Virtual reality (VR) is becoming more of a reality to more people than marketers imagined just a few years ago.
The advertising and marketing pitches are increasing more each day, and companies continue to explore the possibilities of VR for consumers and businesses alike.
This article will consider some of the possibilities of VR in the future that are relevant today.
The key word to remember throughout the article is “experience” because that will replace the concept of “imagine.”
To illustrate the potential benefit using VR as a marketing mechanism, consider the recent advertising campaign by Samsung and its Gear VR headsets.
The subtleties are very revealing about the potential of VR marketing everything from alphabet soup to Yellow Pages ads.
In one ad you see people sitting in a sparsely furnished room, some sitting on folding chairs, and are using the Gear VR headset for the first time. The expressions and emotions displayed by the users take them out of their actual physical world and visually (and psychologically) transports them into a world they only dreamed of visiting in person.
In another ad, there are a group of teenagers using the VR headgear and in this case the locale is on a city street corner. Despite the noisy and distracting surroundings, the older man who is interested in what all the excitement is about places the headgear on and is immediately wowed by the experience, separating himself from his environment.
A third ad placed during last years Christmas season has various members of a family all opening VR Gear headsets and trying them out. Everyone forgets that there are other people there and that it is a Christmas gathering, retreating to their personal VR experiences.
The underlying theme here is that no matter where you are, VR will take you where you want to go in person
Now ask yourself if anyone has actually been in a bowl of alphabet soup, or entered a restaurant from an ad they were reading in the Yellow Pages.
VR has the capability and potential to take the person to the door of the restaurant, enter the restaurant, look over the layout, review the menus, meet the owner, and have a seat at a prearranged table all while never leaving their home – or chair.
They can have a virtual view looking outside the windows or see the difficulty of finding a parking spot (think New York).
Now move the local concept and expand it to a global one, calling it GLOVER – Global Virtual Experience Reality.
Everything from sitting in an Italian gondola to walking the sands of the Sahara Desert to walking down a Beijing street during business hours can be vacation advertisements to go to the country and experience the land and the people first-hand.
The goal is not to replace the actual vacation experience, but to give customers a realistic view of what they can expect.
Whether it is the New York restaurant or the smoggy, crowded streets of Beijing, VR can bring the sights and sounds from far away places home, and enhance both the customer shopping experience and their actual real-life experience.
Recent studies in neuroscience have concluded, the average person acquires between 80 and 90 percent of their information visually.
As the research on the importance of neuroplasticity continues, it is only a matter of time before much of the learning people will do will be through visual media.
Whether this trend will affect classroom education is yet to be decided, but it is clear in the consumer world the trend is already taking shape.
We need to look no further than YouTube to see the preference people have for visual information and entertainment.
The focus on education for marketers is how VR can be used to educate people about the company rather than just the product.
With an increasing focus on environmental issues and product safety, taking potential customers through the manufacturing process of a child’s toy can visually demonstrate the reality of everything from the choice of materials used, to assembling the toy themselves by being on the assembly line.
Automobiles have made the news recently for product safety issues. Creating a VR allowing a driver to install and test rear and side view cameras on a car can be used not only for education but for product promotion as well.
A company that implements VR technology in this manner can add value to their brand and to its broader reputation by extending the education to the formation of consumer groups that provide feedback on the products being offered to the public.
Whether the issue is product safety, environmental safety, or just a way to gauge consumer confidence in the quality of the product, a foundational VR experience can be an added benefit to the company and the consumer alike.
VR provides a learning environment that is both visual and experiential.
The element that has been missing from digital marketing is the experiential aspect.
Providing potential consumers with a way to go beyond a visual experience opens the door for a number of creative possibilities to move consumers from learning about a product, to actually experiencing using it.
Content marketing is perhaps the most direct way for digital marketers to take advantage of the changing landscape in VR.
The connection between VR education and customer feedback was established earlier. Now we can take another step in the VR evolution and use it as a means of collaboration between users within the context of a social media network.
Futurists agree that while VR is an excellent tool for education and entertainment, the maximum benefit from the technology exists when its users can both communicate and collaborate with one another.
This is true within the most successful businesses today in the absence of VR.
Two of the key concepts of the definition of content marketing is that it must have value to the consumer, and it must be relevant.
So, which of these two choices is more valuable – relevant information or a relevant experience?
And if it is a memorable experience they will most definitely share it with a friend.
Whether it is an ice cream flavor or a new song, it is the experience you want to share, not just the information.
VR makes this possible.
One person may like a new song and share it with someone else, who then cannot connect with the person’s personal experience so the new song dies on the vine.
VR is only a vehicle which to digitally market your products. It is not a technological replacement for quality content.
There currently is a VR type of content marketing on the Internet that many people have been exposed to – the 360 walk-through of a room.
Now think about how this basic application of VR can be extended to include walking through a supermarket and browsing through the movie racks or the clothing isles using a controller device – then picking one from the rack and look at it from a 360-degree perspective.
One place that many people cannot get to in a physical store is the top shelf.
With VR, you can take them up and move things around and locate what has been out of your reach forever just because you are not 6 feet tall. Ditto for items that are on the bottom shelves that you cannot see or reach.
If there is a single word that encompasses the potential of VR everywhere it will be used, it is interactive.
What makes VR different is the viewer will want to interact with the action, making it more likely the user will stay engaged, and therefore completely get the total message of the content.
Contrast this potential with the current average time of viewer engagement on YouTube of 10 seconds. Videos longer than a minute are not very likely to be seen in its entirety. Viewers will choose to voluntarily watch the entire content.
Three areas of VR application were mentioned in this article:
Yet all three are connected by the technology of virtual reality.
The underlying purpose and benefit of using VR are to disconnect viewers from the real world they live in, and send them to a place and an experience they are unfamiliar with.
That is the point of creating faraway lands, walkthroughs of manufacturing plants, and a simple journey through the local Supermarket.
Companies will benefit in three important ways:
There is an added expense in creating a virtual reality ad, as much as 3 times the cost of a standard video.
But research shows, more than 70 percent of consumers perceive a company as forward thinking when they use VR ads.
The technology is here.
It is up to the creative minds of digital content marketing to find ways to immerse their customers in a virtual world, keep them engaged, and then share the experience with others.
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