Marketers have come up with all sorts of ways to woo potential customers. Optimized blog posts, compelling landing pages, social media contests, impromptu live video, pop-up shops – there are numerous online and real world strategies for connecting with and engaging customers.
The problem that every marketer faces is this, though: how do you get a customer to believe in a product or service if they haven’t experienced it yet? Virtual reality (VR) could be the solution to every marketer’s biggest dilemma, especially considering the industry’s outlook. Facebook and YouTube videos have 360-degree capability, making them perfect for VR immersion, and VR programs are also being used in industries that require dangerous scenarios for training purposes.
VR is a fast-growing industry that’s impacting all markets. For example, in the health field, VR creates immersive programs for budding professionals who need to train in stressful emergency room situations. In the tourism industry, VR places the consumer in their dream destination (and encourages them to finally book that trip). When it comes to marketing, brands recognize the power of VR to create engaging, innovative and memorable experiences for customers.
VR Appeals to the Senses and Emotions
A cornerstone of marketing is to appeal to the customer’s emotions – show them how they’ll benefit from your product or service instead of simply listing its features. VR puts customers right in the action, and the brain actually believes the body is in that virtual environment. Giving customers this type of presence in the new environment means all of their senses are impacted, too. Sensory clues connect with emotions, making the experience more impactful and memorable.
This is incredibly powerful when it comes to helping people make decisions or do things outside of their comfort zone. It’s used in fun ways for brands to sell more products, but it has deeper uses, too. For example, VR is being used in therapy to treat veterans. VR can replicate all sorts of environments to give the patient the specific treatment they need. The technology is able to change behaviors, emotions and thoughts through exposure-based, immersive therapy.
Living the Story is Stronger than Storytelling
Traditional content creators have to rely on all sorts of devices to accurately convey a story. Writers use description, filmmakers use cinematography and photographers use editing enhancements and tricks. VR doesn’t need any additional bells and whistles, though – by nature it is all the bells and whistles, and there isn’t a fourth wall that can accidentally pull you out of the experience. This puts the individual in the middle of the action to get a firsthand experience without being there.
Imagine what travel and entertainment companies can do with this type of technology and in some cases already are. Instead of describing a destination or event to a potential customer, they can transport them there virtually. A customer who is on the fence about whether or not to book a flight or buy a concert ticket can experience what it would be like on the beaches of Hawaii or among the masses at Coachella. VR has the ability to evoke a huge amount of fear of missing out (FOMO), which is something that smart marketers are already doing in their campaigns.
Fewer Distractions, More Focus
VR is entirely immersive, which means the user won’t get distracted by anything outside of what’s going on in the virtual environment. This is even an improvement on augmented reality, another digital marketing trend. Augmented reality places virtual components into the real world, but there are still those real world distractions for it to contend with.
VR is also different from another marketing juggernaut: artificial intelligence. The two may go hand-in-hand at times, such as to enhance the customer experience with personalized marketing campaigns. Artificial intelligence can help marketers segment their audience and then VR experiences can be created to target different customers depending on their stage in the marketing funnel.
In addition to providing a focus-friendly environment, VR applications can avoid ad-blockers, even if the experience is a sort of advertisement for the brand. Since VR experiences are so new and different, consumers don’t have the same disdain for them as they do traditional ads. A bonus for brands is that product placement can be used within the VR world, much like product placement is used in movies.
Since VR places the individual into an experience, brands have to put some thought into the experiences their customers want to have. For tourism companies, virtual tours of hotels or exploring things to do in the area can help them make a decision. For real estate, home buyers can browse available properties without having to be there in person. VR is also used in home improvement, helping consumers decide if a particular piece of furniture will fit in their home or coordinate with their style. Retailers can use VR to let customers interact with a product before going through with a purchase. The possibilities are endless for a number of industries who are ready and willing to try out VR, so long as they’re tuned in to what their audience wants.
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Sam Bowman writes about marketing, tech, and how the two merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.