Virtual reality isn’t what you’d call a brand new concept. Companies have taken swipes at it for years, but only in the past few has technology caught up to what we’ve expected from VR. Take a look around and you’ll see prominent companies investing in the hardware necessary to make it work — everyone from Sony with its PlayStation VR headset to Oculus and HTC with their respective Rift and Vive headsets. And now that virtual reality is becoming more and more mainstream, we’re finally starting to see companies explore its commercial value.
Many retailers are now looking at VR as the next frontier in terms of creating customer experiences that drive sales. We’re seeing companies take advantage of virtual reality’s ability to transport its users anywhere — anyplace in the world — in order to show products and services in a light that is most realistic. We’ve put together a list of those we feel are using VR in interesting and innovative ways to sell customers on what they have to offer.
A lot of work goes into a home improvement project, and until now, we’ve all been shopping for the major products in a way that isn’t all that efficient. We walk into Lowe’s, head to the appropriate department, and gawk at all the available appliances and trimmings. We then imagine what they might look like in our home, knowing full well we’re taking a shot in the dark. We could get that refrigerator back to our kitchen, put it in place, and realize it does not fit in at all.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a better way? Lowe’s is trying to create that better way using virtual reality with an initiative called Holorooms. Holorooms uses a VR headset — either an Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard setup — to show a room in a virtual space. Once you’ve been taken into that room in VR, you can place a home improvement product into the space and see what it would look like outside of Lowe’s — before you go through the trouble of actually buying it and transporting it back.
NASCAR is a fairly popular sport already, but those who haven’t quite caught the wave of stock car auto racing are a tough crowd to crack. How can you possibly clue these people into the exhilaration felt while sitting next to the track, watching cars blaze by? And how can you make someone truly appreciate the skill it takes to pilot a car flying around at hundreds of miles an hour? To answer this question, NASCAR partnered with Xfinity on a virtual reality experience that helps people step into the shoes of a track-side fan, a pit crew specialist, and most exciting of all, an actual driver.
The VR experience is built to show fans and non-fans alike what goes on during a race from all those different perspectives, and you can be certain it’s created a few new NASCAR fans once they’ve viewed the racing circuit’s high-speed world through new eyes.
Speaking of helping potential customers experience the auto enthusiast’s lifestyle, another company is using VR to help sell its products. Mercedes most recently created a virtual reality promotion for one of its newer models, the Mercedes SL. When a user straps on a VR headset, they’re instantly transported into the driver’s seat of the SL with a full view of the automobile’s dashboard and interior. VR viewers can look around at all the high-end tech they’d be getting if they purchased the car, and can really take time to admire the detail put into the build — all without having to step into the car physically. And that’s not even the best part.
All this takes place as the Mercedes SL speeds up California’s Pacific Coast Highway, a stretch of road that weaves up and down the state’s stunning coastline. The VR promotion really sells the experience of life as a Mercedes owner, and that’s exactly what the company hoped to achieve.
When you think of companies that do a lot of social good in the world, one that may come to mind is Toms. The company’s selling point is famous to many — when you buy a pair of Toms for yourself, another pair is sent to a person in need absolutely free. So how does VR fit into this, you ask? It would be rather silly to create an entire virtual reality experience based around putting on a pair of Toms shoes, and Toms agrees. Instead, the company is utilizing VR to give customers a first-hand look at how their purchases are affecting needy children in developing nations.
When you put on your headset, you’re taken to one of these countries, where you can see children laughing and playing in their Toms shoes, as well as interacting with the volunteers Toms works with to deliver the shoes and impact those lives in other ways while they’re present. The VR experience really helps customers make an emotional connection to their purchases and what those shoes enable, and its Toms' hope that this VR look will encourage customers to buy more shoes in the future.
Oreo isn’t afraid to get a little strange with its advertising, and its dip into the VR space is no exception. When Oreo rolled out a brand new flavor of its classic treat — Filled Cupcake, in case you were wondering — it decided to create an entire virtual fantasy world to celebrate.
The crazy cookie universe contains chocolate canyons, which are carved apart by rivers made of milk, naturally. Put on a headset and you, too, can frolic through Oreo’s bizarre Filled Cupcake world. Who knows — maybe all the chocolate and milk will get a little craving started. Oreo surely won’t mind.
That’s our list! Do you know of any other companies using VR to increase sales in new and interesting ways? We’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment below and we’ll take a look.