3 x Marketer checklists for implementing virtual reality experiences

The first installment in a series of VR blog posts I’ll publish this week. This post includes checklists of practical, physical and planning considerations to help marketers ensure their virtual reality offering enhances, rather than detracts from, a spectacular customer experience.

Tomorrow’s post will go into using Cardboard by Google as a gateway virtual reality app (which you will see heavily referenced below.)

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Having been burned in the past by fads that didn’t live up to expectations, I made a conscious decision to wait for virtual reality (VR) to “get good” before I’d get too excited about it.

Much has gone on behind the VR scenes in the last three years and there are are now some amazing virtual reality adventures already available (however the ambitious epicness of *these* future projects currently in plan, blows my futurist mind).

The segue between real world and digital experiences are rarely seamless – so as marketers, owning a new VR customer experience can be a daunting venture.

Your technologist partners may do all the hard yards in actually building the VR story, however the way this is packaged up for public consumption lies squarely on the shoulders of marketing, as the conduit between brand and customer.
When you’re designing a virtual reality adventure, the primary purpose is to give your customer a wonderfully memorable positive experience.

Here are 3 x checklists of practical, physical and planning considerations to help ensure that your virtual reality offering enhances, rather than detracts from, the CX.

Practical
– Do extensive UAT yourself: *you* install the app, sync to your viewer, download a story, complete the VR experience. Yes, you. What caused you delays or frustration?
– Display “How To” instore: write failsafe instructions that you’ve tested yourself, including switching off/on and rebooting. Keep printed copies with the device/headset wherever it is set up.
Train all employees: I’ve recently been lured into a Sydney City store with huge screens purporting a VR experience, only to have the retail helpers advise the system “barely ever works” + “no one” knows how to use it.
Mystery shop the CX: same retail example as above, I visited three times. On the last visit a supervisor persisted through a few reboots + errors, but I only entered one working experience out of the many advertised.
– Advertise unique name: the app name should be precise on all promo materials character for character, also ensure it is displayed at the top of search in app stores.
– App Store “How To”: put screenshots + full instructions in the app store.
– Advise prerequisites: prepare the user. Will they need wifi? How much battery do they need? Are there recommended modes, eg brightness?

Planning + design phase 
– Follow existing VR protocol: eg as Cardboard by Google demonstrates, rotating the headset clockwise should trigger the “back button” (something Android users can’t survive without). It’s confusing when apps don’t follow organic rules, as these usability tricks quickly become second nature.
– Consider competitor apps: reverse engineer from any common customer complaints/feedback.
– Multi-level scripting: the photography must complement the story and enable the journey. See Markers and Imagery QC.
– Include a tutorial and help options: but don’t enforce the training, as digital natives won’t need it. Miss8 for example, learned to navigate (eg, especially Google Earth flyovers + zoom) immediately without any instructions. Whereas myself (+ my parents) benefited from some tips.
– Ease in: allow an optional adjustment area/playroom before diving into the story. For first time users even “real life” chairs, keyboards, carpet, trees can look fascinating when viewed initially.
Repeat instructions:  people may miss the next instruction if they are distracted or it isn’t clear, so repeat any “next step” info regularly to keep the experience enjoyable.
– Have clear markers: items out of place that could be mistaken incorrectly as markers may cause people to get “stuck “+ quit in frustration. Ensure nothing is too similar to what they’re being instructed to locate/do next.
– Avoid privacy invasion: in Cardboard’s Video feature, my baby videos were presented beautifully, a surprise which caused an emotional response. However Cardboard gave no warning re: how access to my camera would be used. Imagine if anything untoward was unexpectedly displayed from my phone to my children, parents or colleagues?
– Quality control for imagery: in VR product demos or training modules, fuzzy unreadable computer screens aren’t compelling. Consider using animation/overlaid CG to enhance zoom + make text legible. Also ensure duplicate imagery doesn’t confuse or compete with the action story. Imagine an incidental doorway that isn’t an exit or finding a key that can’t be picked up, just due to sloppy photography. See Scripting.

Physical
– Duty of care: VR can cause physical disorientation even after it has ended. See the example safety information below.
– Warn of any situational requirements: if a certain amount of movement is required, perhaps give a “free space” or “safe space” recommendation. It’s easy to end up stuck in a corner beside the bookshelf, or nose first against the parrot cage.
– Enable movement without moving: mobility and space limitations shouldn’t impair the experience. Thought needs to be given to how walking is done when movement is impaired. Miss8 very quickly found a way of “tricking” Cardboard into turning around without physically moving, to ensure she could show me something “behind” me without my getting out of bed or moving my head. I haven’t duplicated/tested Miss8s workaround method yet.
– Advise if there are noises: one virtual reality experience (by Accenture + Pega) has a piercingly loud warning siren that keeps going until you locate the hazard (spoiler: look up at the trees). Interestingly I was so immersed into roleplaying that it didn’t occur to me to take Cardboard off + turn the volume down on my phone. Even at risk of waking bird + baby, I kept playing the game!?
– Hardware overheating: sadly, phone batteries aren’t yet ready for extended VR play. Cease immediately if a smartphone is hot to touch, which can happen in as little as 20 minutes. Consider sharing instructions re: not charging while in VR, using airplane or power saving modes (if they work), reducing brightness, removing cases + covers etc.

 

Please share your thoughts and observations below and stay tuned for more virtual reality adventures.

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