7 Creative Ways Innovative Brands are Already Using Virtual Reality

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Once a sci-fi dream, Virtual Reality (VR) has become, well, our reality.  And its rise gives marketers the opportunity to provide their audience the closest experience they can get from a product, service or place without actually physically being there.

VR and AR (Augmented Reality) stole the show at the recent E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), a huge gathering of tech and digital entertainment giants and innovators to show off their latest toys and ideas. The capabilities of Virtual Reality shown off at the expo wowed crowds and dominated headlines.

As the lines between the physical and virtual worlds get increasingly blurred, VR offers brand new ways to engage customers. Marketers will have to evolve with this technology and its capabilities as it matures.

Within two years, VR technology will be a $4+ billion dollar industry, and you’ll have even more virtual options than you can currently imagine. But you don’t have to wait years or even months to start thinking of ways to immersively engage your audience. Here’s some VR inspiration from the innovative agencies and digital creative staffing of some big brands.

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1. Location Experiences

How does a restaurant, hotel, or cruise convince a potential customer that it can offer an amazing experience to someone who has never tried it?

A brochure or website, even with excellent images, will only get you so far. They can’t really capture the carefully crafted ambiance of a high-end restaurant or the luxury of a five-star hotel room.

But virtually taking a consumer to the destination and allowing them to walk around the accommodation, to look at the views, to be in the experiences, that’s the sort of tangible experience that gives a real sense of what it would be like, and sells it like no other medium.

A great example of this strategy in action is provided by Marriott Hotels. They’ve been offering freshly married or soon-to-be-married couples VR experiences of honeymoon suites and accommodations so they get an idea of what they’re getting into before committing to a purchase.

See how it works:

2. Showing Craftsmanship and Expertise

Much of the value for some products comes from the extreme care, thought, and expert touch put into their creation. Consumers love when their products are “artisinally crafted,” “hand built,” “designed to perfection,” and the like, whether it be meticulously engineered by a team of top scientists and designers, or painstakingly assembled by a master craftsman.

For brands that are proud of the way their product is produced, VR can provide a way of creatively sharing a production process, from ideation to design to execution, and tell a story.

Educating consumers on the brand in an immersive way demonstrates the immense amount of effort put into what they’re buying. And audiences are increasingly interested in learning about the origin and backstories of the products they buy.

This is the approach taken by the Hacienda Patrón tequila distillery, which offers their customers a 360-degree “The Art of Patrón” Virtual Reality experience at Patrón events, educational seminars, retailers and on the Art of Patrón website.

3. Sharing Limited Space as an Unlimited Virtual Product

Imagine if you could sell a 10th row, 50-yard-line seat at the Super Bowl or a coveted front-row spot at a Broadway theater as many times as you like. VR presents the tantalizing possibility to open up traditionally limited experiences to as many people around the world as are willing to pay.

Through live streaming content from a game, event or performance, people anywhere in the world could have a taste of what it feels like to be at the event even if they are thousands of miles away.

Video stream sharing services like Periscope are already putting power like this in the hands of anyone with a smartphone. Virtual reality takes that experience a step further with even more immersion.

The NBA, for example, is cooperating with Samsung to bring live basketball experiences to their global fan base.

Check out this courtside view of the NBA dunk contest thanks to the power of VR.

4. Enhancing Retail Shopping

The retail sector has the challenge of adapting to trends such as showrooming. Consumers still like to go to physical stores to shop–but not necessarily to buy. Instead, they might go elsewhere (increasingly online) to make the actual purchase. Why not get ahead of the trend and give your shoppers a whole retail world to explore in VR? Wow them and inspire them to buy your products.

Here’s how Ted Baker added theatrics, talkability and even a treasure hunt to a Regent Street store opening through offering VR experiences via cardboard VR viewers

5. Product Experiences

How do you convince someone your product is better than previous versions or the competition’s when a comparative experience is inconvenient for the user? For some products, the answer may lie in VR.

Take cars, for example. For a car, the test drive is surely one of the best selling tools there is. But convincing a consumer to make a trip to the dealership can be tough – not to mention ensuring you have the vehicle model, specs, and configuration that would most interest a potential buyer.

VR has the potential to configure the car to their needs and take it for a personal test drive, from anywhere at any time. Though this obviously can’t perfectly match the actual sensation of driving a car (yet), it can closely match a vehicle’s look, handling and road presence, at least enough to pique a customer’s interest and draw them to experience the real thing.

Lexus experimented with just that last year, integrating Occulus Rift technology with a driving simulation of their upcoming RC F model. Here it is in action.

6. Event Attractions

Associating your brand with an event through sponsorship is a common marketing tactic. Increasingly though, companies are looking for ways to be more closely involved with the event than simply handing out branded SWAG.

Providing immersive VR experiences for attendees alongside events can deepen the brand engagement and extend it well beyond a physical venue.

For instance, Red Bull offers VR experiences alongside its extreme flying races so fans can experience what it is like to be in the planes, not just watching from the ground.

7. Market Research and Testing

Investing in a new physical space is a huge undertaking, whether it’s a new store, a cinema or shopping center. So being able to understand how your customers feel about navigating such things as your new planned layout, color scheme and product range is vital.

Surveys and panels, even equipped with 3D visualizations, only give a limited amount of insight. However, a full VR experience can give a much more holistic, accurate and compelling set of insights.

Here’s how Tesco created a virtual store in a subway to test what consumers were most interested in before heavily breaking into South Korean markets.

What Marketers Can Do to Keep Up

VR will open up a whole new world of possibilities for innovative marketers that are able to keep up, and employers will be on the lookout for digital creative staffing that can handle the challenge. But as much as the technology will likely grow over the next few years, most professionals in our industry aren’t practically or technically aware of VR’s potential–and limitations. So what can you do now to get a head start?

  1. Take a page out of someone else’s book. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel–keep an eye out for success stories by other organizations like those listed above. Could you creatively apply a similar VR tactic towards your own work?
  2. Follow the major VR tech players. Though there are a lot of companies both on the hardware and development sides getting their hands dirty in VR, a few stand above the rest like the Microsoft HoloLens, Occulus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Sony’s Project Morpheus.
  3. Keep up with major VR news sites and blogs like Gizmodo VR, VR Reviewer, and Road to VR.

Article Source: Econsultancy

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