The early adopter days of virtual reality tech are over.
Today, virtual reality is our reality. Millions of users are plugging in via their phones (Samsung Galaxy’s Gear VR and Google’s Cardboard), gaming consoles (Sony’s PlayStation VR) and PCs (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) every day.
Let me put into perspective how widespread VR has now become. Since its debut in 2014, more than 10 million Google Cardboards have been sold. According to The New York Times, sales of the PlayStation VR are rivaled only by Apple’s first iPhone launch. Nearly 1 million PSVR headsets were sold in the first four months following its release.
And as more and more consumers join the VR marketplace, it presents a unique and powerful market opportunity for brands of all sorts, allowing them to better engage their customers, create new revenue streams and stay on the cusp of technology all at the same time.
The VR Opportunity
VR allows brands to create interactive and realistic experiences that can engage existing customers, excite new ones, and encourage sales and brand loyalty simultaneously.
Let’s look at a few examples of how different brands are using VR today—and the opportunity these types of VR offerings afford:
- Realistic, immersive viewing.
Gone are the days of scrolling through endless, tedious text just to get to the meat of a news story. With The New York Times’ proprietary VR experience, stories come alive, and words on a screen turn into an exciting, immersive story. Available via iPhone and Android devices, the NYT’s VR allows users to “experience stories in an immersive, 360-degree video experience”—a great example of how VR can enhance and add value to existing customers’ experiences.
- Marketing and sales encouragement.
In collaboration with Gear VR, Marriott Hotels is now offering “VRoom Service,” which transports guests to hundreds of locations across the globe, all from the comfort of their hotel room. It’s the perfect combination of customer delight and sly marketing, offering in-room entertainment for the customer, while also sparking wanderlust—and hopefully encouraging future bookings with other Marriott locations down the road.
- Product development and improvement.
VR also presents a great opportunity for bettering product offerings for customers. Take Ford Motor Company, for example. The Detroit automaker is using VR as a part of its vehicle design and development now. With VR simulators, developers are able to inspect both the interior and exterior of all proposed vehicles, as well as sit right in the driver’s seat—all before the car is finalized and sent to manufacturing.
- Exciting customers and creating memorable experiences.
At CES last year, NASA turned a boring trade show into a memorable experience for many. With immersive, realistic VR tech, the NASA booth let users climb aboard and ride the Orion capsule—a spacecraft currently slated for launch in 2018. It was a trade show booth few will forget.
- Creating new products and revenue streams.
The American Museum of Natural History, the Berlin Natural History Museum, and the London Natural History Museum recently turned VR into a brand new stream of revenue. By making many of their permanent collections available through Google Cardboard, the museums were able to sell tickets to visitors anywhere in the world. Without geographic boundaries, the impact on the organizations’ bottom lines are endless.
There are also many new brands cropping up around VR entirely, like Next VR (which offers VR concert and performance experiences), MindMaze (which created a VR platform for use in healthcare and rehabilitation) and LiveLike VR (whose VR stadium can let you experience sporting events virtually with friends.)
The bottom line is simple: virtual reality can enhance and add value in boundless ways.
The Future of Virtual Reality
As virtual reality continues to grow in acceptance, you can expect more and more brands to jump on the VR bandwagon—and with more than just gimmicky, one-off novelty experiences. Instead, the VR experiences of tomorrow will deliver real value—both to the customer and to the organization.
Though virtual reality efforts by Marriott and the various natural history museums are a great start, the constantly evolving VR tech space will allow so much more down the road. Serving up realistic, first-person experiences, VR can give organizations a way to build empathy and add a human touch to customer relationships, and it can even be enhanced with spatial recognition and full-body movement technology to boost the experience further.
And that’s just with the VR tech we have now…