7th April 2016

How Can Virtual Reality Support Retail Campaigns?


HTC Vive


It’s quite clear that Virtual Reality (VR) is no longer just about gaming, or for those looking for a bit of additional bum-clenching tension whilst playing Alien: Isolation with a VR headset.

Today, we’re in a bit of a tricky situation. Many clients want to explore the digital cosmos and be seen to be on the cutting-edge of what tech can offer, irrespective of what the budget might allow for. On the other side of the fence, digital creatives want to merge the most creative ideas with the best tech to deliver it, often with a nervous apprehension in justifying the investment to clients.

Client: “But how will this make me money? I’m trying to shift product… not have my customers try on over-sized goggles.

There are two points to justify why VR can be an effective tool for marketers:

1. Potential customers can associate something awesome with your brand, which in turn can boost your brand’s desirability (take Apple, one of the most desirable brands in the world).

2. There are endless innovative ways in which your product can be showcased within a virtual world.


Take this campaign by Visualise created for Thomas Cook, ‘Try Before You Fly’. An immersive experience that let customers take a 5 minute in-store VR journey of the holidays available. Was VR a good idea in this case? Well yes, Thomas Cook were nominated for numerous industry innovation awards and saw a good conversion rate after customers tried on the headsets.

Marriott Hotels in partnership with FrameStore may have trumped Thomas Cook by adding a 4D experience into the mix with their ‘Teleporter’ pod. Individuals were invited to enter a pod wearing an Oculus Rift headset and teleported to one of the brands hotels around the world. The pod replicated additional senses such as temperature and smell to enhance the virtual world further. The ability to view Marriott’s hotels in such a manner teases the actual experience of staying there and draws people into the booking cycle.

We are also now in a position where advancing technology in Leap Motion, which allows users within a virtual world to accurately interact with any object or product within the environment because of advanced motion sensitivity.

We’re pretty much at Minority Report level here…

With this in mind, how can you give your product life in the virtual world? You could help customers visit a virtual store, have a shop assistant greet them, browse an entire collection of products, pick up their favourite New Balance shoes (these are mine), inspect them from 360˚ (if it’s an OOH campaign why not add smells to the experience too). You could even throw a checkout in there so they can buy the product.

Now, will a virtual store ever be the same as a physical store experience? No, probably not. But, it can enhance the effectiveness of your purchase cycle online, and also your in-store offering. Brands, such as Ted Baker, have already begun the integration of the physical and virtual with the ‘Ted Baker and More’ experience in its Shoreditch store.

Framestore took this one step further and introduced a 4D virtual experience for Merrell shoes called ‘Trailscape’, allowing people to wear the product and walk around the Dolomites, experiencing rickety bridges and crumbling walls.

Now that VR headsets are becoming more accessible – for instance Google cardboard can be purchased for as little as $24 – we have the capability to discover an entire store from the comfort of our own homes. Being a child of the digital boom, I’d almost like to see this with galleries – using VR to make the world of education and culture far more accessible.

Virtual Reality is a bridge to be carefully crossed. We shouldn’t throw VR into the mix at every opportunity. And it won’t always be able to add an additional spark of magic for certain brands and briefs. However, it’s the perfect playground to keep our creative brains ticking and, given the chance of a hidden budget, an opportunity to add some true innovation to a creative campaign. And who knows what worlds that might open up…

Next article will be steered towards motion, VR and education.

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