In 2022 9.7 million VR headsets sold across the board. In the next ten years, virtual reality is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 15%, reaching almost USD 70.06 Billion by 2029. It might open fantastic opportunities in entertainment and gaming, but such an immersive new channel is sure to have a dramatic effect on marketing too: according to Swagsoft, VR can increase eCommerce conversion rates from just 2% to 17%. With successful marketing activations from as early as 2015 - WSJ’s 21 years of Nasdaq Roller Coaster is still available - the opportunities VR presents are clear, especially as established formats of advertising become increasingly alienating and new audiences are harder to reach. Join us in an exploration of excellent campaigns and how VR might become an effective tool in B2B communication.
With the rise of technology, especially after the pandemic, marketing has become a multi-channel experience, and more businesses are finding a use for VR in B2C sales. 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before finalising a purchase. So, when B2C companies add VR to their marketing strategies, they provide their customers with an immersive and unique shopping experience.
Here are a few great examples you could use as inspiration when implementing VR into your creative strategy.
BMW: Virtual Test Drive
When physical shopping ground to a halt in 2020, car manufacturers needed a way to provide shoppers with a real car experience. The immersive BMW app offers the user a virtual presentation of the car, using the Oculus Rift headset. If a 3D virtual view of the car's features didn’t quite cut it, the technology also allows users to take a test drive.
Patrón: The Art of Patrón
Patron, a well-known Tequila company, launched The Art of Patrón, a virtual reality experience that gave its audience an intimate look at how the famous tequila is crafted. Using Oculus technology, viewers were transported to the company’s distillery in Mexico. Through a bee’s perspective, people were able to see the agave fields and journey through the distillery to see the production process, including how it’s aged and bottled.
Nike uses both augmented and virtual reality in their stores. Customers can scan items like shoes or clothing to view information, or they can enter a virtual world to experience the different steps in Nike's supply chain, so they understand how and where their items are being made.
Billie Eilish: VR Concert
During the height of the pandemic in 2020, Billie Eilish served up a meticulous visual spectacle, complete with LED screens and VR effects to recapture the attention of weary concert viewers. With the feel of a highly produced music video, the show, which charged $30 a ticket, hit on all the strengths of virtual reality live streaming.
Despite Eilish’s team declining to provide details on the number of tickets sold, pay-per-view VR live streams have proved a great success for established artists like BTS, which created around $20 million in a single concert. Successful VR events, like Eilish’s lockdown concert have shown us only a small glimpse of what the future of virtual reality looks like and the impact it already has and will have on huge industries.
eCommerce sales increased by 43% during the first year of the pandemic. But even with physical shopping making a return, U.S. eCommerce grew 10.8% in Q3 2022. BMW, Patrón and Billie Eilish used virtual reality to provide unique, never seen before experiences for users during the pandemic, at a time when there were no alternatives.
Most of us are familiar with business-to-consumer examples of virtual reality, such as gaming and media consumption. BMW, Nike, and Patrón are just some of the biggest brands that use VR to entice and inform their customers. However, we tend to overlook VR in business-to-business settings, where it can be a valuable and powerful tool. Its close cousin, Augmented Reality (AR) has enjoyed wider adoption so far, partially thanks to the number of AR enabled devices around the world and its potential applications are perhaps more obvious.
But why don’t we see more examples of B2B applications in all these inspiring “best VR activation” lists?
On the one hand, the technology to create VR environments is relatively new and experienced practitioners are few and far between. This creates a lot of unknown and of course potentially higher prices than traditional tools. On the other hand, many companies don’t want to waste time or money by pioneering a field: they want to wait to see competitors' results before diving in headfirst. Lastly, it may not be obvious at first glance what to create in VR that will provide value as opposed to creating a PR gimmick.
Let’s explore the different areas within marketing, customer experience and operations, where virtual reality could create significant advantages.
