Virtual reality is about to go mainstream – ready?

Raving about my first Oculus Rift adventure four years ago, you’d have heard me excitedly refer to virtual reality as the “future of experiential marketing” and a necessary “content distribution tool in the customer experience lifecycle”.

At the end of April, Samsung look very likely to trigger virtual reality into the mainstream here in Australia, which means it’s way past high time to include VR in your promotional arsenal as a marketer, if you haven’t already.

[If you have released a VR marketing experience, use these helpful checklists to ensure the customer experience is really up to scratch].

Why is virtual reality such a big deal? Us marketers bandy around words like immersive, interactive + experiential, but way too often haven’t purchased the very products we spruik, never even staging a “walk  through” of the website we advertise whilst wearing the customers’ proverbial shoes.

Virtual reality, as the name implies, is so close to reality that brains of any age and ilk can be tricked to believe they are actually experiencing something in real life.

The potential applications for VR are huge.

In my initial field tests*, the victim responses were surprisingly uniform which makes the psychology very fascinating to a marketer. Eg my 8yo daughter’s first words were “Where are my legs?” + then in a separate independent trial, my 40+ yo husband’s first words were “Where are my hands?” which indicates a consciously immersed experience.

My own first immersed experience is still visible in my memory four years later, but not for the visual elements you may guess. There was much more to it.

The three Oculus Rift VR stories I tried sound simple at surface level:
1) a walk through of a new “off the plan” apartment unit – a practical application being that you could physically move around your newly designed kitchen + let the architect know if the bench is too short or hallway too narrow or granite the wrong grain
2) a test drive of a 4WD over mountainous terrain – already in use today as a sales tool
3) aerial flight in a light plane – flight being a much longed for secret power of many humans

It was the “value add” that stands out in my mind, though – each story held a unique twist, causing a profound physical response.

In the test drive, you swerve too close to the edge of a cliff, an experience any intrepid traveler has had on their way to ski fields or mountainous ruins worldwide. Your instincts make you grip the car door handle = which isn’t there.

In the apartment, a black cat suddenly runs beneath your feet, so you jump + trip spectacularly to avoid the small animal, which again you know isn’t there – and yet you can’t help yourself.

After having laughed at everyone else’s physical reactions using the VR goggles, you swear to yourself + the others present that you  definitely *won’t* duck + cower, covering your head on the floor of the boardroom during the third story.

No matter what happens in this next experience, I have self mastery you say, it won’t phase me. And yet a mere 2 minutes later as your aeroplane is attacked + divebombed unexpectedly, there you are in the foetal position on the floor – being hysterically laughed at by all present.

Sound like fun? The easiest way to get across the wonders of VR is to try it yourself, while wearing your figurative Marketer hat set onto work mode. Maybe get the whole marketing team together for some team building and to brainstorm how virtual reality could enhance the customer journey.

Cardboard by Google app makes this very easy for both iPhone + Android users, as you may have noticed heavily featured in Sydney based festivals + art installations like Vivid + Beams art over the last few years.

All you need is a newish smartphone and a viewer- cardboard ones can be picked up for under $7 on eBay.

Getting the customer experience right should be your main goal as a marketer, so I’ve broken this down into both practical + physical need VR CX checklists.



*No family members were harmed in these VR trials. For a list of ways to make virtual reality physically safer visit here.


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