The future is here…and it’s helping small business owners just like you!
Virtual reality has the ability to provide the most immersive and impactful user experience yet – and it’s easier than ever for your small business to utilize this technology now.
One of the most important things VR will be used for is enhancing customer experience.
Whether it’s through marketing campaigns or demonstrations of products, VR has the potential to transform the way customers approach a service or product. Harnessing virtual reality in marketing campaigns is one of the smartest emerging ways to market your business today!
Why Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality once seemed like a futuristic dream, but at the rate the technology has evolved over the past few years, we can expect to see VR in our everyday lives sooner than imagined.
The VR industry is expected to boom in a few short years according to several industry predictions:
- Goldman Sachs reported that AR (augmented reality) and VR would together be worth $80 billion by 2025.
- Gartner Group predicted that 25 million virtual or more limited augmented-reality combined headsets will be in consumer hands globally by 2018.
VR has the ability to transform all kinds of businesses, including e-commerce & real estate, and provides brands from every industry with the opportunity to create more compelling ad campaigns.
While the technology isn’t quite mainstream now, it’s “emerging quickly.”Examples of VR gear available now include Samsung’s Oculus Gear VR, a VR set compatible with Samsung phones which is currently available for $99.
For a more affordable option, consider Google Cardboard, a VR headset compatible with most smartphone models that will only cost you $15.
VR is even becoming more accessible without gear: YouTube and Facebook both support 360-degree videos, the platform you choose simply depends on the experience you want your users to have.
What Can VR Bring To My Customers?
Virtual reality provides an opportunity for your product experience to captivate someone entirely. No matter what your business specializes in, you’re probably always looking for new ways to increase sales, ensure your customers have the best experience, or be innovative in the way you market your product or service.
This technology has an endless number of applications, and the experience can be tailored to fit customer needs. You could use VR to allow customers to visualize and customize a product, giving them a test run of your product or service before purchasing.
Visitors to an online clothing store could virtually “try on” a piece before purchasing. A homeowner could visualize paint colors on their wall through the magic of VR.
You could also use virtual reality to enhance customer understanding of a product’s capabilities. Volvo used a technique like this to show consumers their new Volvo XC90 months before the car was available to test drive at dealerships, speeding up the customer experience significantly.
Using VR takes the guesswork out of the buying process for customers, and can lead to more customer engagement or even allow you to charge a more premium price for a product.
Is It Realistic For A Small Business To Use VR?
VR technology is quickly becoming mainstream. Before long, it will be at the forefront of promotion materials for businesses in all industries. Already, apps compatible with Google Cardboard span the video game, travel, real estate, and entertainment industries, and the number of industries tapping into this technology continues to grow.
While VR may be a new frontier for small business marketing, it will soon be the norm. Choosing to explore the options VR technology puts your business ahead of a trend that’s soon to be everywhere.
It’s easy to assume that your small business doesn’t have the funds to support or product a VR video, but if your business is ready to invest a little bit of money, VR may be the right option for you.
Remember, it takes money to make money, and this particular investment could have an exponentially higher reward down the line as you establish yourself as ahead of the curve.
What Is Required To Produce These Materials?
The amount that you invest in producing your virtual reality experience depends on how your materials will be viewed and in what context.
If you’re okay with customers accessing your VR videos from their home computers or smartphones, you won’t need to invest in viewing materials. If your goal is to bring customers into your store for the full experience, you’ll want to tailor your VR materials and viewing technology accordingly.
As far as what camera to use, you have a wide range of options, with an equally wide range of prices.
Google has a product available called “Jump” which consists of a ring of 16 GoPro cameras designed specifically to create VR videos. At $15,000, this piece of technology does not run cheap.
For most small business owners, the price tag alone makes Google Jump completely out of the question. However, there are “plenty of” single-camera options that have the same impact.
The Ricoh Theta S camera is one example of a camera that allows you to shoot 360-degree video, and “it” only costs about $350.
For editing, you’ll need a subscription to Adobe Creative software. This costs about $50/month. Usually, Adobe requires users to sign up for an annual plan with monthly payments.
The most ambiguous cost of producing VR materials are the labor costs, since filming and editing can take up a good chunk of time. There’s no definite answer as to how long it will actually take to prepare, shoot, produce and promote materials, and the editing process requires a relatively high level of technological know-how.
The conclusion? It’s possible to produce, edit and promote a VR video or campaign for about $3000, possibly more, depending on how much time needs to be dedicated to editing the footage/how long the video will be.
Again, there are several variables to factor in when deciding whether this investment is worth your while. Is it cheaper to make this one-time investment to produce a quality VR experience that can be used for hundreds of customers at once, or sacrifice time and money traveling from customer to customer providing the same experience in person?
How Do I Promote My VR Materials?
Promotion is key. You won’t see the return on investment you’d like to see unless you put the right amount of effort into making sure your VR materials get seen.
Youtube may be the most mainstream way to introduce VR to your customers since it’s a platform they’re already familiar with. 360 content can exist on Youtube without any viewing device needed, and can be a good introduction to VR for people who aren’t familiar with it.
Additionally, promotions in public spaces that allow for maximum exposure and allow you to demonstrate the usefulness of VR to potential customers are best. Topshop, a fashion brand from the UK, used VR headsets in a central London flagship store to show shoppers their latest runway show in virtual reality to immerse them in the new collection. This gave their VR experience maximum exposure, since even those who didn’t get the chance to actually see the VR video saw the use of the new technology.
Sometimes, you don’t even need to create an entire video to take advantage of the benefits of VR. The Ricoh Theta S can also take 360 images, which can be posted on your website or on social media. No video editing required! Give customers a virtual tour of your storefront, or snap an image that captures a 360 “shot” of your view from a major convention. The possibilities are endless.
Take a look at this 360 still photograph that Sweet Rose Studios snapped from inside Philadelphia’s favorite wine shop, Pinot Boutique:
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Finally, VR is an emerging technology, and simply using it may be enough to earn your business recognition. Pitching stories surrounding your business’ new VR experience and putting together a press release to local or industry news outlets could get you coverage since right now developments in VR are newsworthy.
So…What Are You Waiting For?
No matter what product or service your business is offering consumers, there are endless ways to enhance your customer’s experience through virtual reality.
The quick emergence of this technology means it’s probably more accessible than you thought, especially in terms of cost. Even with only a few thousand dollars in your marketing budget, it’s still very possible for your business to conceptualize, produce and promote VR materials ahead of your competition.
Want to stay ahead of the game? Let Sweet Rose Studios help create your very first virtual reality videos, and give your customers the experience they’ve always wanted!