Will retail be the first vertical where marketers use virtual reality to engage customers?

Will retail be the first vertical where marketers use virtual reality to engage customers?

Virtual Reality, or VR, presents a huge opportunity for marketers in the years to come. This simulated experience that puts the user into another world or dimension is why it’s been so successful in gaming. So, how can marketers use VR to engage and excite their audiences in a tangible way?

E-commerce and retail will lead the way

The world of e-commerce and retail is likely to be where marketers will first start to adopt VR into their digital plans and where customers will see the first impact. VR offers a huge opportunity for brands in the area of brand awareness and product discovery.

In order to give customers a new and exciting way to learn more about the brand’s offering or browse the racks, marketers can create virtual showrooms. From a virtual showroom, customers can engage in a much more lifelike way with the product before they actually move down the funnel to buy.

Another option is to place a product within the virtual world and let the user discover and engage with it before leading them into a purchase. Since more and more consumers purchase online, VR technologies promise to be a powerful weapon in the retail marketers’ arsenal.

Why fashion and beauty brands are often first adopters

Marketers know that Millenials and Gen Z’s are more about the experience when it comes to marketing. That’s why fashion and beauty brands are often among the first adopters of new marketing technologies and techniques.

In 2017, Coach, the US-based designer brand, started experimenting with VR headsetsin several stores across North America. The immersive in-video experience gave shoppers a front row view of its NY Fashion Week runway show and offered an exclusive-gift-with-purchase promotion to boost sales.

Gap, another US high street brand, also experimented with VR through the DressingRoom app. The app enabled shoppers to try on clothes virtually before buying, allowing shoppers to pick the right clothing for their shape and size. This was a good step in the direction of reducing customer dissatisfaction and product returns, which bring with them a hefty financial burden for a retailer.

Fancy a virtual tour of your hotel?

VR is also being used in tourism today. For travel marketers working with hotels or airlines and looking to sell destinations, VR offers a unique and engaging way to bring customers on a journey to buy.

Travel brands using VR technology can offer travellers the opportunity to take virtual walks around a hotel or resort before they book their trip, thus avoiding potential accommodation headaches.

Igloo Village in Zermatt, Switzerland, demonstrated this, using a simple virtual reality experience to bring its cosy igloo accommodation and snow-covered village to life.

Taking customers on the buying journey

While it's still early days, VR has the potential to offer marketers a new and exciting way to take customers on the journey from product awareness, via product placement and product interaction in the virtual world, right down to purchase.

In time, social media will replace e-commerce as we know it today. If you look at the new e-commerce features on Instagram, which has become the most engaging social platform for brands, to the development of Facebook’s own cryptocurrency, Libra – very soon, it will be possible to run the entire marketing funnel from discovery to post-purchase customer care via social media.

As a highly engaging, exciting content format, VR will play a key role in brands’ digital marketing plans in the years to come.