Konstantin Andreev is the founder and CEO of Verdom IT Projects and the 360-degree mobile application Round me
Virtual reality is still in its infancy, and it will take several waves to reach the mainstream. However, with established companies dabbling in virtual reality campaigns, the technology is already proving to be a compelling storytelling tool that transcends physical and economic barriers.
The following examples illustrate how five industries are utilising virtual reality to boost engagement, return on investment (ROI), and overall customer satisfaction.
Customers most frequently return items purchased online due to the “wrong size.” However, the return process is a postal nightmare and, quite frankly, inefficient for both the business and the patron. Even if you visit a brick-and-mortar store, the return process can be a tangle of long lines and paperwork.
Enter the augmented reality fitting room.
Retailers such as Rebecca Minkoff are leveraging virtual reality technology to address the “fit” issue. To bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar and digital commerce, the store installed touchscreen mirrors in their onsite fitting rooms.
“While consumers have grown accustomed to receiving recommendations and selecting products in the size they desire online, the pain point will always be fit,” said Nilofer Vahora, Rebecca Minkoff’s vice president of licencing and product innovation. “By incorporating’smart’ mirror technology into the store, we can provide shoppers with a more convenient and personalised experience.” Additionally, the company is selling a “chic” Google Cardboard headset and providing users with a front row seat to its exclusive Fall 2015 runway fashion show, which was filmed entirely in virtual reality.
The fitting room has evolved into a destination for tech entrepreneurs as well. Microsoft intends to incorporate Kinect technology into its own version of a virtual reality fitting room that can serve customers in their homes.
Effective visuals are critical to conversion rates (or turning a window shopper into a paying customer). When you can virtually see how good the item looks on you, it becomes more difficult to abandon the shopping cart. According to studies, retailers who entice shoppers into their dressing rooms convert 67 percent of them into buyers. Certain retailers have begun experimenting with novel ways to get them there—both in-store and online.
VR has the potential to shine a light on a photographer’s talent and profile while also providing an immersive experience for audiences. Professional photographers frequently get lost in the shuffle due to the proliferation of photography channels available via social media. Flat, one-dimensional (and almost certainly over-filtered) photographs blend in with cluttered social media feeds, and it can be difficult to convey true art and dimension.
More than ever, originality is required, and this is where virtual reality comes into play. Consider the use of photo effects in conjunction with virtual reality headsets.
Photographers have begun to use 360-degree photo sharing apps to showcase their work in greater depth and interaction. Numerous apps are already compatible with virtual reality headsets, including Google Cardboard. Recently, photographer Aram Pan has garnered widespread attention for his 360-degree videos of North Korea.
Travelers with wanderlust can get a taste of their next epic vacation before they take it. This scenario has prompted a number of hospitality businesses to adopt 360-degree panoramic images as a standard tool for destination promotion.
With virtual reality technology, these hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs can immerse travellers more completely in their dream venues, increasing the likelihood that they will visit in person. Users can already virtually enter Tokyo’s nightlife, Bali villas, and Parisian cafes.
However, virtual reality can deliver more than just an impression. Hotel chains could provide customers with an accurate representation of the size of their room. Marriott, one of the world’s largest and most profitable hotel chains, is currently developing a “4-D experience” centred on the Oculus Rift.
The strategy elevates the “try before you buy” concept to new, virtual heights. Marriott is not the only travel company conducting research into virtual reality software and hardware. Others, including Qantas Airways and Destination BC in Canada, are also experimenting with the technology for promotional campaigns of their own.
Yelp photos can only go so far when it comes to restaurants. Virtual reality apps may provide a more realistic impression of a location, including its event space, to prospective patrons.
Realtors are acquiring virtual reality cameras at an alarming rate in order to provide virtual walk-throughs to clients in order to close the deal. They can view it in three dimensions, both inside and out, in order to assess all of the potential benefits and drawbacks.
According to Matterport, a company that specialises in 3D reconstruction, realtors’ VR video uploads receive an average of about 1.2 million views per month. Beyond 2D 360-degree photographs, projects can take the form of a stereo-panorama with a 3D effect or even a computer-generated 3D experience.
Today, real estate agent Matthew Hood introduced virtual reality to Sotheby’s International Realty, where he uses the Samsung Gear VR headset powered by Oculus to showcase luxury homes in Malibu. It is a significant advantage, as the majority of homes there are sold to clients who live abroad. (Plus, the neighbors—often prominent celebrities—welcome the reduced traffic.)
Purchasing a car can be one of the most stressful experiences a customer can have. It’s not always easy to make an instant decision between a variety of models, interiors, insurance factors, and safety features—even more so when it’s one of the largest purchases a household makes.
And yet, the majority of promotional photography does not accurately depict the automobiles for sale. Even professional photographs cannot convey a realistic sense of what to expect, frequently relying on special lighting and artificial amplifications. A virtual reality viewing could shed additional light on the vehicle’s actual condition.
The process of creating video with this technology is also becoming increasingly simple—in part due to efforts by Google, Jaunt, and others—which has the potential to expand VR beyond marketing images on manufacturer websites. Sellers attempting to advertise used automobiles may be able to participate.
Ford is already ahead of the curve in this area, having made virtual reality a central component of its automotive development. Audi, too, has embraced virtual reality to bring the showroom into people’s homes. Virtual showrooms also allow window shoppers to experience what it’s like to sit in the driver’s seat of a Lamborghini or Aston Martin. (You know, if $230,000 is just a tad out of reach for the average consumer.)
Virtual reality has applications in a variety of industries, from retail to food and beverage to gaming. Because we still a little ways out from full, mass adoption, the economic expansion of interest by manufacturers, and the increasingly wallet-friendly pricing for headphones, are bringing more people closer to this new, experiential medium.
In order to bank on this sector, however, it’s important for businesses to establish their position in it early on. That way, they can lead the field when the time comes.