VR velocity: The new wave of virtual reality applications

Virtual reality promises deeper, immersive experiences, it just need to have the right data to make the most of it. CMO takes a look at the consumer and business applications driving take-up

Virtual reality (VR) has been in the market for around five years and, while it’s made an impact, we’re yet to see  mass adoption on the consumer side. But on the business side, it’s maturing as companies embrace the possibilities of the immersive experience. 

“Where it was once gimmicky in the early days, that’s changing … We’re seeing companies treat it far more seriously as a channel to communicate to their markets,” co-founder and CEO, Start VR, Kain Tietzel told CMO. "It’s an inevitable technology."

Tietzel points to the saying that there's two types of people: "Those who believe that VR and immersive technology will change the world, and those who haven’t tried it yet”.

He's not alone. Several in the industry see profound opportunities for brands to build trust with their customers through the sensory, deep experience of VR. 

“Authenticity is really important. Many people distrust big brands, seeing them as just there for profit, but VR can demystify that and create a deeper connection with that brand and that product by immersing them in that experience that helps them feel more connected with the brand,” CEO, Aurora VR and Revolution Shopper Marketing, Jason Bentley, explained to CMO.

VR can be split into two different camps - there’s the consumer side, with applications broadly focused around entertainment and applications for retail, experiential and advertising; then there’s enterprise, focused around training, marketing and communication. 

The enterprise side has different requirements and different constraints, which shape the style and pace of VR adoption, with considerations such as ROI, efficiencies and other business criteria. On the other hand, the consumer side has to answer questions around price, compatibility and accessibility.

The marketing opportunities, on the consumer side, are available through creating experience in-situ such as shopping centres or stores, and extending the engagement from experiential to relationship-building.

“VR can be used as a means to engage audiences, give them something deeper than they might experience through any other medium. It’s a way to attract people, get them into the experience and through onboarding. Then there are re-marketing opportunities through that,” Tietzel said.

Data-driven marketing opportunities

Given the opportunities VR presents for creating immersive, interactive experiences, travel is an obvious candidate. Qantas, for example, was an early adopter of VR, using the technology to showcase the travel experiences on offer in Australia. It aimed to hook people by letting them take a virtual experience and then incorporated a booking link. 

An alternative to a VR experience that takes place in a particular location is brands creating their own VR app and making it available in device app stores.

"This type of VR allows people to interact directly meaning “consumers can download and experience the content themselves at their own leisure,” continued Tietzel.

Tourism New Zealand is a good case study here. The team created a Pure 360 VR campaign with Aurora VR to showcase several locations in the land of the long white cloud.

Whatever the scenario VR pops up in, it's firstly important to have an understanding of the why you're taking up VR before embarking on .

“It’s not just tick a box, it should come from strategic insights from what you’re actually trying to achieve with the customer. Who is the end customer, how are they engaged, and what are you trying to achieve. And it should be driven from some sort of insight,” Bentley said. “Are you trying to acquire customers or provide unique experience to VIP customers?"

By way of example, Bentley noted a recent fusion of augmented reality (AR) and VR for Target from its catalogue so customers could engage with the products and in their own environments.

The data isn’t just at the beginning of the VR experience, either it’s also important to glean usage data from the VR experience to record metrics, whether it’s measuring ROI or engagement. 

“You can build Google Analytics into it to understand engagement, time, products interacted with and any product purchased. There will be many opportunities around VR commerce to come,” Bentley advised.

Read more: 10 examples of virtual reality marketing in action

Tourism Australia uses virtual reality and 360-degree views in latest campaign

The virtual campus

A wider use case is across universities, which are adopting VR as part of their recruitment strategies. This allows education providers to show their wares to prospective students, including where the university is located to show it’s safe and accessible, particularly for international students who aren’t likely to be familiar with Australian universities. The University of Technology Sydney, for instance, has used VR as a marketing tool to show the campus is safe and accessible and have published its app into various Chinese app stores.

VR is also useful to provide a virtual tour of other types of facilities. "You can answer questions and if a parent asks about science facilities, you can take people there virtually to take a look,” Tiezel said.

VR arcades are another initiative where people book in and can use a whole range of different VR platforms to delve into lots of different settings and experience. It’s used by some universities and other places, according to Bentley.

“The key thing with that is you can deliver higher end experience in that environment, sensory experiences - like being attached to an apparatus like you’re really flying or you’re under water with a VR headset on and you’re swimming with whales. They’re more dynamic, more advanced experiences,” Bentley said.

Up next: How businesses are transforming training, collaboration, health and safety and more via VR

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