VR in sales and marketing: The next two years

Sales and marketing are two of the core functions of every business, and the challenges they face are constant. But think for a minute of the challenges your customers face: every single customer you have will be constantly bombarded with sales and marketing calls, pitches, emails, websites and printed materials.

Whether you’re working in B2B or B2C, your customers are being hit with so much sales and marketing communications that it’s harder than ever to achieve any kind of engagement or cut-through. The average consumer now sees more than 5,000 marketing messages per day, compared to around 500 in the 1970s.

The challenge, then, is to find better ways to reach customers, ones that stand out from the crowd and offer something potential customers will find more engaging. As we’ve seen in this series so far, virtual reality (VR) offers a unique opportunity for engagement, and that makes it a powerful tool for sales and marketing. So powerful, in fact, that travel agent Thomas Cook saw an 80% increase in revenue on New York excursions when it used VR to promote them.

What can VR do for sales and marketing?

VR’s strengths are primarily in delivering an enhanced user experience, making a greater emotional connection with its users, and thus increasing engagement with whatever content you’re showing. Because VR makes for a more “real” experience, the emotional reaction you get from it is qualitatively different from video and print. We have already seen this in games, documentaries and news reporting, where early VR projects have created major impact.

In a world of media saturation, the ability of VR to generate an emotional connection and a better experience makes it ideal for sales and marketing teams who want to deepen the engagement with their brand or product. Get VR marketing right and you’ll deliver an experience that your customers will not only remember – they’ll actively seek it out again.

Who’s doing VR well?

Because of this, VR has potential to transform sales and marketing across every kind of business, and so it’s no surprise that a wide range of sectors are already creating some great work The automotive industry has been quick to seize on its potential for sales and marketing, where the experience of the vehicle is all-important. As early as 2014, Fiat was experimenting with using VR for marketing material, but more recently off-the-shelf applications have become available that deliver “virtual showroom” experiences to consumers. This makes VR more accessible to more companies, reducing the cost of creating content by making it possible to author content yourself rather than going to a specialist creative agency.

Estate agents are another area where VR is already making a difference. Irish estate agent Sherry FitzGerald is using VR to allow people to tour houses without having to leave their home, and in London Foxtons has installed a virtual-reality property-viewing system in some of their offices, allowing customers to use VR to make their own shortlist of properties to view “live”.

This kind of use of VR for marketing and sales can be adapted to any kind of business where product viewings are important. Whether that’s furnishings, cars, or holidays, the applications for any product-based business are endless and exciting. But the potential for VR in marketing goes a long way beyond this.

Branded experiences

When it comes to brand marketing, VR really starts to show its power. Brand marketing relies on delivering something which has some kind of emotional resonance, whether that’s evoking a shared positive experience, surprising and delighting, or simply making people happy. Because of its immersiveness, VR can take this to the next level.

Take the simple example of Mountain Dew, the drinks brand that likes to position itself as different to the run of the mill. The company created the Dew VR Snow experience, letting users ride along with three elite snowboarders as they descended an epic mountain run in Utah.

This encapsulates the potential for VR marketing in two simple ways. First, it’s entirely true to the brand and its values – there’s no way you can view it without feeling you know Mountain Dew better. And second, and perhaps more importantly, it gives the audience an exciting and exclusive brand experience – a reason to interact with the brand and its products. VR creates more good days for customers through great experiences; and brands benefit from the customer advocacy it generates.

Creating VR experiences

VR content company YouVisit creates virtual experiences for the travel industry, including work for Alaska, Croatia and Carnival Cruises. The company claims that its travel content sees an average time spent of over ten minutes, and a conversion rate of more than 13% – a huge figure for an industry where the average sale is in the thousands of pounds.

YouVisit’s basic packages cost around £8,000, but in markets where message saturation is high – such as travel – that could clearly be money well spent. However, the price of creating your own content is now falling too, as more and more companies and services appear which let you create your own.

One example of this is Transported VR, a new system designed specifically for estate agents, which allows them to create virtual home tours using cost-effective VR camera hardware such as the Samsung Gear 360. All the estate agent needs to do is use the 360-degree camera to take images of each room in a house, then upload them to Transported VR. The system takes care of stitching the content together into a house tour, and then lets you publish it online quickly. This means that every single house an estate agent has available to sell can have a virtual tour, which opens up the prospect of buyers being able to “tour” houses at any time of the day, including weekends.

Emotional engagement for you and your customers

This adds up to more good days for the employees and for customers themselves. Rather than spending time on showing potential customers multiple properties, only one or two of which may be genuinely suitable, agents can focus on what they do best – selling. This makes them more efficient, but also makes the role more enjoyable for sales-focused individuals.

The customers, too, get a better experience. Virtual viewings can happen any time, day or night, whenever is most convenient for them. They’re also put in complete control of their viewing agenda – rather than being shown the properties the agent wants to show them, they can see whatever they want. It also means they can go and visit the properties which are most suitable for them, having “seen” them beforehand, and have a good idea of which particular parts of the property they need to look at more closely.

And as we’ve seen with the example of Mountain Dew, VR gives companies the chance to deepen customer engagement with their brand – bringing it to life – by creating experiences for customers that will delight them in ways they have never had before. Deliver a brilliant, exciting and impactful experience to your customers, and they will have a brilliant time – and remember your brand.

Emotion is at the heart of marketing and advertising, and VR lets you tell the story of your brand with more emotional experiences than ever before. Whether you need to put customers in the driving seat – sometimes literally – but giving them a better experience of the product, or you want to show the values of your brand by giving customers the experience of something they could never have before, VR provides the tools to deliver more good days for your customers and your business.

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