Virtual reality (VR) has actually been around since the 1950s. You read that right, the nineteen fifties. But it’s only in this current decade that the technology has achieved mainstream acceptance. Providing the opportunity for people to engage and interact in immersive experiences, regardless of where they are, VR is fast leveling-up from gaming applications to become a marketing tool too.
Virtual Reality’s Real Advantages
Virtual reality is more memorable. As Lao Tse said literally ages ago, “If you tell me, I will listen. If you show me, I will see. But if you let me experience, I will learn.” With VR instead of relying on an email campaign or product pitch, the marketing becomes truly immersive.
The Virtual Reality Society (yes, such a thing exists) also outlines additional benefits:
- Provides realistic scenarios in a safe, controlled setting
- Enables remote access
- Simplifies complex problems/situations
- Suits different learning styles in an enjoyable way that improves retention and recall
Applications of VR in Marketing
I’ve written before about the marketing applications of augmented reality. VR, though, is more in-depth. Instead of simply adding a layer to the existing, real-time reality (augmenting), VR marketing puts the customer or client into a convincing virtual environment.
Volvo was the first car manufacturer to get on the VR highway when it released a virtual reality test drive campaign with Google Cardboard to amp up enthusiasm for its new XC90.
JaguarUK took a different direction with its VR by inviting its customers to experience Wimbledon, which it sponsored. The viewer even ended up slamming the final match point as Andy Murray. See the video (sorry, you’ll need your own headset to get the full experience):
Fashion retailer TopShop also used VR to provide visibility and give customers a unique experience. The brand building VR experience took place during London Fashion Week and offered contest winners a chance to participate in a virtual catwalk experience. The VR event was held in a special pop-up space in the window display of the company’s flagship London store.
Hotel chain Marriott also uses VR to enhance customer engagement by offering virtual journeys. In one of their campaigns, guests step into a booth that uses heaters, wind jets, and VR headsets to teleport them to a new location. Starting out at a Marriott Hotel (of course) visitors might be taken on a trip to Hawaii or London. This transports them into a possible future vacation destination while boosting brand loyalty along the way.
At the same time, virtual reality can bring customers to the marketers’ home location. A university admissions team, for instance, might use VR at a college fair in St. Louis to lead a virtual tour of its Boston campus. Or, admissions could send a link to the video and mail an inexpensive headset to let international students (who pay more to university coffers) see the institution from their own phones.
Virtual focus groups can also interact with products from anywhere in the world. This lets marketers solicit information about product packaging or test placement on shelves, without having to travel to each new market. This not only saves money, but could also save time in already tight product development timelines.
Additionally, retailers are using virtual reality to do floor sets and get feedback from vendors and brand teams to ensure messages are communicated effectively. VR headsets are also being used to teach Walmart employees how to properly merchandise and even prepare for Black Friday mayhem. Running through these types of simulations in training, can also help with brand consistency across stores and, in the long run, enhance customer satisfaction with the retail chain.
These are only some examples of how VR is being used creatively in marketing today. Perhaps these will inspire you to come up with the next innovative use of virtual reality. Think about where in the buyer’s journey actually experiencing your product or service would make the most difference. Now make it happen.