London - Virtual Reality has been heralded as the next frontier in storytelling, marketing and advertising. While film was once seen as the most immersive storytelling medium, VR offers the promise of "presence" - the experience od being somewhere else. Companies ranging from Google to Alibaba are using the technology to reach consumers around the world, while forward-thinking fashion brands like Rebecca Minkoff, Dior and Topshop have been using the technology to engage with their audience and offer them a truly immersive experience, like sitting front row at the latest catwalk shows.
Global search interest in VR has grown nearly 4 times over the last year alone, while research shows that consumers are more willing to engage with VR after learning more about it. However, there remains a large group of the population which has never tried or engaged with VR, leading to the question - how do you get someone who has never experienced, or heard of virtual reality to put on a VR headset? In order to find the answer Google teamed up with Game Lab 360 and shared four ways to guide consumers into the world of virtual reality.
1. Do not limit yourself to a single entry point
In order to introduce virtual reality to all consumers, no matter what the level of their knowledge on VR may be, retailers and marketers should ensure users have multiple ways to interact with the content. Creators should ensure that users are given clear instructions as well as selections at every level and every device - including headsets, mobile devices and desktops.
For example, Google created a 360-degree trailer on YouTube with TrueView and MatPat for a new series. Afterwards, viewers were linked to an immersive experience where they were able to decide if they wanted to watch an episode, a 360-degree video or 360-image on any device. Depending on what selection they made, viewers could then explore the 360-degree image or video by either moving their mouse across the desktop screen, or tilting their mobile phone or tablet, or pairing their headset with a smartphone to be fully immersed in the video. By offering viewers numerous way to interact with the content, VR is made much more accessible and easier to engage with.
2. Guide people through the VR experience
It is absolutely critical that VR creators include clear instructions on how to engage with the content at every step. This can be included in the website's copy, in the content itself or even in the form of a voiceover in a video. In the 360 degree trailer MatPat speaks directly to the viewers to help guide them through the experience, making it all the more immersive as well as personal.
"If you're on your desktop take your mouse and scroll it around the screen," he explains before going on to describe how to access the experience using a mobile phone or VR headset. "We had people averaging more than two minutes using their phones to explore certain 360 scenes," MatPat said. "That's really extraordinary. It shows they weren't just looking around a room, but exploring a world."
3. Offer simple mobile experience
Data shows that consumers are turning to their smartphones more and more, for everything ranging from shopping to watching YouTube videos and gaming. In order to ensure viewers coming in through a mobile device are also able to engage with the content, Google created immersive 360-degree images which were accompanied by a voice-over from MatPat, who walked viewers through each scene created.
In order to simulate the feeling of looking around a room or an outdoor world, viewers needed to move their mobiles accordingly, a view which is sometimes referred to as the "magic window." Although some may think that viewers would spend much more time engaging with the 360 videos, data shows that users spent as much time engaging with the images as with the video teasers.
4. Try not to forget about desktop
Although new apps and content are constantly being created which give viewers the freedom to engage with a whole new world through their mobiles, Google stresses that VR creators should not forget the oldest digital platform: the desktop. Even though the majority of the population is unlikely to rush out and purchase the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift VR sets, many users are willing to engage with 360 degree content through their desktops.
For example, the better part of visitors to the Game Lab site interacted with the 360 degree content via their desktops, rather than through their mobile or a Google cardboard headset. "When I realized that I could control the way the screen moved, my mouth dropped open," wrote one commenter on the site. By offering viewers a fresh, new and exciting experience on a more traditional platform, they are more likely to engage with the content, argues Google.
It has been said that the best VR campaigns invite viewers into a new world by offering simple, yet compelling and engaging experiences which can be readily access and savored on multiple platforms. Virtual reality offers retailers, brands and companies the chance to transport viewers to a new world and give them the freedom to interact with them in a whole new way. When it comes to shopping, VR could offer users the opportunity to see items in real size and shape when shopping online without having to leave the comfort of their own home.
However, like any new technology VR also comes with its own set of challenges. Brands and retailers using VR should aim to create experiences which are welcoming and immersive for both VR experts and those who may be new to the tech.
Photo 1: Piaget, Facebook
Photo 2: Diesel, Savvy
Photo 3: Think with Google
Photo 4: YouTube Red
Photo 5: Think with Google