The brands leading the way with Oculus Rift experiences
The Oculus Rift has caught the attention of brands and retailers, resulting in some truly unique and immersive marketing campaigns and providing inspiration for how virtual reality could be used in the future of retail. Here are some of the brands who have already started using this new technology to enrich their interactions with consumers.
Lexus is touring auto shows in the US with a test drive simulation of their new RC F Sports coupe. This has allowed them to showcase their newest model to the public even before its release, an effective way to build hype around their product before it goes on sale. This game-style marketing works perfectly with the auto industry, allowing the player to drive around a track and get a feel for the interior.
One of the travel brands taking advantage of the virtual environments made possible by Oculus Rift is Marriott Hotels. They created a ‘teleporter’ in which people stand, wearing an Oculus Rift headset. They can then experience walking through a hotel lobby and being transported to far-flung destinations, with the use of 360° video and computer-generated content. To make this experience even more immersive, Marriott added more sensory elements including heat, scents and wind.
After successfully trialling ‘Try-before-you-buy’ holiday experiences on Oculus Rift in their Bluewater store, Thomas Cook have plans to roll out this concept to a number of their stores around Europe, using the Samsung VR headset, created by Oculus VR. Experiences will include 360° video tours of hotels and available excursions. Whilst this is initially going to be an in store feature, Thomas Cook hope to make it available to anyone with a VR Headset at home, so that online customers, who make up almost 40% of the business, will have access to all the same content as in store.
Monarch Airlines presented a unique way to introduce their 2014 ski season by creating a game for the Oculus Rift in which people were able to have a go at virtually ski jumping. The game involved skiing down a slope full of Monarch branding, before jumping and seeing a Monarch plane fly by. With such a fast paced game involving a lot of simulated movement, the developers understood the risks of motion sickness and so added a Wii Fit balance board and ski poles so that the players had added support and could move their bodies around more naturally.
Fashion retailer, Topshop, gave customers the unique opportunity to virtually attend a star-studded catwalk event at London Fashion Week. This was done by live streaming the event to five Oculus Rift headsets in their flagship London Oxford Street store.
Last year, Tesco revealed an Oculus Rift supermarket experience, allowing users to walk around the aisles and look at products on shelves. Virtually walking around a supermarket to actually do a weekly shop isn’t likely to entice customers, but the application may have implications for consumer research. Concepts can be trialled without physically making changes to a store or building a life-size mock-up of a store.
So far, most brands and retailers who have adopted virtual reality technology have used it for novel marketing campaigns rather than for more practical sales applications.
As the consumer version of Oculus Rift is yet to be finalised, and the retail cost is likely to be around £350, it’s understandable why brands and retailers have not yet got their virtual reality experiences into the homes of their consumers.
A more viable option may be to develop for a more attainable VR headset, such as Google Cardboard.
One brand using Cardboard already is Accor Hotels, who have created an app which lets users take virtual tours of their hotels. John Lewis also involved Cardboard in their Monty the Penguin Christmas campaign, by creating an app to bring the ‘Monty’s Christmas Storybook’ to life.
Compatible with a number of smartphones and costing as low as £1.95, creating experiences for consumers through Google Cardboard may be a way to introduce the consumer to the concept of interacting with brands through virtual reality and pave the way for more sophisticated VR retail experiences.