Personalisation & Customisation
Research carried out by Salesforce proves personalisation is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but an essential for delighting clients and competing in a changing B2B economy. Immersive technologies can help tailor your product/service to fit all the needs of your clients in a long-term business partnership.
Providing a way to interact with your product or representatives from the comfort of their own homes or offices provides an inherently custom service. Enabling the customers to interact with your product, change specifications, sizes or colours all provide a more personalised experience. While we will discuss events a few paragraphs later, the opportunity to personalise one’s conference or presentation experience via VR deserves a mention here. From accessibility to “choose your own adventure” type activations, the opportunities to offer each participant the event experience that serves them best are endless.
Shortened Sales Cycle
In the B2B sales journey, multiple stakeholders are likely to be involved, which slows down the overall cycle. This process can be shortened with VR. Instead of boring product demonstrations and client pitches, you can provide them with an interactive and immersive experience. It is a resourceful way of encouraging decision-making. In 2022, Mediclinics took advantage of technology when physical product demonstrations were not possible at their clients’ facilities so they launched their All-in-One hand washing and drying stations through virtual reality. The immersive experience provided their clients with a unique and “practically real” experience.
The days of brochures and PowerPoint presentations may soon be gone; studies suggest complex data presented in an immersive 3D simulation was better understood by users, compared to when they viewed the information on a screen alone. Incorporating VR is an effective way to stand out from your competitors and immerse your clients in a unique and appealing way; it will boost your sales figures and positively impact your content marketing strategies.
Virtual Reality Training is the digital simulation of lifelike scenarios for training purposes. Trainees enter a 360°, active learning environment, experiencing sights and sounds that dissolve the barrier between virtual and actual reality. Using the headset and controllers, trainees look, speak, and move about freely in a 3D setting, interacting with simulated real-world tools, machinery, other trainees, and instructors.
VR training is crucial to businesses as it removes interruptions to the regular business flow and accelerates speed to proficiency. Walmart found their training time was shortened by 96% because of new VR technology. VR training also improves customer service, reduces onboarding time, and improves workplace safety. PWC found that learners were 275% more confident to apply skills learned after training and four times more focused than their e-learning peers.
Trade shows and other events are great opportunities for businesses to showcase their products and services, and market themselves to potential clients. By using virtual reality, companies can stand out and create a customised, innovative and memorable experience for attendees. VR at trade shows and conferences can increase your RSVP rate, maximise event attendance and give people a fear of ‘missing out’.
Reydar’s Metaspace provides a great example of how VR may even completely replace physical events in some instances. It provides a rich and engaging way for visitors to view, explore and buy products that are more akin to real world brand experiences. Companies like Samsung, UPS and Coca-Cola use Reydar to present their products and host events, not only because it creates an immersive experience with almost limitless creative execution for their customers, but also taking advantage of the fact that VR can bring people together without the need for travel.
A Forward Look
So, what does the future bring for VR marketing?
Virtual reality might not be a novel concept anymore, but it is still a very exciting one, especially for marketers. Immersive technology is becoming more prevalent, accessible, and cost-effective. Its marketing potential continues to grow in both the B2B and B2C spaces. Creatives are embracing it and consumers are getting more intrigued and excited about it. Already in 2023, we have seen a handful of brands leverage it for product promotion and virtual storytelling.
Thanks to expected technological advances, VR will be faster and lighter while next-generation smartphones will allow us to enjoy a much more sophisticated, immersive experience. But how will other electronic devices evolve? In the next ten years, could we potentially be using VR headsets with different interfaces as an alternative to smartphones? We have already seen a glimpse of this virtual future when Ray-Ban produced their first generation of smart glasses: while it is not a VR headset, the amount of technology and features built into a classic Wayfarer frame is astonishing and it could provide a blueprint for how AR and VR might become a part of everyday life.
Today, it may seem like an outlier, an endeavour that is a little too new, expensive or risky. But it is crucial to at least keep an eye on this ever-evolving immersive technology to stay relevant, spot the right opportunities and delight your customers in new and exciting ways.