Give Yourself A (Virtual) Reality Check

Marketing is facing its biggest revolution since the advent of the internet. Learn how Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are slowly but surely changing the game for digital marketers

Sarah Pritzker
March 05 2018

In many ways, AR and VR are continuing in the direction forged by video marketing. Content is moving from the written word and 2D images to visual delivery (video marketing), experiential interaction (AR), and fully transformative immersion (VR). The expansion of AR and VR challenges marketers to change the way that they present content, from a flat screen to an interactive or immersive personal screen. The marketing potential of VR and AR overlap, but they still need to be treated in different ways. Read on as we break down the difference and how marketers can use the technology for the most effective campaigns.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a more powerful experience than AR. VR creates an immersive environment which surrounds the user with a wraparound virtual world that shuts out all distractions from the outside “real world.”

Experiential marketing

For a long time, one of the tenets of successful marketing was to show the customer what you are selling, not just to tell them about it. VR takes that tenet to the next level through product-based experiences. One example is the VR campaign presented by Marriott hotels in 2016. Viewers could use the Marriott “teleporter” to teleport themselves to an exotic location through VR. It was extremely successful both for catching customers’ attention and for promoting Marriott as a top holiday hotel. VR is also pushing marketers to create experiential content.

Deep demonstrations

Virtual reality is particularly useful for marketing complex B2B or B2C products. For example, a software company can use VR to market its software to an IT manager. Through VR, the IT executive can view the ways that a digital network reconfigures server hardware in real time, or can follow the process of a digital firewall repelling a malware attack. These features would be impossible to present in any other way, because there is no physical image. VR can be used to model the way that any complex system or closed product works so that potential customers have a much clearer understanding of the advantages of the product.

Emotive marketing

Emotion-led marketing has always been effective. We already know that people make their purchases through their heart. The more successful a marketer is at tapping into the emotions of potential customers, the more successful the campaign. VR is a powerfully immersive experience that shuts out any distractions, enabling potential buyers to focus on the campaign storytelling. A VR campaign holds the potential to move emotions more than any other medium. It delivers stronger storytelling and a more vivid product experience. Think about spacious car showrooms that offer VR test drives. Customers can look all around the car, open the windows, and check out the stereo system to get a good feel for what owning the car would be like and how it would fit into their lives.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality is more developed than VR for marketing purposes and holds more practical potential for everyday use. Unlike VR, which creates a wrap-around immersive world, AR retains interaction with the physical environment by overlaying virtual images and information on top of the real world. The best-known example is Pokémon Go, which superimposed Pokémon characters onto the user’s actual environment.

Product recognition

One of the most immediate and far-reaching applications for AR is that of product recognition. Marketers use AR to identify an ordinary product in the user’s environment and display extra information about it. For example, if you saw someone wearing cute shoes, you could scan them with your smartphone to instantly learn what brand they are, how much they cost, and where you can buy them. By combining AR with GPS information, marketers can even send you a text with a discount coupon to buy them at the nearest shoe store. In order to utilize the technology, retailers need to prepare and update all the necessary product data and optimize it in the right format so AR apps can pull that information.

AR product trials

AR also holds great potential for enabling customers to try out products before buying. For example, in 2015, Home Depot released an app that allows shoppers to “see” what their walls would look like with a different color paint. Customers can use the app to test out various paint shades in “real life” without having to buy a sample. On the retailer side, Gap is among other fashion brands that has introduced a virtual dressing room that allows shoppers to “try on” clothes before they buy. In a very clever move, Ikea released an app that uses AR to enable customers to see how Ikea furniture will fit into their home. The Ikea app measures the dimensions of the space and shows the user what items would fit in that room and how they would look there. It’s ideal for promoting heavy, bulky items that aren’t easy to take home and try out.

More personalization for marketing through AR

A combination of AR and GPS location software gives marketers the opportunity to deliver better personalization in advertising. The former example of delivering a discount coupon for shoes shows how AR can be used to respond to the real life environment of each user. Through AR, any billboard can show multiple adverts at the same time, depending on who is viewing it. Marketers can present personalized marketing content relevant to the individual’s environment using smart glasses.

360 Video

360 video is not exactly augmented or virtual reality, but it does allow viewers to experience a space from all angles and intersects with AR. 360 video is proving to be a highly effective marketing medium – Hong Kong airlines’ 360 video campaign was 35 times more effective than their traditional flat video campaign. By combining AR with 360 video, hotels can invite future guests to walk through hotel rooms and explore the lobby or the pool. Interior designers and architects can display a walk-through experience of their latest project.

Customers need to visualize how the product will fit into their lives. 2018 is all about the transition from flat to immersive, so give customers the 360 experience they need to click the buy button and return to your brand again and again.



Sarah Pritzker

Sarah Pritzker is a marketing pro, always paying attention to -- and then writing about -- the latest marketing strategy trends. Then again, she also loves writing about finance, genealogy, and graduate school admissions. And then there's diamonds, travel, and healthcare management. Oh, and fitness. And food. You get the idea.

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