Virtual Reality Marketing?

Virtual reality is not what it used to be.  With technological advances and improvements the gap between reality and consumer expectations is shrinking.  Technology is transforming all aspects of our lives and our daily interactions with the digital world are increasing exponentially.  Why not make this digital world a reality? A virtual reality?

There is no doubt that VR is having a huge impact on the gaming and entertainment industry.  Game manufacturers are fighting to keep up with demands for the most realistic and immersive gaming experience.  Although still new, we are now seeing an interest in adding VR to the marketing arsenal of retailers too.

Global real estate provider Savills worked with digital production agency Rewind to create a VR experience using their pioneering platform ‘Horoma’.  The impressive Furze Croft mansion in Surrey is on the market for a cool £16.75 million and is one of the most sought after gated estates in the country. With the general population being time poor, what better way to see the space than through a virtual reality headset? With offices all over the world and an array of wealthy Clients and investors, the VR marketing tool allows for prospective buyers to view their ideal properties wherever they are. For example: a potential buyer in China can ‘see’ a neo-Palladian mansion in Surrey without leaving the office.

Is this the new way to sell homes? Perhaps if the homes in question are firmly in the luxury market. The creation of the virtual reality tour is not cheap. In order to create this  immersive experience, the space has to be spherically scanned, filmed and photographed in great detail.  This gives users the ability to explore their surroundings in life-like detail as if they are really acting within the space. The experience is then taken to the next level through the use of sound recordings taken from the property.  This negates the need for questions regarding road noise and neighbouring areas and adds to the realism of the experience.

So with large budgets required, is VR something other areas in the retail sector may take on? In April this year, shopping mall chain Westfield created a  ‘Future Fashion’ Installation in their Stratford City Mall in East London. Using Oculus Rift headsets, leap motion and touch screen displays, shoppers could see key trends for 2015 while being immersed in one of three 3D ‘dreamscape’ worlds.  These worlds were based on the top trends for the upcoming season and the use of leap motion technology enabled users to navigate through the space using arm movements.

Creators of the Westfield VR experience Inition are an interactive experience installation company and have worked with other high street brands to integrate VR into their shopping experience.  Last year, they created a virtual reality catwalk for high street name Topshop that transported users to their live fashion show during London fashion week.

Many retailers are just catching up to the idea of seamless digital and physical retailing, so the introduction of virtual reality may be too much too soon.  Whether this is a novelty, or a trend set to grow and evolve we will have to wait and see.

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