Now, more than ever, marketing is being driven by the needs of the consumer. Every year, as new technologies become available, consumers want brands to provide experiences that use them. This means as a marketer, it is important that you keep pace with new advances to meet consumer expectations and deliver the best possible experiences.
Enter Virtual Reality (VR), one of the latest buzzwords in the world of technology. It’s only been a few years since this came out and marketers are already starting to believe that this technology can revolutionize the customer experience. When you consider the fact that this technology is already disrupting certain sectors, failing to utilize it can leave you lagging behind your competitors.
Even if it’s surrounded by hype, VR still has many marketers pondering its potential uses, especially in social media.
What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality is an immersive environment that is stimulated by computers. It essentially places the user in another world, giving them the feeling of being in that environment.
One of the most popular ways to experience VR is through a headset—Oculus Rift or the latest Oculus Rift S are great examples. Devices like these can often be sophisticated and expensive. But there are simpler devices out there, like Google Cardboard, that allow people to use their smartphones to connect to a virtual environment.
Why use virtual reality to improve customer experience?
Using Virtual Reality in your social media has multiple benefits.
It offers an immersive experience for your customers
VR offers your customers an immersive experience and allows them to connect with your product in a new way. It transports them to a virtual world with 360-degree video and audio. One moment they are in their rooms, the next they could be on top of a mountain experiencing a stunning landscape and virtual adrenaline rush, fostering their love for the great outdoors.
It portrays you as a cutting-edge brand
A study showed that up to 7x, 1% of consumers perceive a brand to be cutting-edge if it uses virtual reality. So, using virtual reality portrays you as a brand that is forward-thinking and modern, and hence a more desirable brand to do business with.
It encourages content sharing and buying
Since VR offers an immersive experience, using it in your social media encourages more impulse buying and content-sharing. In fact, it has already been proved that VR is reshaping the buying experience. As much as 65% of U.S. consumers, particularly for retail, expect VR to change the way people shop.
Aside from the above benefits, VR also helps you expand your follower base, increase customer engagement, and ultimately boost revenues.
Now, before you start implementing VR…
Now that you’re sold on implementing VR in your social media efforts, you must rethink your social media goals and metrics.
Because, whenever you start implementing a new tactic in your social media strategy, it’s worth going back to understand how those tactics can support your goals.
Firstly, understand what your social media goals are — are they increasing brand awareness, increasing your Facebook or Instagram followers, generating leads, etc?
- If increasing brand awareness is the goal, figure out how you can measure it. Are you going to check out how many social media mentions you receive in the next 1 or 2 weeks? Or are you going to keep an eye on the traffic your website receives in the next few weeks?
- If acquiring new customers is the goal, for example, you need to understand how you’re going to engage them later on in your campaigns. Say, you’re collecting leads from your VR campaign on Facebook, you can collect them into a tool like Mailchimp to run personalized campaigns in the future.
Secondly, understand how you’re going to measure its success. To help you with that, we suggest you take a baseline measurement of your current metrics — traffic from social media, engagement numbers, reach, conversions, etc. This gives you a starting point to measure your goals clearly. The best way to do this is to automatically capture your social media leads to a google spreadsheet. For instance, you can collect all your Facebook leads from lead ads to Google Sheets. This automated workflow ensures that your spreadsheet remains updated with all the lead details. Going forward, you can sync your Google Sheets with your marketing automation tool to kickstart your campaigns.
How can you use virtual reality for social media?
1. Show off your latest products and features.
Currently, VR is the perfect technology to demonstrate new features and functionalities of your new products to your audience.
In 2016, Mercedes-Benz demonstrated its latest model using VR with a virtual drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in California. During this virtual drive, viewers could take a look around the interior of the car and see how it navigates the road. This helps viewers to imagine what driving that car would feel like in a realistic way.
2. Provide detailed information about your products.
When you’re selling products online from an e-commerce store, be sure to get the main points and features listed out to your customers. A well-informed prospect always makes more informed decisions. After making their transaction, they’ll feel happier about their purchase. PS: Make sure you have your payment gateway synced with your eCommerce platforms like Shopify so that transactional hazards are out of question.
Online clothes shopping is a great example. One of the risks of buying clothes online is that the clothes won’t fit correctly. To overcome this risk, a few years ago, Rebecca Minkoff, the popular fashion designer partnered with Zeekit, an app that uses augmented reality to show consumers how the clothes will fit them without requiring them to try it out in person.
Lowe, one of the world’s largest home improvement brands uses a similar technology for its “Virtual Room Designer”. It allows customers to design their rooms using the brand’s home-improvement products and then virtually experience how they will look like.
The brand also added social media sharing buttons on those pages to help prospects share their designs on social media. This encourages engagement and even earns them extra feedback from their friends and family. At the same time, it improves the company’s brand and promotes the “Virtual Room Designer”.
3. Host VR experiences.
Hosting VR brand experiences is the best way to boost your engagement on social media. By participating in such events, consumers click pictures and share those updates on social media, in turn promoting your brand to their networks. As already discussed before, VR can significantly enhance your brand experiences to make them create more shareable content.
A good example is the “Cheer of Champions” campaign by Lays. The campaign allowed fans to visit a shopping mall in Madrid and use a VR feature while wearing jerseys to cheer for their favourite teams.
This experience would begin with their Lay’s potato chip bags that included a digital version of their team’s jerseys. All the fans needed to do is take a photo of themselves and get virtually decked out for the game. To make the experience even more engaging and fun, the fans could then share their photos on social media.
VR best practices
While virtual reality in social media marketing is still in its infancy, there are best practices being developed for marketers to use VR in social media.
- Flip the experience and make it consumer-centred.
- Make VR experiences social.
- Combine physical and virtual objects.
- Keep iterating as you learn from the metrics.
- Use VR to enhance product experience, not replace it.
These best practices are intended to guide marketers in providing engaging and enjoyable immersive experiences using mobile devices and VR equipment. While it may sound intriguing, a VR campaign will lose its charm if you don’t have other aspects of your campaign properly set up. For instance, make sure you have your contact forms ready for your consumers if they want to raise a complaint or feedback about their experience. The easiest way to do this is to connect your form with your support tools. For instance, you can use Google Forms and connect with your support tool like Jira where tickets are automatically raised.
The use of virtual reality is still in its early stages. But keep a close eye on it. Because it’s going to explode. As you’ve seen so far, there are many different ways in which you can deploy VR, and that certainly includes social media.
Well-thought-out investments in VR can significantly amplify your social media presence. And, as social platforms like Facebook and Snapchat increasingly begin to develop their own VR hardware (such as Facebook’s Oculus and Snapchat’s Spectacles), we will see the birth of new consumer engagement formats and experiences.
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