Considering it was an obsession of the early ‘90s, the resurgence of virtual reality seems downright retro. Fueled initially by the glacially paced development of the Oculus Rift, the market finally broke open this year with the release of that product along with others like the HTC Vive and Sony’s upcoming PlayStation VR. Other successful companies have entered the market as well, such as founder James Iliff creation, Survios. There is also the low-budget, smartphone-enabled versions, a la Google Cardboard. And as much as we would love to relive the painfully bad CGI of 1994’s Disclosure or play a few rounds of Dactyl Nightmare at the mall, this generation of virtual reality machines seems to actually deliver on its promises.
So what can marketers do with it? A whole lot, if the current buzz is any indication. From McDonald’s to Patron Tequila, brands are getting on board with virtual reality as the latest thing. Smaller startups can look to them for inspiration as they test their own potential VR pilot programs and attempt to break into the virtual scene.
In-Person Product Sampling
IKEA furniture is hard to gauge from a flat catalog or web page, so IKEA created a virtual store to experience them in three glorious dimensions. Now, potential customers can not only get a good look at a piece from all angles, but they can assemble imaginary rooms out of IKEA components to get an idea of how each piece transforms the space.
Use cases like these can allow customers to get a sense of what something would be like without having to travel, something that can greatly benefit B2B startups attempting to pitch equipment or other un-luggables to various companies without having to haul a travel trailer around to do so.
Some brands have values that are hard to communicate on paper or in 30 seconds video ads. To get their point across, brands like Patron are turning to VR. Patron’s VR outing has viewers turning into a humble little bee that tours their Hacienda agave farm and distillation facility in Jalisco. Participants get highlights on the level of care that goes into growing and harvesting the agave nectar as well as how the resulting product is refined and controlled.
A more practical bent on this idea comes from Italian syringe-maker Stevanto Group SpA. They use a virtual reality app to show how their manufacturing facilities work, including the state-of-the-art machines that form the bulk of their process.
Other businesses can use this approach to demonstrate the values they care about most and what makes their brand different with interactive tours or themed escapes designed to deliver association in an unforgettable way.
Testing and Measuring
Virtual reality does not have to be all fun and games. Many marketers are hopeful that the reality-simulating capabilities of the technology can allow them to run market research on prototype products or experiences. For instance, a clothing company can ask people what they think of a new jacket without ever sewing a stitch, or an app company can measure user head movement as they interact with a virtual version in a controlled test setting.
One company, Touchstone Research, has already developed a cottage industry around testing products in a virtual environment, and many market research agencies are likely to follow suit. Startups can reap the benefits of these programs, or they could develop B2B products that make testing more immediate and accessible. In this way, the VR market is expected to grow by multiple vectors, reaching an estimated $150 billion. Are you ready?
If you said “no,” don’t worry. You’re not alone. In the ever-evolving digital marketing environment, virtual reality is just one of the many new technologies to adapt to. Make sure your campaigns are always utilizing the newest strategies and technology by working with the experts at EverSpark Interactive. To learn more about how we can maximize your marketing, visit our services page or contact us today.