Virtual reality is an emerging marketing tool that is already being actively used in a number of different industries. From McDonald’s “Happy Goggles” engaging Swedish customers, to virtual tours of high end homes, VR strategies allow companies to connect with consumers on an entirely new level.
VR marketing strategies are particularly effective for providing a “try before you buy” experience for geographically distant opportunities, such as vacations, cruises, campus locations or real estate tours. Alternatively, VR can provide an opportunity for building consumer interest and loyalty through it’s novelty and entertainment value.
Most of the examples of virtual reality marketing discussed in the list of industries below, have only been rolled out to limited audiences. As familiarity with VR increases amongst consumers, marketing strategies leveraging virtual reality will become the norm.
One of the biggest marketing challenges tertiary institutions have is connecting with prospective students who are geographically distant and communicating their differentiated campus spirit in a way that is compelling to the student and enriches their feeling of connection to the institution.
Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD), Columbia University and Yale are an example of schools meeting this challenge by offering students virtual tours of their campuses. SCAD will even take the step of mailing custom VR headsets to prospective students. During the tour, a student guide provides the narrative, but the prospective student is the one who controls the direction of the tour.
Another school using VR to build connections with prospective students is Embry Riddle Aeronautical School (ERAU). While providing the “traditional” VR tour (if you can call VR “traditional”) , ERAU discovered another way to leverage VR was at tradeshows targeting prospective students. The sheer novelty of offering VR headsets directly in their booth drew new and increased traffic to them.
2. Real Estate
It is easy to quickly imagine the role virtual reality might play in real estate marketing and sales. Real estate companies such as Sotheby’s have offices offering virtual tours of high end homes. VR tours do lend themselves to the higher end of the market, with the cost of creation ranging from $300-700. However, allowing the opportunity for potential buyers from the other side of the country, or even across the world, to tour a home remotely will quickly become a real estate game changer.
The time saving potential for agents and customers is enormous, allowing customers to view multiple homes from a single location in one day.
Companies such as Sage Realty Corp. in New York are using virtual staging for potential commercial tenants. “It can be difficult to step onto a raw floor or existing space and visualize the layout,” says Jonathan Kaufman Iger, CEO. 360 degree renderings in VR eliminate those challenges.
3. News Organizations
News organization have been embracing virtual reality as an immersive experience for their stories. Frontline, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are just a few organizations who have adopted VR strategies.
Not only is this an intriguing format that may appeal to new customers, the New York Times made VR a key part of their aggressive marketing strategy, by distributing branded Google Cardboard headsets to paid print and digital subscribers (over a million in all).
4. Home Goods
Ikea has been a leader in the home goods industry, quick to jump on new technologies to promote the sales of their products. In 2014 their product catalog featured augmented reality content, which allowed users to see what Ikea furniture would look like in their own homes.
In 2016 Ikea went a step further. Wanting to go beyond the 900 million visitors to their 316 physical stores in 2016, they created the opportunity for HTC Vive users to visit an Ikea kitchen from their own homes, in virtual reality. Besides the opportunity to cook some of Ikea’s famous meatballs, users are able to explore the product kitchen products and customization solutions.
Brands in the automotive sector have been early adopters of virtual reality as part of their marketing programs. Endri Tolka, COO and co-founder of YouVisit, told Hypergrid Business “Brands like BMW, Audi, Porsche, KIA, Volkswagen, Lexus, Chevrolet, and Honda have all incorporated virtual reality and augmented reality experiences into their marketing strategy.”
Although test driving a car in VR doesn’t replace the real experience of driving it, it can be an important part of whetting the customers appetite for the product.
Volvo is currently offering driving experiences for the Xc90 in VR.
6. Sports Retail
Outdoor clothing retailer North Face sells high quality (and higher priced) products targeted to the adventurer, from the everyday, to the extreme. Part of their branding challenges would be communicating the quality of the products, while a branding opportunity would be showing the consumer what they could dream of achieving in these clothes.
Jaunt VR worked with Northface to create some extreme outdoor experiences for customers. “The North Face and our athletes are always looking to bring people into our expeditions and spark people’s interest in getting outdoors,” said Aaron Carpenter, Vice President of Marketing, The North Face. “The North Face VR transports people to Yosemite and Moab to see the beauty and be inspired to go see it for themselves.”
7. Tourism & Hospitality
Countries, cruise lines, tour operators and hotels have been using virtual reality to promote their vacations for several years.
Marriot offers “VR Postcards“, an in-room “Vroom service” virtual reality experience that follows the adventures of three travelers. Michael Dail, VP of Marriott Hotels Brand Marketing, stated “We wanted them to experience, in a virtually real way, what it meant to “Travel Brilliantly.””, thereby reinforcing the Marriot brand experience.
Companies like YouVisit are producing 3D, 360-degree views of travel destinations, cruises, and hotels, helping those organizations market themselves to potential customers. One such tourism company, Ultimate Jet Vacations , has been using VR to market holidays for several years, including Alaska, Croatia and Carnival Cruises. Matoke Tours of Uganda have a “Virtual Gorrilla” tour brochure that let’s you track gorillas from your sofa, , and Thomas Cook Travel has created videos of serveral destinations to entice customers and let them “try” before they fly. Abi Mandelbaum, CEO and co-founder of YouVisit, indicates that customers perceive that a tourism operator using cutting edge technology to market their vacation offerings, will haev a cutting edge vacation experience themselves.
8. Food & Beverage
“Happy Goggles” are only a McDonald’s Happy Meal away. The fast food chain released a Happy Meal box in their Sweden chain stores that can be converted into virtual reality Goggles, and used in conjunction with cell phone VR content, including a McDonalds-made app based on the Swedish skiiing team.
Going a step beyond “Happy Goggles”, Scottish craft brewing company Innis and Gunn experimented with “Beer Goggles”, bringing VR headsets into bars in London and Scotland to see how it could enhance drinkers’ experiences, and had them view short VR films designed to enhance the pleasure of drinking beer.
Even Coca Cola has jumped on the bandwagon, releasing design for origami style VR goggles made from Coca Cola packaging.