Virtual Reality – Is it on your Radar?

By: Joan MacDougal - February 26, 2016


Virtual Reality should be on the radar for all marketers.

I’ve been watching the evolution of virtual reality as a sales tool since we created virtual tours of student accommodation at Western Sydney University. It was a project we implemented for them 10 or so years ago. The technology we used was crude by today’s standard. It was a 360 degree photo offering a click and drag view of the rooms and facilities. However, at the time it was a new and exciting user experience and it was very well received. Applications for the accommodation increased significantly at the time. Now, with smart phone developers constantly looking for a sales edge it seems virtual reality is the next big product adaptation in smart phones and is predicted to take us all to dizzy new heights.

At this point let me make sure we’re all on the same page with this definition of Virtual Reality – source ‘WhatIs.’ Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. On a computer, virtual reality is primarily experienced through two of the five senses: sight and sound.

The simplest form of virtual reality is a 3-D image that can be explored interactively at a personal computer, usually by manipulating keys or the mouse so that the content of the image moves in some direction or zooms in or out. More sophisticated efforts involve such approaches as wrap-around display screens, actual rooms augmented with wearable computers, and haptics devices that let you feel the display images.

Virtual reality can be divided into:

  • The simulation of a real environment for training and education.
  • The development of an imagined environment for a game or interactive story.

So what are the markets that anticipated to benefit from all the excitement around virtual reality. Gaming and storytelling are obvious, as is training and education. For marketers though, the real question is will I be able to use it to sell and at what point will the cost / benefit models be such that the investment generates positive returns to my business.

From a marketing perspective one of the real areas of potential is sales and new product presentations where the prospective customers can partake of the user experience in virtual surroundings. This is particularly exciting where a product may be new edge and complex and the customers might struggle to understand its applications and full potential. By creating it virtually and placing the customer in your future reality, they can experience, play and use the product before making a purchase. By taking away any uncertainty or confusion about your product and its benefit or potential to the customer, you are more likely to close the deal.

As with all emerging technologies there will be applications and uses for virtual reality in selling that will emerge as more marketers become confident with how to use it in their sales efforts. The role of the marketer today is to stay close to virtual reality as a way to build content and create user experiences to generate sales. Be wary of practitioners at this stage of the game. Do your homework, understand the real processes and costs for any ideas you have in mind. Be aware of your target market and their receptiveness to virtual reality as a sales medium. Do your cost / benefit studies before implementing a campaign. Be open for when the right opportunity comes along. I suspect you’ll find its closer than you think to being a real sales tool.

Here’s and example of Samsung using Virtual Reality to sell the concept of virtual reality…

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