There is no question that virtual reality (VR) is going to change the way marketers connect with customers. But today, the technology is akin to a dancing dog; it’s not how well the dog can dance that holds so much promise, but rather that the dog can dance at all. The questions at hand for marketers are “How much will VR change my strategy?,” “How should I use it?,” and “When?” And the answers are . . . “It depends.” What follows is by no means a definitive list of options. But if you’re ready for some thought- starters . . . read on.
“How will VR change my strategy?”
Not much today, but it will definitely have some sort of impact on your strategy soon. Today, a moderately spec’d, fully immersive VR rig, such as an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, will set back consumers nearly $2,000 when you include the high-end PC they require. Further, some estimates say there are only a few hundred thousand PCs on the planet that have the proper high-end graphics cards to drive the technology. That said, something as simple as Google Cardboard—the “ViewMaster” of VR—works with your existing mobile device to offer customers a rudimentary but novel and entertaining taste of things to come for as little as $15. In any case, the more your brand or product depends on “being there” to induce trial, the more you should be considering VR as an integral part of your media strategy.
“How should I use VR?”
Virtual reality uses real-time 3D rendering and motion tracking to transport users to a space/experience completely divorced from the physical reality that surrounds them. Slip on a headset and suddenly be transported to the surface of Mars, or to the Louvre, or behind the wheel of a Formula One racecar. That’s why VR could be a highly effective tool for marketers who need to introduce new concepts, ideas, and experiences. A few of the ways you can utilize VR to augment or change the way you market:
- Virtual trade shows
- Product demonstrations and test drives
- Virtual tours (existing properties and proposed builds)
- Immersive “commercials”
- Virtual live events
- Store visits
- Test drives
- Entertainment venues
- Experience testing
- Pure entertainment
VR, by its nature, is a scheduled, opt-in experience. The upside is that it removes any external distractions from users’ attentions. The downside? It also means, in this era of multitasking, that the barrier to gaining that attention—and user expectations for what that experience should be—will become increasingly high. So before you choose to implement VR, ask yourself if the experience offers incremental value to your users. Does it communicate more information in less time than a simple Web page? Does it offer an experience more entertaining than anything available from other cheaper sources? Does it offer a better way for customers to connect with your products and/or brand? If the answers are mostly “Yes,” then it probably makes sense to pursue this technology. If the answer is “No, but it’s VR!” then your budget is better spent elsewhere.
For marketers, virtual reality is ready to change everything... and nothing at all.
The truth is, at this stage nearly all VR demonstrations seem exciting, not unlike the collective amusement the world enjoyed by seeing the first remote webcam images of a coffee pot in Cambridge, England in 1996. But just as the web moved in just a few years from novel distraction to marketing necessity, so—eventually—will VR. And just as with the Web, those companies that rely on fundamental human nature and sound marketing principles for guidance on evaluating expenditures, rather than the novelty of the technology itself, will likely reap the greatest rewards.
Looking to add a little more depth (virtual or otherwise) to your stable of marketing partners?
Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies, more strategic than digital marketing shops, more creative than management consultants, and a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.