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How virtual reality is revolutionizing marketing

On the surface, the hype that tends to surround virtual reality (VR) seems centered around video games. In 2012, a Kickstarter fund for the Oculus Rift met its $250,000 goal in less than 24 hours- largely due to video gamers excited for the advanced headset to reach store shelves as soon as possible.

However, this blanket observation tends to skate over some of the other industries beginning to take advantage of the software. One of the industries utilizing the revolutionary power of virtual reality technology is marketing.

The incorporation of VR into the marketing strategies of some companies is changing the game. Here's how.

Market Research

Virtual reality as a tool in market research has thus far been a huge success both for customers and companies. Customers are given a VR device and walk through a virtual store choosing products like a normal shopping trip. While this is happening, analysts are able to study everything the customer is doing and looking at, which can help identify ideal product placement more quickly and with greater precision.

Not only can virtual reality give more accurate assessments of customer shopping habits, but it can save companies a great deal of money. In 2013, US for-profit research companies spent $10.7 billion on marketing research services, or between eight and ten percent of most budgets. Although the initial start up expenses are high, virtual reality has the potential to greatly reduce these marketing costs while still increasing sales.

One example of this in action is in UK supermarket Tesco. The company recently utilized Oculus Rift technology to create a virtual store. Initially, the store has been used for research and development projects to find faster means of reshelving products, re-designing store layouts, and improving advertising. Tesco has hinted that they may be designing stores that enable customers to shop using VRwithout ever leaving their homes.

Key VR Uses:

  • After initial setup, saves companies millions on market research expenses
  • Improves accuracy of customer behavior analysis

Customer Experience

A number of companies are also incorporating virtual reality into their sales platforms on the customer end of things. This is largely because of VR’s ability to increase user experience and offer potential customers the ability to ‘try’ products before purchasing them. Often times, the experience alone entices customers into purchasing the product.

MerrellFor example, the outdoor equipment company Merrell created a VR experience called Trailscape to promote the launch of a new hiking boot. The simulation takes users on a dangerous mountain hike with steep cliffs, rope walkways, and difficult terrain in order to give them a full hiking experience to try the boots in. Trailscape was showcased at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was the first walkaround commercial virtual reality simulation. However, it is just one of a variety of ways VR is improving customer experience.

Another company that is utilizing virtual reality to improve customer satisfaction is Marriott hotels. The hotel chain created a virtual experience called the Teleporterthat enables users to visit one of their luxury hotels across the globe. Not only do users visit the hotels, but they are able to see a number of the local attractions nearby. VR can help potential hotel guests ‘experience’ what they want to do on their next vacation before purchasing flights.

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Key VR Uses:

  • Offer unique customer experiences that edge out competition
  • Improve customer satisfaction with a ‘try before you buy’ opportunity

Extending the Market

 Finally, VR is doing a lot to expand the marketing area of businesses that have previously been limited to a more local influence. For instance, in the realm of real estate, virtual reality is allowing agents to showcase more homes in a given day. Rather than driving across town to see homes, agents have potential buyers use VR devices to view the properties that interest them.

The technology can also make showing homes easier as the agent can see exactly where the attention of the buyers is focused and cater to that focus. Furthermore, agents can show homes outside of their typical jurisdiction. For example, buyers may be interested in luxury homes in Europe, but can meet with agents in New York and use virtual reality to view homes across the globe.

Additionally, VR offers a way to interest new customers that would previously never consider your product. For instance Alberto Perlman, CEO of Zumba, released a three and a half minute 360 degree virtual reality zumba videothat allows users to experience what a class would be like. Because the video is free to anyone with a VR headset that is interested, it can be a great way in which to try out the class without fully committing to going. It's been a great way to attract customers that normally wouldn’t see themselves attending a class.

Key VR Uses:

  • Expand market area outside of local influence
  • Build interest in products for customers outside of ‘the typical sales loop’

 


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Although the rollout has been slow, virtual reality is beginning to make its way into the hands of marketing professionals. As they have begun incorporating the technology into their workflows they have often been met with both more in-depth understanding of the marketing research arena and more excited customers. We can only look forward to where the next VR advancements will take us!

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