Posted by Bethany Frank on 23 May 2017
Virtual Reality (VR) refers to a completely simulated digital environment in which users are immersed via electronic equipment. Special headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR use advanced graphics and sound to provide a 360-degree sensory experience that seemingly replaces a user’s physical surroundings. VR is closely related to Augmented Reality (AR), a similar technology which overlays digital information onto a user’s physical environment.
VR requires the use of powerful computers and other specifically designed equipment which can be quite expensive. While this currently limits the consumer market to technology power-users, Samsung, Google and others are already beginning to offer budget-friendly headset options. Consumer adoption is expected to increase as the technology becomes cheaper and more accessible over time; once it does, VR is likely to revolutionize how consumers do everyday things like watch TV, browse the web, and shop. What does all this mean for businesses?
A Fully Connected Customer Experience
VR is likely to spur the creation of entirely new digital environments where consumers will seek information, explore new products, and purchase goods. Eventually, consumers may use VR to try on holographic clothes from their favorite stores in a virtual mall, or take virtual tours of various destinations before booking a vacation. That means businesses will have to provide a new kind of customer experience within these contexts – one that is seamless, personalized, and relevant. These virtual environments will also generate vast amounts of rich data that can be analyzed for all kinds of insight and used to further tailor the customer experience.
The Product Demo, Reimagined
VR could completely change how businesses demonstrate their products and services to potential customers. Last year, luxury auto manufacturer Audi offered a glimpse into the car dealership of the future by unveiling two VR experiences, one powered by the HTC Vive headset and the other by Oculus Rift. With the headsets on, customers can fully customize, walk around, and even sit inside a virtual version of any Audi vehicle. The experience “showcases [Audi’s] entire model portfolio, including all possible equipment combinations.”
The Infinite Inventory
Just as the Audi VR experience demonstrates, businesses will be able to display and offer demos of full product lines without incurring the costs of having physical models on-hand. Not only will this make for a better, more complete shopping experience for consumers, but it can also save businesses millions of dollars in inventory costs – especially for those selling big-ticket items like cars or home appliances. VR is more than just a fad – it’s a whole new medium businesses can use to engage their customers in innovative ways, much like the Internet itself. It might seem a bit far-fetched, but consumer interest in VR is on the rise, which means businesses need to start thinking about how to adapt to and thrive in a virtual world. Now is the best time for businesses to consider how they can utilize VR, since the technology is still evolving and the opportunities are endless.
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