This week, we spoke to Samantha Kingston founder at the Virtual Umbrella. A pretty impressive individual in her own right, Samantha was voted one of BIMA’s rising stars, the Venus Awards’ New Business of the year, as well as being one of the Drum’s 50 under 50 as well as having founded VRGirlsUK. Given her proliferation of credentials and that she founded her very own virtual reality company, we felt she was probably pretty qualified to speak on the future of VR. And she certainly didn’t disappoint; offering up some fantastic nuggets of information that both excited and amazed the team at Nimbus.
First and foremost, the most important thing to recognise with VR is that the industry is exceedingly fast paced. Whilst revenues already reached $7 billion as of 2017, this is expected to explode to $70 billion by 2021. A huge jump in an exceptionally short space of time. Even during Samantha’s career, she has seen the progression of head-mounted displays (HMD) grow from prototypes to products that are available in shops to the general public. With all this happening in the space of only a few years, the future is an exhilarating time with advances happening so fast it is hard to keep up. So these predictions are by no means exhaustive and expect to see big changes over the next decade or so.
Already we are seeing brands taking full advantage of virtual reality with some spectacular results. Let’s start with Pokémon Go, the game that for a few months had the whole world staring at their phone absorbed in a virtual reality that saw them flock to find Pokémon characters. Whilst business owners quickly saw the potential for profit and bought ads; allowing them to host Pokémon in their local stores and driving far more traffic to their businesses. Not only that, but already Ikea has an App that allows a user to see what a piece of furniture would look like in their store, whilst Thomas Cook travel agency (interestingly a sector that has faced huge challenges in the face of online competition) saw an increase in 190% in bookings to New York City, by allowing consumer to take a virtual ride in planes and helicopters over the city that never sleeps.
Hospitality and Tourism
Continuing on with Thomas Cook, hospitality and tourism could well receive the biggest benefit from VR. As the barriers to entry become lower, and VR becomes more affordable and commonplace, even smaller hotels and tourist attractions will be able to invest in this powerful piece of marketing. Take the Marriott for example, who way back in 2015 had already jumped on the VR bandwagon and added VR headsets into each of their hotel rooms to give users the experience of travelling to new destinations. This was received pretty well by their guests, with 51% stating they now wanted to stay more at Marriott hotels.
Meanwhile, British Columbia also launched a VR campaign to allow potential tourists to explore the wilderness. To be honest we couldn’t resist taking a look at this marketing campaign and frankly half the team at Nimbus have now put in requests for vacations to British Columbia; so it is unquestionably an exciting and powerful piece of content. And it also helped drive 5% more traffic to their website.
Aside from the commercial world, VR can also help charities and organisations raise awareness in a completely new and innovative way. One particularly impressive campaign was launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) who created interactive videos that allowed drivers to understand what it was like to drink drive; as the number of drinks increase your vision becomes blurred and you can really feel what it’s like to drink drive. A powerful demotivating tool, particularly for new drivers.
However, the reach doesn’t stop there. Virtual Reality can also work for charities looking to raise money for causes based in foreign countries. Allowing potential donors to see and feel regions without having to even board a plane, it could have an exceptionally significant impact on helping individuals to understand the plight and seriousness of situations on the other side of the world. Which really is what VR is all about; taking the basics of marketing – storytelling and allowing a user to be immersed and involved in the experience. Over the next few years it should be truly exciting to see how this develops. Definitely one to watch.
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