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If you are at least somewhat familiar with how virtual reality works, you are probably aware of its potential in various industries. It has already changed medicine and healthcare, the hospitality industry, education and many more. One might say the potential of VR in the coming years is almost unlimited. So, why not use it in brand marketing and product showcasing? There is no reason not to. A good marketer knows that VR can be used to attract and sell to a target audience. Here is why it is crucial to start using VR in your marketing strategy right away, as well as some ideas for how to do it.
What is virtual reality and how is it used in marketing?
Virtual reality is a form of interactive software that immerses a user in a completely virtual environment. It usually requires a VR headset with special lenses. The most modern VR software makes it possible for users to immerse themselves totally in the experience. By totally, we mean 360 degrees – virtual reality completely transports you to a virtual world that doesn’t exist. This might be an office, a cosmic space, or the bottom of the sea – your imagination is the only thing that limits you. So, it’s easy to imagine how virtual reality can be used to demonstrate and promote products to potential customers. VR marketing can be visual or multi-sensory, depending on the device and you can craft user experiences, engage them, and encourage conversions in interesting and innovative ways.
The hardware of VR
There are various types of hardware within VR technology. For decades, virtual reality was considered a futuristic and extremely expensive dream. However, this is no longer the case. It’s true that VR involves immersing a user in a virtual world using sophisticated software, and that the technology relied on clunky headsets and expensive computers for many years. However, the technology has evolved and the modern VR experience that can inspire both providers and customers is quite achievable and affordable. Virtual reality can be applied to different media, so it is crucial to choose the one that will let you design the right content and make good decisions when planning a VR experience for your customers. Currently, there are three top players when it comes to virtual reality headsets – Sony, Facebook, and HTC.
This is the simplest solution when it comes to virtual reality in marketing and product showcasing, being the primary way users can access the technology. The first VR head-mounted display was the Oculus Rift, which really took off as cutting-edge technology when Facebook bought it from a private company in 2014. Head-mounted displays use 360-degree positional tracking and OLED (usually) displays to prevent eye strain. The latest head-mounted solutions also utilize laser positioning and tracking technology so that the user is totally immersed in the virtual world and can interact with it seamlessly. A computer is required to run a head-mounted display, which can be expensive and cumbersome, but they are just perfect for marketing, branding, and product showcasing. For example, they can give you a major advantage over your competitors at trade shows. Imagine the excitement and interest generated by demonstrating your product in virtually reality where customers can fully interact with your technology as if they were using it in real life without any concerns over them damaging the product. At a car trade show, for example, not only could you show prospective customers the car itself, but you could offer them the unique chance to drive the vehicle in a VR space – an experience which your competitors could not possibly offer in the same space.
Mobile and standalone
As we have seen, one problem of head-mounted displays is the need to have a computer close by. With mobile and standalone VR hardware, this problem is solved. Mobile VR hardware is relatively cheap, with headsets (Google Cardboard VR, Samsung Gear VR) working with most smartphones and being sold everywhere. So, this is a very scalable solution that allows you to communicate through VR to a large crowd. It allows almost anyone to access VR technology, and for now it is the best solution to capture the attention of the masses. The best options currently available are the highly scalable, non-pc tethered Oculus Quest 2 or HTC Vive Focus.
Other VR options
Head-mounted displays, as well as mobile and standalone VR hardware, are popular, yet quite sophisticated options. However, there are other options for you to consider if you want to start your adventure with virtual reality. A very popular one (which has been used for many years now) is the virtual 360-degree tour. Unfortunately, in such a tour, the user’s immersion isn’t total, and their only interaction is to stop or play the experience. Users can access virtual tours on their computer or mobile device, or alternatively on a public VR device.
Why is VR the next logical step in marketing?
The use of virtual reality in sales and marketing strategies is an emerging trend. With virtual reality, companies can bridge the gap between experience and action. VR solutions can be used to promote products and services showcased as a digital experience. This technology also provides a great opportunity for companies not only to promote existing products but also to showcase development. In this way, you can grow customer interest in what you are creating. This provides you with instant feedback which can affect the way you develop your product or service going forwards.
The dynamic between customers and brands has changed. No longer do customers use ad blockers or clock out of ads as quickly as they can – quite the opposite; they crave new virtual reality ads to immerse themselves in a new experience. They come to you instead of you needing to attract them. They want to see and try products before they buy them, from testing a new hairstyle or test-driving a new car, to checking out the next travel destination. Virtual reality creates experiences that no other software is capable of. The user gets a unique experience and, most importantly, they get an unparalleled sensation of the product which leaves them with long-lasting memories. And this is something that builds brand identity and customer loyalty and makes you stand out amongst your competitors. Here is a quick summary of how virtual reality can improve brand marketing campaigns and product showcasing:
You can model users’ behavior by showing them how your product or service is developed in real-time. Customers have a unique opportunity to see all development phases and deliver feedback which can inform the subsequent steps of your project. Creating awareness is much more successful when you build chemistry with your users. Feelings and emotions are much more powerful than badges and attractive visuals. Instead of showing your customers a ‘Product of the year’ certificate, invite them to a virtual world where they can test the product themselves. It really works.
You can present your values and unique selling points in a simple and straightforward way. Developing an eco-friendly product? Invite potential customers to your eco-world. Show them what the production process looks like, what makes it so unique and special. This will be much easier for customers to understand and connect with than a list of certifications which can be quite obscure. And when you present your VR materials, you get feedback in real-time. This increases your brand exposure and, at the same time, gives you some relevant user insights.
You can (almost) forget about your logo. Thanks to virtual reality, you have a unique opportunity to build a real connection with users and potential customers. The brand is not just a logo. The brand is the history of the company, the experience it delivers to its users, the feelings it evokes etc. If you decide to use virtual reality in your brand marketing strategy, you will be able to switch to a more emotional approach that will pay dividends in the future (customer loyalty ratio etc.).
So, as you can see, virtual reality is set to revolutionize brand marketing and product showcasing strategies even further. Soon it might completely replace traditional forms of advertising. For you and your brand, it may be the key to becoming a pioneer in this market.
Read also about VR And AR In Financial Data Visualization.