Posted by Lee Jackson on Google+ & filed under Digital Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Virtual Reality Marketing.

Possibly, and with virtual reality headsets weeks away from hitting the mainstream market there are two polarising opinions.

One is that it’s set to be the technological breakthrough people have always dreamed of. The other is the Gizmodo way of thinking, where they liken it to “a load of shit”.

Not VR itself, but more the experiences that have been created for them while they’ve been using it, as they describe campaigns from Sports Illustrated and Samsung as “simply [not belonging] in virtual reality”.

Which is a compelling view to take. Gizmodo’s experiences so far have boiled down to watching videos with poor stitching and product presentations for phones which they insist they shouldn’t even need a headset to view anyway.

They’re fair points. They also highlight that they’ve had compelling VR experiences with Oculus Rift, and that their experiences are mainly from companies going “through the motions”. Understandable that they’re angry if that’s what they’ve been subjected to, and anyone who’s had a bad experience through lazy advertising is entitled to voice off.

 

Is VR Marketing Really The Next Big Thing For Businesses?

 

Only, the technology is still very much in its infancy, with the two expected big players Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus not even on the market yet. You’re going to be hearing a lot about it over the coming weeks and months, especially with Mark Zuckerberg himself endorsing Samsung’s efforts recently at the Mobile World Congress.

So, is virtual reality marketing a thing you should actually be concentrating your marketing efforts on, or is it set to be another flash in the pan?

What do you think? Is virtual reality marketing set to be the next big thing or is it set to go the same way as Google Glass? Let me know in the comments section below.

A pain in the glass

Ah, Google Glass. It was never a snug fit with the public, was it, with people being attacked for wearing one in some extreme cases. Glass appears to be officially dead with rumour that Google’s working on a new, similar project, but what makes it different from VR?

Advertisers are looking forward to a VR future because something like Google Glass was an outward, public thing whereas VR is undeniably more insular; something to sit and enjoy instead of walking around in public videoing everyone and everything, and generally making people feel uncomfortable.

And VR looks set to offer much more to shoppers than Google Glass ever could with research from shopping centre operator Westfield suggesting that 41 per cent of shoppers in the UK are interested in using VR headsets to experience their products and more of what they offer.

 

VR marketing looks set to offer much more to shoppers than Google Glass ever could

 

“It’s about creating an immersive and escapist type of environment that physical retail can own in a way digital never can,” says Myf Ryan, CMO at Westfield UK and Europe.

It’s interesting that Ryan picks up on the physical retail thing, and shows that our footfall theory is closer to gaining more traction. Installing VR devices in store may be the call to action that people need to visit shops, depending on how it’s used.

But what about the small business owner? They can’t realistically spend thousands on a virtual reality experience for their products, surely? How can they make use of virtual reality to attract customers?

Well, the simple truth is we’re not quite sure yet. No-one is until the hardware’s more readily available and we’ve had a good play with it, but there’s no doubting VR’s potential, and it may very well be the thing to take your campaign to the next level.

What are your plans for VR advertising? Is it something you’re looking to invest in or would you rather budget for other effective inbound efforts? Let me know below!

Virtually unstoppable?

It’s how you use it to complement your existing digital strategy that’s the key, and companies have been using VR to promote their business for a good 18 months or so now.

How? Through the incredibly cheap Google Cardboard, with brands simply buying a GoPro Hero and using it to make viewable 360-degree videos of their business and their services packed with original, creative content.

The North Face, for example, was explicitly created for users with Google Cardboard and made viewers feel like they were actually climbing the hills and mountains of Yosemite National Park. Simple and a massive PR coup for The North Face, with the marketing idea becoming a story in itself, picked up by a number of media outlets.

Another Google Cardboard campaign was created by Volvo and was used to create a virtual reality driving experience for its XC90 model. Again, nice and simple; all these are are video experiences that people can relate to and immerse themselves in without the brands having to fall over themselves having to learn new VR code, tips, and tricks.

 

A Google Cardboard campaign was created by Volvo and was used to create a virtual reality driving experience for its XC90 model

 

And that’s one of the key aspects of creative inbound marketing, to give people those experiences so they explore more of what you offer and keep coming back for more. Zuckerberg always has something up his sleeve, so until we get our hands on an Oculus Rift we won’t know how we can use it to explore the internet.

Will VR hardware be another way to reach out to a new audience and interact with people differently? Again, we’re not sure, but that brings us back to creative strategy and using a number of inbound channels at your disposal to research and attract the right people to both your website and your business.

There may come a time when VR campaigns allow people to visit your shop from the comfort of their own homes and pick up the product they’re interested in buying. Until that (Lawnmower Man) time comes, though, your best use of VR will be using it to complement your existing inbound strategy, and giving people something creative to think about.

If you’d like to know more about the future of inbound marketing and how a creative online advertising campaign can grow your business speak to Webpresence today.

 

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