Virtual reality is revolutionising the way businesses communicate and connect with their audiences.

This year some of the world’s largest tech companies brought us virtual reality (or VR) through the likes of Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and the HTC Vive.

playstation virtual reality

Playstation VR box

Although not in the hands of everyday consumers, the release of these headsets to consumers is gaining traction.  According to Gartner, 25 million virtual reality headsets will sell by 2018.

I didn’t understand the hype over virtual reality; let alone what the potential was for businesses in the modern era.  Laura asked me if I’d like to go to a Google Garage event as part of my internship with Aura to find out more about virtual reality and what the opportunities for business, particularly those without the big budgets.

What is virtual reality?

VR is a computer generated experience where users can interact and view content via a special headset.

As soon as you put the headset on, there’s a whole new world to explore where you can look, feel, and witness something so real that you would want to touch it.

Virtual reality benefits both brands and consumers.  It enables brands to spotlight their products and services through mesmerising and lifelike experiences.  It also allows consumers to interact with brands.  Companies like The New York Times, IKEA, Coca-Cola, and Topshop are already taking advantage of this trend.

VR used by brands we know

The New York Times recognised the importance of creating virtual reality content.  It now brings its audiences to the centre of their stories and events in an immersive virtual reality experience.  In a partnership with Google, The New York Times sent Google cardboard headsets to subscribers.  This allowed them to follow campaign trails and explore distant Pluto in a 360-degree video.

Topshop has also explored virtual reality and has taken the idea of a traditional fashion show to a new dimension.  As a way to engage and excite customers, Topshop invited shoppers to don 8 Oculus Rift headsets, placed in the window of their flagship store in Oxford Circus.  This allowed customers to experience a 360-degree virtual world.  This comprised of a live feed from the Tate Modern of the Topshop Unique fashion show, backstage access, and VIP arrivals.

virtual reality

Image courtesy of Popular Science: Oculus Rift

The Oculus rift is priced at £549 per headset and while not all businesses have big budgets to spend on testing out virtual reality, smaller brands can still incorporate virtual reality tactics into their PR strategies.

Live video is a way of promoting brands, and virtual reality is live videos next phase.  This will allows businesses to communicate inspiring content on a completely new level.  Audiences can experience new product launches or events without having to be there in person.  Google cardboard headsets are priced as low as £5, allowing anyone to experience virtual reality in a simple and fun way.

Virtual reality also allows audiences to gain a better understanding of a businesses’ culture.  Google Street View allows viewers to see inside the workplace.  Companies can now take this one step further and take their audiences on trips behind the scenes.  This shows them exactly what the company does and what they stand for.  This is powerful and will build brand loyalty.

VR offers opportunities

It is clear the future of VR is bright.  Industry analyst firm CCS Insight, published a report estimating that the market will be worth a $4 billion in three years.  Some of the most exciting opportunities for virtual reality are:

  • It will improve the online shopping experience.  Being able to see clothes or furniture to determine the fit will remove the need to buy in store and manage online shopping expectations.  Wouldn’t it be great to see how a new sofa would look in your living room before you buy it?
  • It will improve entertainment.  Imagine sitting in your living room and watching Wimbledon with virtual reality.  The viewer will be transported right to the court! Virtual reality will have a similar impact on gaming music, and movies.
  • It will offer on the job training experiences.  Virtual reality apps will help with learning and relationship building.  Staff will be able to speak face to face with their boss from across the country, or master public speaking in front of a virtual audience.  The skills and mentors you can access will be endless when there are no geographical or practical limits.

It is clear that virtual reality offers a world of opportunities for business. Embracing this technology allows companies and consumers to benefit from the experience.

After attending the Google Garage event I feel excited about what the future holds for virtual reality.  It is much more than a gimmick and is something that can be core to a business strategy.

Guest post by Carly Fleider, Aura Intern

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