In my recent report for Gartner’s marketing clients, “Virtual Reality: What Marketers Need to Know Now,” I share an organized and cautious approach to ensure marketers get value from any investments made in virtual reality (VR) programs. As with past digital innovations, VR is creating excitement as agencies gear up their VR practices and marketers seek new ways to reach consumers. But what we can learn from past digital innovations is that the best use of VR will not be flashy top-of-funnel strategies that seek to gain awareness but programs lower in the marketing funnel that improve customer experience.
When innovations occur in communications and technology, the marketing department is often the first within the organization to act. Your marketing group likely took the lead in creating the original website, launched your company’s first social media profiles, and deployed the first mobile applications.
But while marketing’s willingness to experiment is both admirable and necessary, not every experiment pays dividends, as fan-accumulating Facebook contests, ignored advergames, abandoned Second Life islands, and other innovative concepts often failed to deliver the results marketing needs and wants. By learning from the past, we can see that the solution for marketers is to anchor their VR experiments not at the top of the funnel but toward the bottom and to understand where VR can best enhance their brand’s customer experience.
While a brand or two may roll the dice and get lucky with a VR roller coaster app or 3D game featuring their product, those sorts of programs are not likely to make much of a brand impression, even assuming they gain critical mass in a VR marketplace rapidly filling with professional content. Instead, marketers will improve the odds of delivering a VR program with demonstrable success if they seek to meet customer needs and use VR to help people Evaluate and Select products and services (two of the stages at the end of the Buy cycle in Gartner’s Buy/Own/Advocate customer journey).
One great example, which I featured in my presentation at the recent Gartner Conference for Marketing Leaders, was a program for Lowe’s developed by Marxent Labs. The Lowe’s Holoroom helps customers to create and see their future kitchen or bathroom. Far from being a gimmick, the Holoroom uses VR to assist Lowe’s customers in making a better, more confident decision. This program takes the fear out of a scary process and allows customers to show and communicate ideas to partners and family members, thus improving the customer experience. The program also helps Lowe’s to capture more customers, move more of them to purchase and lifts satisfaction; in short, it allows Lowe’s to deliver better marketing and business results.
To learn more, visit this site to see an informative video that introduces and describes the Lowe’s Holoroom program. And to use Gartner’s GAMEUP approach to smarter VR marketing, our clients can access the report, “Virtual Reality: What Marketers Need to Know Now.”