Source: Forbes

Virtual reality is a hot topic in marketing. New advances allow consumers to buy a few accessories and turn their smartphones into virtual reality screens, which has marketers excited to turn this new immersive technology into a revenue-generating tool.

While virtual reality (VR) offers a lot of marketing opportunities, there are some challenges too, like how to measure engagement and create an analytics system that’s helpful to marketers.

What is virtual reality?

By wearing a headset, potential customers can watch a 360-degree video that simulates a real, interactive scenario. Customers can test drive a car, ski the Swiss Alps, watch a live baseball game from the dugout — you name it and virtual reality can create it. By 2020, the economic impact of virtual reality is expected to hit $15.6 billion.

How are brands using virtual reality in marketing?

Brands are working to create VR experiences that show their products to potential customers in new and inventive ways. Immersing a customer in a VR experience provides a connection that a TV ad or an online product description simply cannot.

Marketers are getting creative with the technology too. Here’s a look at how some brands are using VR:

• Volvo created a VR experience to allow potential customers to test drive its new XC90 SUV. The video puts customers in the driver’s seatas they take a ride through the country.

• Topshop selected several lucky customers to watch a live 360-degree feed of the brand’s newest fashions on the runway during London’s Fashion Week. Customers came to the London store, put on a headset and watched the models hit the catwalk.

• McDonald’s introduced a unique VR experience. To start, you make your own VR viewer from a happy meal box, insert your smartphone and go downhill skiing through a smartphone app.

But wait, does this affect customer analytics and mobile marketing?

Today’s mobile marketers are already using data to make decisions that help them better understand and engage their customers. The plethora of technologies such as VR and iBeacons enable marketers to use multiple channels that help build brand consistency and stay top of mind for prospects. However, this adds challenges as well. Marketers will now have more data to process and it will be harder to find actionable insights to better influence the customer. To support this trend, marketing solutions that are able to handle huge amounts of data and can distill them into meaningful customer interactions in real time are becoming more and more important.

What should marketers look for in a mobile marketing solution to support VR marketing?

VR itself is still in its infant stages and so are the tools for measuring its success. However, while evaluating a VR tool, make sure it provides some or all of these benefits so you can better use the VR technology to serve your needs.

 Heatmaps: Heatmaps show the areas that viewers focus on through different colors. They’re used a lot to gauge the most clicked areas on a website but the same idea can apply to VR. The heatmap will show marketers what solution the consumers focus on. Marketers can alter the video to ensure the “hottest” areas contain the most important video. Advertisers can benefit greatly from this as well so the areas that draw the most attention can be monetized optimally.

• Measuring degrees viewed: With VR, a 360-degree video is often used to allow consumers to look all around them. By measuring degrees viewed, marketers will be able to see where viewers look and what imagery they take in. Behavioral analytics can tell marketers how much of the video is covered by the user’s vision, depending on the angle of vision, elevation, etc. Armed with this knowledge, marketers can make improvements to ensure consumers get the best experience in the shortest amount of time.

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