What many feared we’d become

It’s safe to say that Virtual Reality hasn’t entirely made the in-roads into our everyday lives as many predicted.

Weren’t we all going to be doing the weekly shopping or watching our favourite TV shows with a headset on by now?

But none of the early expectations actually happened. It quickly became a scapegoat for the naysayers.  They warned of the uncontrollable advance of immersive technology on all our lives, driven mainly by fears of us becoming digital cyborgs from a Hollywood directors’ apocalyptic vision of the future.

But recently, as the dust has settled, things have started to move in a more positive direction. According to the Gartner Hype Cycle Nov 2018, we are at a new stage in the progress of VR. We’ve gone through the tricky early adopter stages and are now on the ‘slope of enlightenment’.

We have tinkered and played with the technology enough to see its limitations and have moved towards finding its best roles in life.

This is largely down to VR Producers realising that you can’t actually beat real life. They’ve realised that people prefer to connect, rather than put a headset on and zone out. There really is no substitute for the full sensory, 360˚ immersive experience that real life gives you.

A recent example of this was the BBC Sport VR World Cup app. It was a lonely, soulless experience that only worked to remind you that it was a hell of a lot more fun to be in a real stadium or watching the game in a packed pub with your mates.

But staying in the sports sector, STRIVR is putting VR to much better use. Its excellent VR training app is being used successfully by the NFL and Scottish Rugby to hone players skills and decision-making. Here VR is finding its role – enhancing the real world but not trying to replace it.

This ‘maturing’ of the industry has led VR producers to concentrate their efforts on four main areas, using the medium’s strengths as an immersive storytelling medium.

OOH Entertainment/Experiential (think theme parks like Alton Towers)
Training and Education
Social Media
B2B Marketing.

As we’re a B2B marketing agency, let’s take a brief look at VR in the B2B marketplace.

A New Zealand winery takes buyers on a product experience

B2B Marketing is a great place for VR to do its thing. Firstly, you are dealing with low volume, but high-value customers, which means using VR to close deals is worth the expense it incurs. You can also tell the story of your product in a much more memorable way, instantly differentiating yourselves from your competition.

One way this is being used to great effect is in the world of Trade Shows. Inviting buyers onto your stand and immersing potential customers in your virtual world is a great way of explaining and selling often complex products.

It also allows B2B marketers to hold their customer’s attention without the threat of distractions. And it often reaches audiences that would never usually be able to have an experience like VR.

So, if you’re thinking of using VR as a way of selling your products it is essential to start with an ‘Audience First’ approach. This is underpinned by three key areas to focus on.

1.Craft

It is crucial to put the work into the detail of any VR experience. It is the only way to achieve real immersion and take the customer out of the real world, making them forget they have a headset on. The customer needs to ‘feel’ the experience.

2.Empathy

The true power of VR is how it enables us to see through the eyes of someone else and what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes. This empathy is why charity organisations are using it to highlight issues such as bullying, and the suffering encountered in war zones. Even in the ‘drier’ b2b marketplace, there’s always an interesting viewpoint from which to tell your product story.

3.Imagination

We should never lose sight of VR as a fantastic way to explore creative storytelling. So, businesses need to weave their product into a compelling story that plays to the strengths of VR.
Storytelling is essentially a way of connecting with people on an emotional level. And because VR storytelling is interactive, it allows you to be both involved in the message, and also live it out in real time.