Why VR is working
VR tricks the brain — it’s basically magic!
Interactive, real-time VR tricks the brain into thinking it’s somewhere it’s not — this is referred to as presence. For marketing where creating memories is paramount, that’s a great asset.
Interactivity is crucial if you want to fully immerse the user and achieve presence, but you also need to give the user feedback — audio, visual or haptic — so they feel the environment.
With a retention and comprehension rate of 75%* (compared to audiovisual at 20%*), it’s clear that VR can be an excellent marketing tool. If adding VR into your strategy can improve retention and engagement, then it’s adding value to your business.
* National Education Association of the United States.
VR lets you direct (and star in) your own hero movie!
VR allows users to participate in and consume a brand experience, not just passively receive a message. Dictating the pace and direction of the narrative, making the user both the Director and Lead is incredibly empowering (you’re basically Clint Eastwood!).
Ivan Reitman, the director of the Ghostbusters VR Experience got it right when he commented: “The amazing thing about virtual reality is that you’re in the middle of it … most story-telling doesn’t have us [the audience] in the centre.”
Storytelling is no longer just about what you want the user to see but how you want the user to feel — for brands looking to engage, influence and win new customers VR gives them a hugely powerful and emotive ‘storyliving’ tool that puts the user at the centre of the narrative. In the current climate, where many consumers value experiences over products, that’s a massively important offering.
VR lets you do anything, anywhere — cabin crew, prepare for landing.
Is there any other medium that allows you to transport someone anywhere? Nope. VR allows you to travel Business Class to the Canadian wilderness, chuck a few snowballs, check out the Northern Lights and then fly the plane back yourself. That ability to ‘try before you buy’ with just a laptop and a headset enables brands to deliver their products and services to anybody, anytime. If the product is indeed a flight this can be achieved for a fraction of the cost of building (or shipping) the real thing (have you ever tried shipping a cabin cross-section?).
Okay, so who’s already using VR?
Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Etihad are all using VR in their marketing strategies because what they sell is an experience, not just a seat — VR gives them more than just a showroom, it gives them a perfect storytelling vehicle.
Here are a few quotes:
“Prospective customers have the chance to not only explore our new Airbus A350–1000 aircraft, but are also made to feel a part of the signature Cathay Pacific experience” — Edward Bell, General Manager of Brand, Insights and Marketing Communications at Cathay Pacific
“Future passengers will now be able to sample our brand new cabin in an innovative and entertaining way. This engagement has helped us boost awareness, purchase consideration and save major logistic costs” — Andrew Shibata, Managing Director Brand, Air Canada.
Thomas Cook quickly identified the value of VR helping them engage new audiences and deliver a 40% ROI in the first three months.
“Over three months, the revenue for New York excursions was up by 190%, and flight and hotel bookings went up by £12,000 from people making a purchase after using VR”.
They’ve gone on to predict that, “in the future, people might take ‘virtual holidays’ — experiences so deep and immersive that there is no need to leave home.”
So what can we expect in 2019?
There are some healthy predictions out there — Tractica forecasts that worldwide enterprise VR hardware and software revenue will increase from $1.0 billion in 2018 to $12.6 billion annually by 2025.
Access to hardware will certainly have a big role to play in achieving (and exceeding) that forecast and the hotly anticipated Oculus Quest (launching any day now) could be the first milestone — it won’t require a PC to run from and will be completely wireless. That’s a game changer! It has the potential to deliver a VR experience that combines the portability and price tag of the Oculus GO with the visual quality of the Oculus Rift, that combination could entice previously budget-sensitive brands looking for an easy to manage solution to make their first foray into VR.
In the current climate of relentless technological advancement and economic uncertainty, organisations need to find new ways to increase engagement and drive efficiency. VR is working.