by Ben Allen, Guest Contributor
Just a few years ago, immersive virtual reality tech was a concept left to sci-fi books and novels. Yet, with the successes of Oculus and other tech developers, this is no longer a concept that may pay off in the future. The technology is here and people are already making content utilizing it.
Virtual reality tech is the next big game changer in the world of marketing. This isn’t a fad that will die away in a year or two, but will be quickly adopted by households around the world. This process will happen quickly as tech companies find inexpensive ways to produce the tech, like Google cardboard, and bring VR to consumers without a hefty price tag. Marketers who adopt this new tech to their industry correctly will find it a useful tool for engaging their target audiences.
The Ultimate Form of Content Marketing
Some may consider VR headsets to simply be a television strapped to the head, and they will treat it as such. Interruption marketing will still be present as people watch VR YouTube videos, and it will still be a nuisance. Viewers will do whatever they can to avoid or skip ads and as time goes on, it will continue to become less and less effective.
Approaching VR has a wholly immersive experience brings a better understanding of what consumers want. They don’t want an ad to break the experience, so be a part of that immersion. Marketing with VR has to add to the experience, not distract.
At its core, that’s what content marketing is. It’s creating content people want to see. All you have to do is provide something amazing that people want to see in a virtual reality setting. You could tell a compelling story about your business, show the benefits of your products and allow consumers to see everything about it, give them a taste of why your products or services are better, or simply entertain them and build brand awareness. This can be through videos, photos, games, or simulations. VR will require marketers to be even more creative when planning and creating content.
For example, brands like Red Bull, known for supporting extreme sports, are creating 360 degree videos of their events that people want to watch. It places the viewer on the dirt bike in a race or on a snowboard at the top of the mountain. They further their branding association with extreme sports each time they release one of these videos. This idea takes what would be an interesting video to watch and creates a heart pounding experience for the viewer.
Unique Social Experiences
We understand that Facebook plans on having VR headsets to be a big part of their future. Every time Facebook has acquired a business, it’s impacted how businesses interact with consumers on social media, and their purchase of Oculus is no different. Already, we are seeing 360 degree videos on our news feeds, and once VR gear becomes mainstream, Facebook will favor ideas that utilize the tech.
It’s also a chance to help consumers connect with your business and employees. With a video, you control what they see and they are reliant on you showing them what interests them. With VR tech and 360 degree cameras, your consumers get to choose what they look at. It gives them the sense they are actually there, being a part of the experience, rather than an impartial third party.
With easy to use, 360 degree cameras, social media managers can take photos and videos of events and give their consumers even more insights into their business. A single photo can help humanize a company, but a 360 degree photo makes a consumer feel like they are standing in the business.
Virtual reality itself will create new social possibilities. There are different applications like Oculus’ theatre, which allows friends to watch movies together and interact with each other’s avatars. As the technology improves, companies will be able to host virtual conferences, webinars, and even customer support, transforming a lonely experience online into something more social.
Useful Sales Tool
VR not only is useful for creating experiences, but also allows you to give consumers a better idea into what your products and services are. Some VR headsets also come with a front facing camera, allowing users to utilize augmented reality. This differs from pure virtual reality in the fact that it shows the real world, but adds in certain aspects.
For example, if you sell products online, one big concern is the size of the product. Photos can help with this problem, and videos are even better. Using augmented reality can give you the ability to place a product in the home or office of your consumers. They can get an even better idea of what your product looks like and how it could fit in their lives.
Using VR for Market Research
Effective marketing is based on data. Digital marketers can learn a lot from a website’s data, like what pages visitors are landing on, where they are making purchases, and on what pages they are leaving the site, but there isn’t much of a dialogue between digital marketers and consumers. Virtual reality allows marketers to conduct thoughtful research.
Using virtual reality tech, it’s possible to create virtual focus groups where marketers can get honest reactions from real consumers. They can easily pick out people from desired demographics and have better control over what happens in the focus group. They can present these consumers with different products, advertisements, and content and see how they react.
Along with getting those honest results is the ability to also track what consumers are doing subconsciously. This includes tracking where their eyes go when presented with something for the first time, how they behave when presented with a piece of content, and how they react in various situations.
Adopting It Into Your Current Marketing
VR isn’t going away, so plan on bringing it into your marketing plan in the near future. A great place to start is with a 360 degree camera for photos and videos. Find creative and unique ways to incorporate it into your current marketing plans and go from there.
Ben Allen is a freelance content creator and marketer who focuses on staying on the cutting edge of technology and marketing. He also writes about small businesses, leadership, and occasionally geeks out. You can read more of his writing by following him on Twitter: @allen24ben.
IMAGE CREDIT: NAN PALMERO