That is the crucial question that the marketers in companies are repeatedly asked by their superiors: VR or AR is only something for very few people, how should that be addressed to the general public? However, once you’ve been “inside” a well-made VR application, you no longer ask this question, but rather when the necessary end devices will finally be ready.
And the more complex the application and the hardware required, the less the task of marketing is to distribute the application itself in its finished form. It is more about getting your target group excited about a VR or AR application using traditional methods. Here marketers may have to become even more open and understand that VR and AR are not just about a new visualization, but that a completely new channel to the customer with completely new possibilities is emerging.
And what would be the common marketing strategies?
If we are really talking about the pure marketing of your own VR or AR application, then all types of (digital) marketing are possible. However, VR “glasses” made of cardboard for your own cell phone have rather failed to have a broad impact. It’s a nice gimmick, but the road to the experience is too long for the customer: He has to install his own app, use his smartphone as a display device, the field of view, the optical quality and the possibilities for interaction are severely limited and yet the mobile phone comes due to the Processor load out boiling hot. The customer doesn’t do that a second time.
So it should be a reasonably professional device. If I want to use it to promote a product or construction project or show products “in the wild” in their application in third-party systems, a correspondingly large flat screen monitor in addition to the device helps, especially at trade fairs and for personal presentations. The motivation here is to “pass on” the exclusivity of the experience to the audience. Certain use cases even enable collaboration between the audience involved and the VR user, for example by providing assistance with navigation aids or instructions.
“Create a cosmos around the application”
Is there a significant risk that simple screen formats will not generate enthusiasm and that marketing will “backfire” there?
A purely VR or AR-designed application can cause frustration for the user if it is implemented directly on simple end devices. The aim should be to create a kind of cosmos around the application. Each platform-specific application contains the core content that is to be conveyed, but plays its own strengths. In this case, a simple form of cardboard VR glasses or an AR solution for your own mobile phone can also make sense as an adaptation.
What about the mobility of VR and AR applications: What can you simply bring to a meeting and introduce?
With the help of a smartphone and passive VR glasses (but please not made of cardboard), you can already create an initial effect for VR. This approach is helpful to introduce the topic of VR in general once or to convey an idea in one round. However, the possibilities for interaction and the VR experience are very limited. Controllers (the controls for the hands), if any, are not visible in such a VR application and the movement is limited to one’s own head rotation.
In order to create a VR experience that lives up to its name, we always work with tracking-based solutions for customers. Here, too, the equipment does not have to fill the entire trunk: With the help of a power notebook and VR glasses such as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, the full VR experience virtually fits into a backpack. In spring 2019, the Oculus Quest will also appear, which limits the overall package to VR glasses and their controllers.
AR, on the other hand, has always aimed at one day being completely incorporated into everyday life, which is why existing solutions are designed entirely for mobility. Either a smartphone or a tablet is sufficient here because of the larger visualization area. Of course, an application for real AR glasses, such as the Hololens from Microsoft, makes an impression. A commitment here is only worthwhile if the overall project has the appropriate dimensions, since a single pair of glasses alone means an investment in the mid four-digit euro range.
“Just a VR glasses at the booth is no longer enough today”
There seems to be a strong trend in the B2B sector to use VR and AR applications to make complex topics tangible and emotional. Do you think this is hype or a long-term development?
Emotionality is certainly a trend that B2B is also experiencing without VR and AR. Gone are the days in which a – especially special or complex – product was manufactured or offered and it was sold by virtue of its existence. The competition is getting tighter, it doesn’t even have to be the generally invoked disruption that attacks a provider suddenly. I always have to make the product easier for the user. And both VR and AR are very suitable tools because they can make the inaccessible accessible and the invisible visible. Good applications convey knowledge as people know it from kindergarten: packed emotionally and playfully.
We occasionally look after the VR / AR applications we have developed at trade fairs for our B2B customers. While VR was still a novelty at trade fairs three to four years ago, which generated attention just because of its existence, VR glasses alone are no longer enough to make yourself interesting today. Rather, the visitors now look more suspiciously: What exactly is shown here? What benefits does the provider achieve through the presentation in VR or AR? The design of the environment and the transport of the virtual experience to the masses is now just as important as the application itself.
We’re at a point where the hype about VR / AR as a pure entertainment product has flattened. VR and AR are developing from toys to tools – without losing their playful qualities – and the B2B sector seems to be increasingly recognizing this.