When it comes to customer loyalty, VR is the new reality

Consumer sentiment towards brands is constantly shifting. Thanks to the likes of social media and second screening, it’s much more difficult to maintain the attention of an audience.

A lack of focus on your brand does not convert to a loyal customer, and marketing strategies and tactics are having to continually change to keep up, let alone be leading.

A few years ago, when brands and agencies talked about immersive experiences, they’d be referring to experiential events featuring actors and set pieces. Sure, those select few people who experienced it would likely become an advocate for the brand.

Perhaps the whole thing would be filmed, in the hope that the reactions of those experiencing it would go viral. But really, not enough people would experience it, actually engage, and ultimately become advocates of the brand.

VR creates a higher emotional connection

Experiential events work because when we experience something, we feel much closer to the subjects, places or people associated with it. This is why, increasingly, experiences in a virtual world are providing value to consumers.

There has been an explosion of investment in VR in the last couple of years. At CES 2017, Samsung announced its sold five million Gear VR mobile headsets to date. Facebook paid $2bn for Oculus Rift.

As consumers drive this interest, more and more brands are becoming aware of the value VR brings. Before, it was a small part of a research and development budget for brands; at CES this year, so many people we spoke to had dedicated budget in 2017 for video, and, you guessed it: VR.

A recent Nielsen study found that consumers have a higher emotional connection to branded content in VR compared to 2D content. VR elicited a 27% higher emotional engagement than in a 2D environment, and 17% higher emotional engagement than a 360-degree video on a flat screen.

Examples

Thanks to VR, the immersive experiences brands provide can be far more accessible, with fewer constraints on the scope of what can be presented.

For example, we worked with The North Face on an immersive, 360-degree 3D video and audio experience that gave viewers a convincing, high-quality sense of “presence” in Nepal. 

Not only did Jaunt and the brand work together to create the content, there were VR setups in flagship North Face stores for customers to experience it. A consumer could visit the store, put on a headset, watch the piece, and then hanging in front of them was the North Face jacket the climber was wearing in the film, ready for purchase.

Branded Google Cardboard headsets were also distributed to Outside Magazine’s 75,000 subscribers.

Last year, we worked with Virgin Media on a VR extension of its house party ads, making it the first major advertiser in the UK to tell a brand story using live action film and a moving VR camera. The piece has been viewed over three million times on YouTube alone.

As well as driving online interaction with the brand, Virgin Media used the ‘Virtual Vivid House Party’ to boost in-store customer experiences, making the video and specially-made headsets available throughout 20 high street stores across the UK.

These are the kinds of thing we’re now seeing with so many brands.

Companies are re-thinking the way they encourage brand loyalty by providing an experience that consumers can – and want to – revisit and immerse themselves in.

VR is an opportunity to create customer loyalty; it’s more than a nice-to-have. For forward-thinking companies, VR should be part of – if not a leader – in a marketing strategy that drives interaction, encourages conversation and ultimately affects sales.

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