10 Tips for VR in Retail, Trade and Event Spaces

Improve ROI and manage expectations with these helpful lessons on marketing with Virtual Reality in the real world.

Attendees interact with Virtual Reality content at the Hannover Messe 2016 trade show in Germany.

Note: This talk was first given at the 2016 Virtual Reality Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Creating an immersive and engaging VR experience should be your primary focus. However, it’s also important to understand how to conduct VR demonstrations at scale in the real world. Consider your audience, and how to accommodate them. Most people are still getting familiar with VR. Proper planning can ensure VR is working for you rather than just promoting the medium. After all, you want to make sure your VR experience is effective — leaving your guests saying, “Wow, this company’s solutions are amazing!” What’s more, using VR effectively is important to its public adoption as a new medium. Companies are spending more on VR than ever, and many consumers will have their first VR experience at a store, event or trade show.

TL;DR — Use the above tips to maximize your investment in virtual reality. This talk is also available as a video (30:00).

Over the last 24 months, we’ve deployed mobile VR and room-scale VR (think HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, etc.) at trade shows, events and retail venues. We’ve learned invaluable lessons that can help maximize return on investment from your next VR demonstration.

VR is great for attracting and engaging customers in experiences you can measure and optimize.

1. Use VR wisely — Virtual reality is an exciting new medium that can draw and amaze potential customers. Immersive experiences can create indelible memories that help people connect with your brand. That engagement can also be measured toward optimizing content. However, despite these qualities, VR is not a good way to convert leads. Be sure to use VR in concert with other tactics to follow through after your guests engage.

2. Choose the right technology — At present, creating VR experiences requires some technical skill, and as with any technology, there are trade-offs. Here are a few to consider:

b. Poor durability: Many VR headsets were designed with only one user in mind. Choose technology that will stand up to repeated use, or buy backups.

c. Logistics: VR requires explanation and some fitting (room-scale VR needs more). Consider the likely/desired volume of guests before you commit to a solution.

3. Follow best practices for VR — The potential of VR to immerse your audience is powerful. Be respectful of your viewers. If you don’t, you might make them uncomfortable or even physically ill. There are special best practices for VR filmmakers to consider. Great documentation is available from Oculus, Epic and others. Here are some highlights:

a. Avoid quick cuts, cinematic cameras, camera shake and quick speed changes.

b. Set your camera at an appropriate height.

c. Test on VR newbies.

4. Keep your experience short and clear — Your experience should be no longer than 3 to 4 minutes, including the welcome and wrap-up. Some of your guests may be trying VR for the first time, so explain what they’re about to do, what it means, and what they can do next.

5. Consider security — You should not only protect your own equipment, but also make sure your guests feel safe. Surrendering to another reality is an act of trust.

6. Test, test, test (and test again) — There are still many people who have never tried VR. Be sure that you test early and often with as many VR beginners as you can find. Test on older hardware, and be sure to stress-test your equipment as well.

7. Anticipate barriers — As exciting as VR is, there are many reasons people may refuse to jump in. You should accommodate your guests’ fears for their physical safety, personal security and device hygiene, and even their fear of looking silly.

8. Assume everyone’s a VR newbie — The idea of VR can be as scary as it is exciting. Be patient and gentle with your guests. Explain what will happen, and how it all works. Stay with them if you can to monitor their progress, and when they’re finished, ask for feedback while you allow them to readjust. Last, remind them of the message, suggesting conversion opportunities.

9. Guide your guests — VR is a new mass medium, despite its long incubation. People have few expectations, and fewer ideas on what to do. Be sure to clearly establish your experience’s user interface. Introduce the narrator gently and contextually. Manage your audience’s expectations for the length and content of their experience, and be sure to give lots of good cues.

10. The line is your friend — These days, people often wait in line to experience VR, especially at crowded trade shows and events. Make the most of that captive audience by offering storytelling and instruction that can help your guests focus on the VR experience.

We’re all still learning about VR, but these tips should save you time — whether you’re planning your first VR project or your fiftieth.

11. Bonus tip: Pick an authentic partner — For all the recent activity, virtual reality is still very new. If you decide to get help creating your VR experience, find a partner who can demonstrate their work to you in a way that shows their understanding of the medium. There are many agencies and shops offering VR, but few have the experience to support VR demos in public and at scale.

Buzzell (above), delivering a talk at the 2016 Virtual Reality Developers Conference in San Francisco, California on November 1, 2016.

John Buzzell is an award-winning 25-year veteran of the digital industry and has created interactive experiences from VR and videogames to mobile apps, websites and more. At YOU ARE HERE, Buzzell leads teams to create meaningful and measurable experiences across all platforms.

YOU ARE HERE (http://www.youarehere.xyz/) is an immersive experiences studio in Atlanta, Georgia, focused on engaging with emerging technology at retail, events, and trade shows. Clients and brands include AT&T, Lexus, Cricket Wireless, NBC Sports, the NBA, Aflac, the National Safety Council, AGCO, and Southern Company.