How does experiential VR work?

Right now, we’re seeing an explosion in demand for virtual reality content in the experiential marketing space.

It’s an area that’s still relatively new, and there are a lot of untapped avenues to be explored. If you’re passionate about VR and believe that it’s a powerful medium like I do, then it’s easy to sometimes be overzealous about it.

For VR to really be successful, you need a couple of things: a user base who are willing to give up a few minutes to be isolated from their surroundings, a place to show the content to people (if the user will be permitted to walk around), and a way of giving others an idea of what the experience entails if they cannot experience it first-hand.

Virtual reality can be a tantalising prospect for brands. It promises to deliver consumers into a world of your own making, where everything they see and hear can be designed to reinforce a brand message, even building an emotional connection with the product.

We’re able to gather rich data off the back of these experiences; seeing what and how users engage with the virtual world, tracking user gaze and capturing how long they looked at an object and then in real time, change the experience to focus in on what the user appears to be interested in.

For example, in an experience showing running shoes to a customer, you’d be able to see which colour and design they looked longest at. You can then design more targeted campaigns, or tailor the experience on the fly, plus contact the user with more personalised, targeted marketing in the future.

So how do you fully realise the power of VR?

As I mentioned before, we’re asking a lot of customers to give up their time to close themselves off to the world and be immersed in an experience, so it’s important that it’s satisfying for the user – or risk it becoming a negative brand experience.

Make sure the experience fully utilises the medium. It’s tempting to take things that work well in other mediums and put them in VR: 360 video is a big one, where the content doesn’t always make use of the space and can often be better left as a non-VR video.

Similarly with recreating real live places. Recreating a digital store for users to browse isn’t realising the potential of the medium. Instead, take the opportunity to reimagine what shopping without the limits of reality might look like.

VR can often be considered isolating, however it can be social and gives consumers a chance to interact with each other in unexpected ways, whether it’s through a multiplayer experience with your friends, users across the globe, or people interacting with your virtual surroundings through other mediums such as AR.

Create a way for others to understand what the users in VR are doing. It can look quite silly seeing someone in VR batting the air with their hands or gazing up in awe, jaw dropped. If you’re able to use a green screen and live recording, you can create a composite video output that will show users in the virtual world, and allow others to better understand what they’re doing. This is known as mixed reality capture.

In Australia, we can’t yet expect the average consumer to have a headset at home, and so the best place to offer these experiences are in public spaces and events.

Having said that, we can create sharable content in many different ways; users could upload a recording of what they did in the virtual world and tag a brand, 360 footage can be recorded and uploaded to sites that support it, such as YouTube and Facebook, or sharing mixed reality captures so that users online can get a sense of the experience, and prompt them to stop by to try it in person.

VR has begun to mature as a medium, and we’re slowly moving away from the simple 360 video-based content. There are plenty of unique opportunities that VR offers brands as richer experiences become more affordable and accessible, with the next few years promising to bring us a multitude of compelling and powerful experiences.

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