Friday, July 29, 2016 11:34:00 AM

Mainstream interest in virtual reality is rapidly growing in the digital space, where online consumers are always looking for the latest interactive content. The popularity of 360 videos and augmented reality games, such as Pokemon Go, has further alerted marketers to the vast possibilities for generating buzz around new products through unique immersive experiences. Before rushing into this budding market, brands must decide whether VR advertising is the right investment for their products.

A study by Ericsson Consumer Lab cited shopping as the top reason smartphone users around the world are interested in VR. In fact 64 percent of respondents valued VR as a way to view the true-to-life form and dimensions of an item when shopping online. With only a smartphone, shoppers can use 360 videos to view products from every angle. This technology is especially useful for large or high-ticket products that are costly to ship and difficult to judge solely on photos, such as household furnishings, appliances, electronics and vehicles. VR video takes the consumer experience a step further by adding spatial depth and making viewers feel transported to a different place.

Beyond the retail industry, brands are using VR to give consumers an in-depth look at products before they buy. For example, Cadillac is setting up virtual dealerships with no vehicles on the lot. Customers use VR technology to explore auto features and comparison shop while having staff on hand to answer questions and make suggestions.

VR may offer a solution to one of the most common obstacles of digital advertising: connecting with a distant buyer. Consider how news outlets have used VR video to immerse world audiences in political and cultural events happening around the globe. VR could deliver a front-row experience to concerts, theater, art galleries and sporting events for entertainment brands or provide an interactive preview of travel destinations for hospitality brands. VR taps into the gamer mindset and puts consumers in control of the experience. When designed effectively, it encourages them to stick around and explore the virtual environment, providing countless opportunities to engage with the product.

Aligning VR Applications With the Brand

VR technology is more than a trend, and its vast applications are offering brands new ways to attract attention, stand out from competitors and build loyalty with consumers. However, using VR without a clear end goal creates a novelty experience with the potential to irritate consumers. Before embracing VR advertising, marketers must decide whether this technology will enhance or detract from the brand.

1.    Does VR improve a customer's understanding and impression of the product?

2.    Will VR advertising deliver an experience that shoppers wouldn't get otherwise?

3.    Is the advertising message powerful enough to keep viewers watching?

4.    Does the recording environment offer a detailed, immersive experience suited for exploration?

Answering these four questions is key, as VR is most effective when it adds a new dimension of product engagement and answers a customer's deeper questions about the product. At the same time, VR advertising cannot be a mere gimmick. Videos must present interactive elements that draw consumers further into the environment, so they don't disengage after the initial "wow" moment. For advice on translating your marketing message into immersive digital advertising, contact the LA Times today.

Categories: Marketing Tips

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