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ATK3EDThe promises of virtual reality devices are vast and varied. Gaming! Entertainment! E-commerce! Thus, for companies in virtually every industry, the advances in this technology strongly indicate the need to develop strategic plans for how they might use virtual reality, whether to expand their current product offerings or to market their existing offerings more effectively.
For example, a demo version of an e-commerce virtual reality tool introduced recently created a loft apartment setting, decorated with various items of furniture, artwork, housewares, and clothing. Users could gain more information about each item by focusing their gaze on a diamond shape next to each item, then place anything they wanted to buy in their virtual reality shopping basket by tapping the headset.

Retailers of high-end products, such as jewelry and haute couture, similarly might develop dedicated virtual reality applications that enable distant consumers to perceive how the items would look on them, without running the risk of shipping the expensive items or requiring customers to make a trip to their stores.

Sellers of destinations, such as tourism operators and hotels, also could enable potential customers to walk throughout the property, observing all the perks associated with the location. Realtors can create more interactive virtual reality tours of homes for sale, which should facilitate the sales process.

Although they seem slightly less cutting edge, retailers and consumer goods companies also might use virtual reality tools to test out new store designs, track how shoppers move through stores, or measure the effects of changing their displays. Several well-known consumer packaged goods firms already run expensive, dedicated labs to assess these habits, but with personal virtual reality devices, they could gather more input from more varied audiences, likely at a lower cost.

Even if the most widely acknowledged and popular application of virtual reality continues to focus on gaming, the effects in this industry also might be meaningful for marketers. Immersing players in a game creates new experiences and sensations for them, which is likely to require new approaches for marketers that want to appear within the game or sponsor elements of it.

As one analyst summarized the current state of affairs, “Visualizing products using immersion is going to give people a different way of thinking about them. It’s going to allow for different brand experiences. It’s just going to be interesting to see what creative people come up with.”

Discussion Question:

Can you think of other strategic uses of virtual reality, beyond those mentioned in this article, that a company might use to market its products?

 

Source: Jack Neff, “How Virtual Reality Could Change Shopper Marketing, B2B, and More,” Advertising Age, July 6, 2015

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