Close your eyes and strap on your headset, Virtual Reality(VR) is here. We’re now edging towards a future where most of our interaction will be carried out behind the comfort of a VR headset. While exciting and revolutionary many businesses and particularly marketing departments are stressed at the prospect of this seismic industry change. In just a few years, VR Marketing will be a term on everyone’s lips. Is your business ready?

What is VR?

First off, let’s define VR. Virtual reality is an artificial computer-generated world you can experience and interact with. VR involves complete immersion in this world beyond our physical presence. Typically, a VR headset is a requirement for this futuristic experience. At its most primitive level, I compare the VR experience as similar to your eye exam with you sitting on a chair with your eye through the periscope. The outside world no longer exists and all you see is what appears at the end of the lens.

Many confuse VR with AR (Augmented Reality). While a correlation exists, they differ in one key way. AR alters your physical environment (or reality). Here, AR changes aspects of your present environment. E.g Pokemon Go allows smartphone users to catch Pokemon in their area as if they’re hopping around in front of them.

Many exciting innovations combine both AR and VR capacities for truly exceptional lifelike experiences. IKEA is introducing VR screens where you can place furniture in your home to see how it fits. Similarly, retail outlets are trialling VR department stores ejecting the need to visit your local store. Clothing outlets are also offering AR environments where you can see how clothes look on your body without actually trying them on. These innovations are still in their infancy yet offer an exciting indication of future possibilities.

The VR Market

While headsets are not wildly popular or available at the moment, experts predict the virtual reality market will drastically expand in the coming years. In my estimation, predictions of 120 million people owning a headset by 2020 are very realistic.The nascent VR storm is rising and will radically alter many industries.

The dentist industry is trialling using headsets on patients. Placing people in a different mental environment numbs them to present pain distracting their busy brains. VR is also going to transform our education system. VR offers the potential to immerse students in their study subject rather than passively listening to teachers or reading textbooks. Imagine popping on a VR headset transporting you back in time to a war period. Suddenly history no longer sounds boring does it?The integration of information in this environment will make education fun and exciting to kids. Personally, I find video a vastly superior method of learning compared to text or listening to teachers.

The VR Marketing Experience

Ultimately, the main objective of marketing is to connect with the consumer and nudge them to buy your product/ service. In order to connect with consumers, we need empathy. Not only this, but we also need an effective medium to use empathy to grab and hold their attention. Just so you know, VR is described as an empathy machine. It’s more than a way of playing video games. It offers the capability of bringing a person closer to the message giving experimental power to consumers.

VR marketing is a term we’ll become increasingly familiar with in the coming years. I believe VR will be at the root of all marketing campaigns within the next 5-10 years. Most new technologies instill businesses with fear. Change requires investment and investment carries risks. However, there is no need to fear VR. At the moment advertising is at a crossroads and needs a radical innovation to boost the industry’s effectiveness.

VR will heighten the marketing experience allowing people to immerse themselves in the product/business. This will occur with support from other closely aligning industries:

1. VR Photography

Photography my new hobby over the last few months. Studying this industry demonstrated to me its massive importance as a marketing and advertising tool. The impact of a well taken and high-quality photograph is something most of us don’t credit in the customer decision process. Yet, it plays a key role. VR experiences further rely heavily on photography to provide visual demos of the space to the audience.

Mounting Special VR cameras on a tripod at the centre of a room can provide you with a full 360 view of the environment. The camera spins taking photos of each area. Consequently, these images can be stitched together post production to create the final product. Speaking from personal experience, this 360-degree view of the space is astounding. These panoramic views offer a profoundly different experience to regular photographs. Overall, they allow you to mentally put yourself in the space.

Architecture firms and property firms are the most enthusiastic proponents of this technology. Harnessing VR allows companies to show people and let them navigate a whole house online without them ever entering the home. Instead, they can pan through the house clicking whatever room they would like to see.

Likewise in architecture, businesses are able to present customers with real life mock ups of the building providing people with a glimpse of their future reality. Amazingly the technology also allows them to design in the space.

2. 360 Video

The role of Video will be deeply immersed in the future of VR. After all, VR transports us to other scenes made up of videos. E.g Charities can show us 360-degree videos of a poor area in Africa. Thanks to our VR sets we’ll be able to look around at these people’s living conditions making us feel as if we’re there. In this capacity, VR will provide a great vehicle for good as it creates greater empathy as the situation appears so real. We feel like we’re living in these terrible conditions alongside these people.

The recent launch of Facebook 360 provides users with the opportunity of uploading 360-degree videos to their Facebook timeline. 360 videos present us with a Virtual reality like experience. As an advertising endeavour Jack Daniels recently launched their own VR video demonstrating the crafting and distilling of their beverages. In marketing and advertising, this can profoundly improve businesses interaction with customers in an engaging fashion.

3. VR Web Design

Recently, I saw a video of Mark Zuckerberg at a Facebook and Samsung joint VR technology launch. Notably, he was excitedly telling the audience of his dream for a VR website. This is becoming ever more possible and companies are attempting to create this reality. The impact will be extraordinary. VR websites will allow people to navigate the website in an immersive and explorative way as if they were in a store.

Experience it for yourself by clicking this link to A-Frames which teaches VR web design frameworks. While still quite primitive, the potential is incredible.

Living in a VR Future

Ok, while we’re not there yet, VR is certainly moving closer to becoming part of our present existence. This isn’t something we should fear. Businesses need to embrace this fact and embrace VR. VR Marketing is a term we should welcome not hide from. Businesses need to start preparing their marketing and advertising effectively for the coming dawn. The companies which aren’t ready will be left behind.

Finally, if you would like to discuss any aspect of preparing your marketing strategy for the VR future then get in touch with us for a marketing consultation.