product or service works when a real demonstration is impractical.
  • Show off the final results of using your product or service. Instead of just telling your customers what the results will be, they can literally experience it for themselves.
  • Run a tour of your facility and provide your customers a peek behind the curtain, without the hassle of actual people crowding your workspace.
  • Use VR to raise awareness about your brand’s mission or vision. The essence of content marketing, VR is an impressive tool to educate and entertain your customers.
  • Foster intimacy with your brand. VR allows your customers to get up close and personal with your products, from the comfort of their own home.

Industries Taking A Lead In Virtual Reality

Footwear Company Shares Social Mission with VR 

Toms is a well-known shoe company for their charity work and used VR to increase the success of its corporate philanthropy program. Its One for One program provides free shoes to needy children with every pair of shoes they sell

Toms used VR to broaden awareness, evoke compassion for children in Cambodia. The program serves as a competitive differentiator in the highly competitive footwear industry. The use of VR enabled their audiences to gain an emotional connection and better understanding for the plight of these children, and the value of the One for One Program.

Furniture Retailer Helps Customers Redecorate Using VR

IKEA is one of the pioneers in the furniture industry. They created a VR experience where customers can virtually remodel their rooms with over 2,000 furniture items. They can even walk around and interact with the items as if they were real.

Customers also have the option to change colours and styles and immediately see how the different variations will look in the space. IKEA uses VR technology to provide excellent buying experience.

Auto-Maker Provides VR Test Drive Experience

Car company Volvo launched a VR app that allows car buyers to test drive their cars using a smartphone and Google Cardboard headset. Buyers can have the full experience from the comfort of their own home. Other car manufacturers are also following Volvo’s footsteps.

Experience Front Row Seat Among Celebrities at a Fashion Show

TopShop is one of the first fashion retailers to use VR technology. They give customers an experience of attending TopShop’s fashion show without physically being there. All you need is to put on a VR headset and you’re connected to the fashion runway among celebrities just as the event is happening.

VR marketing transforming digital marketing is a trend that is only going to grow throughout 2021. If and when VR makes it into the mainstream, marketers will be able to reach and fully immerse customers like never before. If you take the opportunity to start now, you’ll be able to get ahead of the trend and give your customers a unique experience they won’t forget.

Would you like to incorporate VR into your marketing? Book a call today to explore how VR may benefit your brand, build customer value, increase brand awareness, and grow your business.