Today’s business environment is more competitive than ever and any advantage that can be gain over your rivals should be grasped firmer than a nostalgic consumer snatching up the last few packs of “old” Arnott’s Shapes whilst they still can.
Technology has provided many opportunities for growth from the boom of e-commerce with the maturing of the internet to apps that allow our increasingly mobile customers to access content or order products on the go.

One new technology that we should all be looking to adopt lest we get stuck in the relative stone ages and end up like Windows Phone desperately trying to compete with an Android is Virtual Reality.

Virtual reality is computer-generated simulations of interactive 3D environments that can create artificial sensory experiences – thanks Wiki. Essentially you are recreating the physical but on a grander scale and often at a fraction of the price.

How VR is already used

Virtual reality has been around for years but the application hasn’t quite filtered through to small businesses. Theme parks have utilised it to create new “roller coasters” for the financial and safety benefits. Australian drivers will be well-acquainted with the Hazard Perception Test. And then of course there is the boom in virtual reality in video games – if you though Wii was good this next-gen stuff will blow your mind!

We’re a long way off expecting businesses to build their very own Tron or Matrix but there are simple ways to incorporate virtual reality into your business.

A great place to start is an interactive tour of your facilities or a 360 degree view of your products. This type of immersive experience doesn’t require you to ship expensive helmets to your customers but still engages them in a much more powerful way than traditional print or even video.

V-commerce

Great marketers and brand consultants know the power of story-driven experiences that forge emotional connections between customers and brands. VR creates opportunities to build relationships with your customers.
Imagine all of the ways you and your customers have to physically engage – how much more business would you get if you could get more customers to come to you? That’s where VR comes in.

Let’s use a few real-world example applications. So, you run a Real Estate agency and you rely entirely on people physically visiting the properties you are selling to determine if it’s right for them. That can be a scheduling nightmare if there’s a lot of interest and where diaries don’t match up you could be missing out on a potential sale.

Virtual reality would allow you to create an interactive, virtual house clients can look at. This could be through your website or a Stormtrooper-like headset in your office. The key difference between this and photos or videos is the ability to view the property from different angles and to inspect things in a way you can’t with traditional media. How many more homes would you sell if you doubled the amount of families “viewing” properties?

Virtual reality can also be applied with augmented reality to boost conversions. Sticking with the house theme you can give you customers the ability to “see” how furniture would “fit” or “paint” the walls in their preferred colour.

Augmented reality is a huge growth market, as shown by the global craze that is Pokémon Go. That wouldn’t be possible without VR.

Another example would be tours of car show rooms and virtual test drives. You can even utilise this in retail so customers can experience your product or “try on” clothes before they buy them.

This not only has the benefit of improving your customer experience it can be a huge money saver. A virtual store has limitless storage capability so you save on physical floor space. In many ways v-commerce may be the best thing to happen to retail since e-commerce.

Virtual training

There are also many non-customer facing benefits of virtual reality as well. Training is a superb application of virtual reality because who can afford to let a trainee loose on a piece of equipment that costs a hundred thousand dollars?
Virtual reality lets you recreate an indestructible digital version of your machinery or software programme for a fraction of the cost of repairs or replacements. You can essentially use VR to train your employees like Neo – if they can think it then the Matrix will comply. There is no spoon…

You can use it in product design to cut down on expensive prototypes saving time and money. User feedback can be incorporated much sooner so you create physical products that meet consumer demands and get your finished product to market sooner.

Interviews and meetings could be revolutionised by VR by making you feel like you are all in the same room. Skype is great for now but you lose so much over video like body language and proper eye-contact.

Virtual reality is no longer in its infancy. It has practical business applications that you could be using now to engage with customers and convert more leads.

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Belgrin

CEO of Belgrin, a Sydney based communications agency specialised in Design, PR and Social Media, Maria Bellissimo-Magrin is a woman of genuine accomplishment. Her 13 years in the creative industry, combined with a keenly developed business sense, have served to position Belgrin as an industry leader.

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