The business benefits of virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) concepts are increasingly being used to present products and services in new, innovative ways.

They were once only explored in sci-fi movies and at big-budget gaming conventions, but these kinds of immersive technologies are now more accessible to businesses than ever before.

In this article, we take a look at the uses of VR and AR in various business contexts, and discuss how you can potentially use these tools to enhance and evolve your brand experience. 

Explaining the difference between VR and AR

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two terms that are often used interchangeably – but it’s important to outline the difference between them.

VR technology uses headsets to deliver a simulated or imaginative environment that is made to feel real.

AR combines a real environment with a layer of additional visuals to change or enhance the user’s experience. For example, 360-degree videos are often used to create an augmented setting.

How can these new technologies be used within a business environment?

Having the means to create a whole new digital ‘world’ for customers opens up so many opportunities for brands.

Consider the implications of being able to experiment with what appears to be a real-life setting, but use AR to add and remove elements of your environment as you see fit - then undo your handiwork and start from scratch again if it doesn’t look quite right. This kind of scenario is ideal for designers and architects who wish to road-test their plans prior to the start of a build, before they have invested in costly labour and materials. 360-degree technology also enables these professionals to present finalised concepts to their client and allow them to get a feel for their new space before the first brick has even been laid. 

Manufacturers can use VR to analyse every part, process or mechanism to check its suitability. They can also use this technology to test the performance of a new product under various conditions, without having to spend valuable time and money constructing a prototype first. VR is an invaluable tool for aircraft designers, for example, as it allows them to explore the constraints of their ideas in a simulated environment.

Thanks to VR, customers can access virtual showrooms. Whether they’re shopping for clothes, curtain fabrics or corner sofas, they can view the item they wish to purchase in a digital store, and in some cases even gain expert advice from virtual shop assistants. Lacoste is leading the way in this area with their LCST app, which enables customers to try on shoes virtually; and retailers such as Ikea are taking the idea one step further by developing headsets that enable the customer to envision what the item will look like in their own living space.

The property market has been transformed with the introduction of VR, too. Now, potential buyers can ‘walk around’ the inside of their dream home without leaving the sofa. It’s an especially invaluable tool for those who would have otherwise had to travel a long distance to see the property; it also saves the seller or estate agent a great deal of time in arranging and attending viewings. Rightmove is investing heavily in for property VR, and Nottingham-based company Walton & Allen is one of the first estate agents in the UK to introduce the concept to its wide pool of customers; the firm has partnered with NewtonMedia.TV to produce virtual tours that can be viewed through headsets. 

And best of all, companies no longer need acres of space and millions of pounds to create these incredible alternative worlds – VR solutions are becoming more affordable and portable as the months and years roll by.

Using VR to inform your future marketing strategy

AR and VR are providing businesses with exciting ways to market to, and service, their customers. But for the best results, these companies need to analyse their existing customer data for an insight into behavioural trends and purchasing preferences, and create content that appeals to their core demographics.

At Oakley VR, we’re big believers in the benefits of VR for businesses. We’re also highly adept at finding the right solutions for any project. Contact us today to discover how emerging VR and AR technologies could help you deliver a meaningful, memorable experience to your audience, regardless of the industry you’re in.