Virtual reality isn't a new concept, but it is quickly becoming a new reality. Just under five years after the release of the Microsoft Kinect, and amidst growing buzz around Oculus Rift, Microsoft announced the release of the HoloLens in conjunction with Windows 10. While HoloLens, Google Glass, Oculus Rift, and other wearable technologies are often discussed in the context of gaming and social media, it's important for marketers to consider these devices and their implications customers and on content strategy.
Successful marketers put their customers at the center of every communications strategy. Wearable computing devices and virtual reality create a new and viable marketing landscape in which to connect with buyers, demonstrate product/service value, and create conversations.
The mixed reality made possible by HoloLens and others allows brands to have a human presence in interactions and create play spaces where prospects and customers can explore a product or service on their own terms. Wearables are convenient control devices, rather than exclusively consumption interfaces like smartphones. Customers will use devices such as the HoloLens and Oculus Rift to communicate and control rather than simply consume.
Further, technology businesses can demonstrate innovation and brand strength by adopting emerging technologies to tell their own story.
Here are four scenarios where virtual reality could augment a marketing effort:
3D modeling and product design: There's an undeniable intersection between 3D virtual reality and 3D on-demand printing. There's already talk about using technology such as HoloLens within R&D departments to rapidly prototype products, but it could also be used in the field by customers.
Customer advocacy: Marketing teams have been setting up calls between existing and prospective customers since the dawn of the enterprise. While video chats have become commonplace, what could be even more compelling is to create a virtual meeting between two customers, where they can explore both real and possible solutions together. One benefit of customer-to-prospect calls is the opportunity for each to learn from each other. For example, adding this type of new and experiential element to the interaction could deepen the impact for the prospect and extend the value for the customer.
Virtual billboards and ad spaces: Just as we saw real-world advertisements showing up in SIMS and similar gaming environments, there will be opportunities to advertise and market brands within HoloLens-supported virtual environments. Marketers can push the boundaries of creativity by creating ads that are interactive, malleable, and personal. We've already seen brands exploring the possibilities of "intelligent" holographic avatars, and this could be explored in new and exciting ways with virtual reality.
Data immersion: The role of data is to help people to make better, informed decisions. As more activities are tracked and measured, and data sets are increasingly complex, there is an opportunity to add a third dimension to data visualization that allows consumers to literally immerse themselves in a data set, exploring it from multiple angles. While the flat infographic has given way to animated data stories, the future could be a virtual data landscape where customers can explore data and create their own view on it.
Wearable technology is still in its early days, but brands that ignore the marketing impact of this type of technology will be left behind. Early adopters and innovative technology brands are in a strong position to make the most of this marketing opportunity and create buzz around their content approach.