Estimates suggest that the virtual reality market will hit an astounding US$40.4 Billion in 2020, with the number of households owning a VR device to increase nine-fold. With numbers like this, it’s no wonder tech giants like Google, Samsung and Facebook are starting to invest heavily in virtual reality. Thanks to the continuously evolving digital landscape, content marketers should ensure that their companies are at the forefront of this enormous industry trend, and here’s why:
See your content through customers’ eyes
Thanks to YouTube’s 360-degree video channel, Facebook’s Surround 360 and new mobile apps, implementing VR into your content strategy has never been easier. This new technology doesn’t just boost the consumer experience; it also significantly improves market analysis.
VR’s eye-tracking features allow marketers to gain unique insight into consumer interaction through their content. Recent research on mobiles and desktops through gaze plots and heat map visualizations has been able to measure interest and attention, indicating content consumers prefer more stories and less banner advertising. Armed with this information, marketers should focus on content layout, placement and online messaging to boost brand awareness. San Francisco based startup Fove recently developed infrared eye tracking sensors for virtual reality headsets, hoping to revolutionize the future of entertainment, marketing and even healthcare.
Unparalleled interaction and engagement
In a world of ad blocking and TV fast-forwarding, VR breaks the mold by offering an exciting opportunity for content marketers to connect with consumers without disruption. Research shows that fully engaged customers represent a 23% premium in terms of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer.
VR allows marketers to create completely unique worlds and experiences for customers, customised on a one on one basis. Joshua Keller, CEO of Union Square Media explains:
“The most exciting aspect of VR is that the possibilities are limitless. VR marketers are much less restrained in the creativity of their campaigns. An automaker can offer virtual test-drives or walk users virtually through the manufacturing process. It is much more personal than a commercial spot where they’re seeing a model drive a car along the coast.”
Online engagement exploded when HBO promoted the upcoming season of “Game of Thrones” by creating an exclusive 360-degree video of the opening animated credit sequence on their Facebook page. With 5.3 million views in the first 24 hours, this video became the most-viewed 360-degree video on Facebook.
Share your brand story through a unique platform
Marketers that get a head start in VR content will enjoy an enviable head start in creating fully immersive brand experiences. Content marketers have a fantastic opportunity to create VR stories that are completely unique, personalised to each individual consumer.
The New York Times is looking towards virtual reality storytelling as the “next frontier” of branded content. However, they encourage marketers not to rely on VR technology as a narrative crutch. Andy Goldberg, GE Chief Creative officer, stresses, “For us it was never about “Let’s make an ad and make it VR,” It had to be a story that the Times would naturally write about.”
Towards the end of 2015, NYT shocked audiences when they distributed over 1 million Google Cardboard VR glasses to Sunday home delivery subscribers, promoting their first VR film, The Displaced, with great results. Utilising NASA data, NYT continued to push digital storytelling boundaries in their latest VR film, “Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart”, transporting audiences to the icy mountains of Pluto. Once the grand dame of the print news era, the New York Times is paving the way for publishers and journalists worldwide by taking storytelling to a new level.
Increases brand loyalty
VR technology is creating a completely new kind of relationship between consumers and brands. Audiences aren’t just mere spectators anymore, they are now active participants in marketing content. Successful VR strategies increase emotional engagement and encourage deeper connections with brands that ultimately boost brand loyalty.
British travel agent Thomas Cook used Samsung VR headsets in a number of their UK, Germany and Belgium shops with great results. Far from being a publicity stunt, this strategy allowed customers to experience and visualise their holiday surroundings before making their purchases. Customers reported the use of VR inspired confidence in Thomas Cook’s brand, which not only expedited the decision making process (1 in 10 customers booked holidays immediately after experiencing the VR footage), but also increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Step up your game
The gaming industry has taken off in the past decade with increased consumer engagement, recruitment, competition and motivation. However with the advent of virtual reality, brands have the opportunity to transport viewers into the game itself. These advancements in new technologies are now providing customers with on the ground, in-the-pit action, allowing them to stream VR content in real time.
NextVR enables the transmission of live, broadcast quality long-form virtual reality content. Brad Allen, Executive Chairman of NextVR, states that virtual reality is the “next medium” and it’s as significant as migrating from radio to television. Offering a field of vision up to 30,000 feet, audiences no longer need to experience life as a spectator – they can take a front row seat!
Moving into the unfamiliar world of 3D generated experiences may seem daunting, but with the accessibility and popularity of VR on the rise, marketers must sit up and take notice. VR is much more than a one off advertising gimmick. Integrating virtual reality into your marketing strategy pushes the traditional boundaries of storytelling, allowing consumers to engage with your brand like never before.