Virtual reality has only recently been breaking into the mainstream, helped along by gaming applications built around the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony PlayStation VR platforms. And while these experiences are new and novel to those who’ve never dipped a toe into the technology before, companies are already hard at work coming up with ways for VR to go way past gaming into other areas of everyday life. One of those areas? Marketing.
Forbes recently took a look at virtual reality and how it will affect the world of marketing going forward. Some of the examples given seem like certain bets, while others feel truly futuristic — promising Ready Player One-esque levels of physical interaction in the virtual reality plane.
Imagine inbound marketing for just a second. It’s built around a philosophy of providing value to the consumer in order to create loyalty and develop a potential sales relationship down the line. Inbound marketing currently relies on lead magnets like ebooks and white papers, along with blog posts and email newsletters.
What if VR went beyond those text tools and conveyed the same information in a different way? What if, instead of turning the pages of an ebook, you have a virtual expert right in front of you to provide the content you want? The possibilities are pretty exciting.
And then there’s the visual aspect of marketing. So many decisions are made based on how something looks, and a flat picture can’t always do a product justice.
Fashion companies want to carry the best looks, and so much time and money are spent flying decision makers to all parts of the world or having materials shipped from continent to continent. Virtual reality provides a way to zap someone’s vision from one place to another almost instantaneously, which means a fashion company can look at someone wearing a dress in a completely different hemisphere, get a good sense of how it wears, and ultimately decide if the product is something their company will sell.
This is a space 3D printing could play a role in, as well. Microsoft calls the mesh of augmented reality (AR) and VR “mixed reality,” and the addition of 3D printed materials to a VR environment could be positively game-changing from a marketing perspective. What if a customer could download plans, print out a 3D model, put on a VR headset and look at and feel a product prior to purchase? There’s a reason big box retailers are still popular: people like to see what they’re going to buy in person prior to plunking down their hard earned money. VR and 3D printing can go a long way toward recreating that experience. It all certainly sounds like a Star Trek space fantasy, but a world where this exists is a lot closer than we think.