Monday, May 20, 2019

Opinion: Go smart (not big) in virtual reality | Advertising Age

Make no mistake: Virtual reality is still on the rise. By 2020, there will be 82 million VR headsets worldwide. And per International Data Corporation’s newly released “Worldwide Semiannual Connected Consumer Spending Guide,” the growth rates for emerging technologies like VR headsets are compelling. IDC estimates a five-year compound annual growth rate that surpasses 20 percent, and by 2022, it anticipates that more than 5 percent of all consumer spending will go toward emerging technologies.

Because of increased public interest, VR is transforming consumer experiences, yet many marketers struggle to understand how VR fits within their larger marketing and business strategies.

Great experiences are frictionless
Reality-altering technologies and experiential marketing can make a perfect pair, but to implement VR successfully, first consider accessibility. Just as users don’t want to wait for websites to load, consumers don’t want to jump through hoops to get to a promising experience. The more hurdles they must overcome, the less likely they are to engage in the experience.

First, make sure to cover the basics of the equipment before users enter the experience. If you’re using the Samsung Gear VR headset, for instance, make sure users know they can adjust the focus with a toggle on the top of the device. This might seem like a simple step, but if users don’t know it can be done, they’ll see the whole experience in a fuzzy haze.

Don’t overlook the things regular VR users might take as common knowledge. Most people experiencing your activation likely won’t have extensive experience with VR, so always overcommunicate instructions.

When it comes to technology, you don’t necessarily have to rely on the novelty of the newest and coolest VR tech. Ask how the technology organically integrates into or adds to the experience. VR might have attracted visitors on its own a few years ago, but today, you need to offer more than tech alone to spark interest. For example, does participating in the VR activation entice emotions that wouldn’t otherwise be present? Does VR demonstrate the brand’s central value proposition in a fun, emotional, or unforgettable way?

If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then it’s time to choose the right technology, and the newest, flashiest tech isn’t always the most effective. For example, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both provide fantastic user experiences with high-definition imagery, but they aren’t portable, as the headsets are tethered to computers. Samsung Gear VR, on the other hand, is both portable and more affordable, though it only works with select Samsung phones. Pinpoint what the experience requires of the technology, and choose from there.

Smarter VR means creating memorable experiences
For VR to be an effective strategy in your marketing campaign, it has to give people a memorable experience they can’t find elsewhere. Last year, for instance, Samsung and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston collaborated on a VR experience called “A Moon for All Mankind.”

After being strapped into a harness, participants bounced around with an Active Response Gravity Offload System—a simulation of a reduced-gravity environment that actual astronauts train with. Paired with the Samsung Gear VR headset, this allowed users to not only see what it would be like to walk on the moon, but to feel it as well. This was obviously not something visitors were soon to forget.

Because VR technology is changing and expanding, it’s tempting to hop on board with the latest trends and slap your brand’s logo on them without thinking about user-friendly activations that have a real impact. Memorable moments can be paired with VR to create a long-lasting impression on consumers, but the key is to focus on the user experience and the quality of the details. Otherwise, you’re just another VR bandwagoner throwing money down the drain.

Carefully implement VR in your experiential strategies, and you stand a great chance of giving consumers a reason to remember your brand.


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