2017: The Year of Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is already the next big thing happening in the marketing world. Companies and marketing professionals are finding innovative ways to harness the power of virtual reality, giving followers and potential buyers the ability to connect with brands in new, powerful ways.
Audi shows car buyers an innovative way to shop for luxury cars using virtual reality. Car buyers can virtually lean in to check out the interior of the newest Audi, walk around the exterior of the car, have a seat behind the wheel, and develop a connection with a vehicle, all without ever having touched the actual car they just experienced.1 The company expects to expand its virtual reality experience this year, allowing shoppers to build and design their own car, prior to virtually walking the exterior, sitting on the inside of the car, and even test driving it.2 Thought virtual reality was reserved for video games and recreation? Think again.
Businesses should seriously consider ways to implement virtual reality in their marketing plan this year - 2017 is already on its way, and consumers are already showing preference to products and brands who offer interactive technology.3 The problem with virtual reality is that it can be costly for companies to properly develop, implement, and deliver the finished product.
There are practical ways to utilize new technology and platforms so that your business can develop immersive experiences for customers or clients. These practical ideas can help your business achieve an interactive, engaging virtual reality experience for your clients or customers. They may not seem like virtual reality at first, but once you realize how much your customers will be engaging with your brand and your products, you’ll agree that they deliver many of the same benefits as larger virtual reality experiences.
5 Practical Virtual Reality Ideas:
Here are 5 ways to feasibly incorporate more interactive experiences for your customers, without the huge price tag you’d see with most virtual reality systems.
1. Go Live
Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram offer ways for users to livestream a feed to viewers. Initially, this may not seem like virtual reality (at least, not compared to virtually test driving a car). But, going live can provide a realistic, 1st person experience for viewers.
Use live streaming to give potential home-buyers the ability to see a new home as if they were walking through it alongside a seller, builder, or real estate agent. You can interact with viewers by answering their submitted questions about the property, revisiting an area of the home a viewer wants to see again, or tailoring the experience to your tuned in viewers.
Does your company manufacture a product that’s beautiful, has history, or involves a unique and interesting process? Live stream it! Offer potential buyers the opportunity to watch one of your craftsmen or craftswomen build your product. Viewers can learn more about your product, including the process and the quality of the materials. You’ll also find that viewers may ask questions about materials or specific procedures. This helps buyers connect with your brand as they develop a stronger sense of who you are and what you do.
2. Virtual 360 Tours
Did you know you can work with a Google Maps certified photographer to create a virtual 360 walkthrough of your business? This virtual 360 tour is then featured on Google Maps for searchers, allowing them to interact with your store and products before they step foot in your building. You can also feature this 360 tour on your own website, once it’s uploaded by Google. Giving shoppers the ability to virtually interact with your store is an effective way to entice them, especially if your location features visually appealing displays or products.
A virtual 360 tour is affordable for nearly any budget. It is relatively simple to find a Google preferred photographer to create the images Google will need.
3. 360 Degree Product Images
Photo Credit: Verizon Wireless
Do you sell or manufacture a product? Then it may be wise to offer an interactive, 360 degree product image in place of a traditional, flat image. Allowing shoppers to rotate a product so that they can virtually interact with your product will provide shoppers with the ability to examine the product as if they were viewing the product in person.
Creating a 360 degree image takes time and some expertise. So, it may be easiest to discuss this with your web development company, photographer, or marketing team. If you’re a smaller company or you handle most of these marketing tasks yourself, then there are some other options.
Simply offering shoppers more photos can often accomplish a similar outcome. For example, Verizon features the new iPhone 7 by offering high quality photos of each side of the phone, as well as the option to zoom on each photo. This isn’t exactly a 360 view, but it allows shoppers to see each side of the phone.
4. 360 Degree / Panoramic 'Magic Window' Photos
Photo Credit: Facebook | Learn more about 360 Photos
360 degree photos are not new technology. In these ‘Magic Window’ photos, a 360 degree photo allows viewers to view a scene as though he or she were standing in the middle of it. Initially, these 360 views required visitors to scroll or mouse around the image. Now, however, some platforms allow viewers to move their mobile phones in any direction, offering a seamless and natural way to virtually react with the scene. This is where the newer technology comes in.
Facebook offers users the opportunity to create these interactive, virtual realities - and it is simple. All you’ll need is a mobile phone (preferably a newer model with a higher resolution camera) and a couple of minutes. You’ll create a panoramic photo, and Facebook does the rest of the work for you! Learn more about creating a 360 photo on Facebook
5. Customize Your Own
Photo Credit: Custom Ink
Companies who create products with customizable options can work with a web or app developer to implement this feature on their websites. By allowing visitors to visually customize an item rather than selecting options from a list and hoping the finished product looks nice, it creates a more immersive experience in which your buyer is virtually interacting with the product and your brand. This can increase your buyer’s confidence in their order, as well as in your product.
A ‘customize your own’ feature can be as simple as a product’s color changing when a color is selected, rendering an example of a monogrammed name on the product, or allowing visitors to see what their logo will look like on different colored products. Most popular websites provide shoppers with these features, which means consumers expect these features of reputable companies. So, it may be hurting business if you aren’t offering shoppers a more interactive experience prior to the ‘add to cart’ option.
Does any of this matter?
In marketing, virtual reality is largely a blanket concept in which businesses provide shoppers or clients with the ability to remotely interact with products, places, and brands. Virtual reality blurs the line between the consumer’s private web-based research and their overt interaction with your business (an in-store visit, an online purchase). Today’s consumers are well informed about the products they buy, the companies they trust, and the services they choose -- and this is because they are equipped with constant access to information via the web. Without providing your visitors with the ability to virtually interact with your brand or your products, it’s likely they’ll consider other options. Don’t pass up the opportunity to attract more business, especially when creating an effective virtual reality experience is within reach.
- Audi USA, Press Release, January 15, 2015, https://www.audiusa.com/newsroom/news/press-releases/2015/01/audi-vr-experience-the-dealership-in-a-briefcase
- Fortune, John Gaudiosi, January 8, 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/01/08/audi-showroom-uses-vr/
- Think With Google, Alexis Cox, November 2016, https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/virtual-reality-marketing-technology-ads.html
Kristen is our Conversion Scientist, and she specializes in analyzing web traffic data for conversion optimization opportunities. In addition to conversion optimization, Kristen is also our AdWords specialist. In her spare time, Kristen enjoys traveling, astronomy, her 2 dogs, and spending time with her family and her husband.