In a few years’ time, we won’t be asking you if your website is mobile responsive. We’ll be asking ‘is it virtual reality ready?’ With the lines between real-life and virtual life becoming increasingly blurred, virtual reality (VR) is set to be the next big thing. Allowing users to be totally immersed in the centre of the action, VR has the potential to revolutionise the world of gaming, as well as having a massive impact on the way we watch films. Not only will the entertainment industry feel the force of VR, but this astounding technology also has applications for design and marketing. Websites will become 3D experiences, fully engrossing browsers in the content of a site. An ideal way to capture 100% of your audience’s attention – what more could marketers want?
Typically through the use of a headset, normally connected to headphones and controllers, virtual reality (VR) allows users to be completely immersed inside a virtual world or experience, which they can navigate themselves (1). Unlike any other medium, VR gives you the chance to feel an unparalleled sense of presence. With state-of-the-art visuals and 360 degree audio, VR users are immediately transported to a destination miles away from reality (2). Be it a sublime beach in the Bahamas, or a remote planet in a distant galaxy, VR can take you there in seconds. It really is incredible.
The hype has spanned decades but now VR’s time to shine is finally here. In just a few months’ time, Playstation are launching their brand new VR system for the PS4, and for the first time ever, this amazing technology will be available to the mass markets. Gamers will feel as if they are actually inside the game, witnessing every detail in amazingly high definition. This unbelievable power of immersion is sure to have global gaming fans in awe. Another remarkable product on the market is the Oculus Rift. Forget just watching your favourite film from the side-lines: this gadget allows you to step right inside. The extra-wide field of view immerses audiences, giving a sense of presence beyond compare (2).
There is no-one who should be more excited about VR than marketers. Totally absorbing viewers in a unique way, this technology has the potential to boost engagement and awareness to supreme levels. It is immersive and impactful: fewer distractions mean individuals pay more attention to messages communicated to them. It could also leave a more prominent mark in the minds of audiences, commanding more intense emotions and therefore increasing the likelihood of brand recall. If that wasn’t enough, marketers who opt for VR sooner rather than later can expect to gain high media interest as it’s still a relatively novel phenomenon (4).
VR offers to provide viewers with the closest experience possible without actually being there. Therefore it’s a brilliant way to show off a product, service or place to consumers in the comfort of their own homes. Businesses could showcase tangible experiences such as holidays or hotels, by giving potential buyers a real sense of the destination, or perhaps market product experiences such as a car test drive by allowing browsers to sit behind the steering wheel without moving from their sofa. VR could provide shoppers with a retail world to explore by giving them the opportunity to peruse their favourite store without leaving the house – transforming the concept of online shopping (5).
Marketers could harness the power of VR to educate consumers in the background of the brands. With increasing interest in the journey from raw materials to shop shelves, showing production processes through VR is a great way to engage customers. Marketing managers could even use this technology for brand extensions by creating their own VR experiences unique to each product (6).
The influence of VR is set to revolutionise the way businesses operate in coming years. It could transform the recruitment process by giving potential employees a real sense of what a job entails, ensuring suitability for each position. Another application is in market research: companies can gain much more accurate opinions from customers with regards to new store layouts or product ranges when VR is used (6).
Wow – it’s clear there are numerous applications for VR, especially where marketers are concerned. The use of VR across a variety of industries is predicted to rocket in coming years as more and more people make the most of this unprecedented technology. It’s no longer just a fantasy depicted in sci-fi movies: VR is becoming widely available in the real world and is set to have a mind-blowing impact on marketing.