You’re planning your next holiday but rather than reading reviews and looking at images of the resort you intend to stay in, you put on a virtual reality headset and are instantly transported there. You walk around the hotel, head out onto the main strip and wander past the shops and restaurants, making your way down to the beach where you can almost feel the soft sand between your toes and the sea breeze in your hair. You’re longing to get into the turquoise sea and so remove the headset and hand over your credit card.
It sounds futuristic, doesn’t it? Well, newsflash – that reality has already arrived:
Thomas Cook saw a 190% increase in sales to certain locations after the launch of their series of immersive 360° videos.
We’re living in a world where technology is evolving so fast that the future is already here and as a result many of us already fear that we could lose our jobs to robots.
However, with these advancements come new opportunities – particularly for marketing.
So, what exactly is immersive technology?
Immersive technology blurs the line between the physical world and the digital world. The environment created is so realistic that it almost feels real. Under immersive technology comes virtual and augmented reality, the definitions of which are as follows:
Virtual reality: the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.
Augmented reality: a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.
So, how can you adapt this to your brand?
Some news outlets have been quick to adopt these technologies.
The Guardian, for example, are already using virtual reality. When I attended Newsrewired last year, Nicole Jackson, deputy editor of virtual reality at the paper, told us the main reasons they have adopted it are:
- Important to innovate – they want to stay ahead of the competition.
- Potential for storytelling – offers a unique way to communicate the news.
- Places you inside the story – chance not just to watch but to participate.
This is important for news because, while still using the key principles of journalism, it enables the viewer to put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist – rather than detaching from their story. By being involved they’re able to see it from different points of view and have experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have had.
These experiences may be difficult to be part of – do you know what it feels like to be a refugee fleeing from danger? Hopefully not. But we are presented with stories of those who are on a near daily basis – perhaps some have even become immune to it. The images are still shocking but we’ve seen them before, the stories are no less harrowing but we’ve already heard them. By making it you who is waiting for asylum, Limbo encourages the viewer to get a better understanding of what it’s really like to be an asylum seeker.
Using virtual reality in this context can be achieved through 360° footage. Securing film content that fully illustrates the plight of a worthy cause can be an effective way to raise awareness and the technology to achieve this already exists. Much like Limbo, Conservation International have produced ‘My Africa’ to produce an immersive portrait of Kenya, with stunning imagery and narrated by actress, Lupita Nyong’o.
Although this can be viewed in 360° on the YouTube video, VR headsets can also be used to fully immerse the viewer and raise awareness of important causes.
What about retail brands?
Consumers don’t always visit brick and mortar stores now, opting instead to do online research. This is where gaming technology came in handy for Audi, who devised a global VR experience to ‘get people back into the showroom’.
Using game engine technology, Audi’s agency created the full car catalogue to show customers what their dream vehicle could look like with all the possible personalisations.
This offers a unique way to show off your product. A sense of exclusivity also lends itself to this approach, showing the customer how they can make their product truly their own – which in turn is likely to raise sales.
Some other examples of retail VR include Jaguar using VR to promote their partnership with Wimbledon through a guided tour with Andy Murray, engaging their target market while getting more from their sponsorship. Volvo offered a test drive of their new XC90 SUV via VR – a unique experience that helped build anticipation. Marriott transported viewers to their hotels across the world to give them a real feel of what they could expect and in Sweden, McDonald’s turned their Happy Meal boxes into ‘Happy Goggles’ – a cardboard VR headset.
Meanwhile, when Apple introduced iOS 11 last year it came with ARKit, which offered developers new ways to add augmented reality to apps and brands jumped on it straight away:
Sephora’s Virtual Artist: this technology enabled customers to see what products will look like on their face without having to actually put them on. It scans the face before overlaying lipstick, eye shadow and so on.
Ikea Place: the Swedish furniture store was among the first to take advantage of the new technology. Ikea Place allows customers to place the furniture in the home before they buy to see how it will look and save them the hassle of returning anything.
Dulux Visualiser: this app from Dulux avoids paint regret by enabling you to see what your walls will look like in your chosen colour before committing to it. As well as providing a wide variety of colours to choose from you can also colour match.
Hopefully now you have an idea of how VR might work for your brand and how using VR technology can create an effective app or easily PR-able campaign for your company.
Gaming will never be the same again
- Tech that literally envelops the user
Teslasuit is ‘the world’s first fully integrated smart clothing apparel’ – its many features make the wearer feel fully immersed in a virtual reality world.
Taking a trip to the sun? You’ll feel the heat.
An explosion happens nearby? You’ll sense the vibrations on your skin.
The gaming possibilities are endless with this tech. But how could your business use it?
It’s ideal for sport science, which can use it as a marketing tool while it’s the perfect opportunity for sports brands to stage PR campaigns.
Theme parks could even utilise this suit technology to create entertainment alongside AR. Imagine a Halloween trip to a theme park; the use of AR could make for a very effective – and terrifying – experience for thrill seekers.
Supporting your clientele on another level
- Provide better customer support
The XHolo Virtual Assistant shows how AR can be used to support customers or clients in many different capacities.
The assistant themselves can be adapted to your brand specifically, allowing you to establish a clear brand image. This would also be suitable for international brands who interact with customers or clients in different languages.
Providing your customers with an informative, interactive point of contact will help streamline their experience of your brand. Whether you’re a hotel chain, corporate headquarters, an educational centre, museum or even a computer retailer – this assistant has the answers and will provide excellent customer service.
They can even be customised for events such as dressing up for Christmas…
Predictions for immersive technology
According to The Telegraph: Research analyst company Gartner predicts that 100 million people will be shopping in AR by 2020. Likewise, is also estimated that there will be 171 million VR users by the end of 2018, up from just 200,000 in 2014.
Furthermore, according to an estimate by Goldman Sachs, AR and VR are expected to grow into a $95 billion market by 2025.
Image via weforum.org
Brands should jump on this as a way to enhance the customer experience – and as a result, engagement and ultimately conversion rate.
When it comes to advertising, immersive technology has proved to be 30 times more effective at engaging users than mobile advertising. Is it any surprise when we’re ten times more likely to engage with a social media post that’s accompanied by an image and after watching a video, 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online?
It will revolutionise the way we shop by immersing the customer in the product, service or experience – in a way that has never been possible before. It will also make it more accessible by allowing people to discover something that isn’t physically in front of them. Plus, it’s new, exciting and different – which is enough to attract attention.
If you haven’t tried VR for yourself and have doubts about how realistic it is, just take a look at this woman trying out The Shard’s virtual reality slide.
What you need to be doing now
To benefit, however, you need to not only keep up, but get ahead. Many brands are still working out how they can use it – if it’s even on their radar at all. Our recent Content Marketing Survey found that only 6% of brands are currently using VR in their marketing strategy and no one has it as their main focus for 2018. So you have the opportunity to be among the pioneers of this relatively new technology.
Right now, you need to determine how it can work for you, how it will fit in with your wider marketing strategy and then look at ways of implementing and promoting it. The tech is out there, you just need to work out how your brand can utilize it best! Make the most of the moment. The Guardian, for example, gave out free cardboard headsets to coincide with the launch of their VR app, that consumers could use alongside their smartphone.
Here’s the four main ways you can change the face of your marketing using this new tech:
- Raise awareness in a unique way
- To sell, through innovative presentation
- Create a full body experience
- Provide customer service that’s out of this world
There is no doubt it’s set to change the face of marketing. But, how far will it go? Only time will tell.
Ellie Roddy is Content Editor at Zazzle Media.