Is VR tech what brands really need next?

Virtual Reality (VR) has progressed leaps and bounds over the last year. With PlayStation VR fast approaching, joining Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear and HTC Vive on the consumer market, marketers have been prompted to think about how they can utilise this new technology.

Yet this increasingly popular form of technology is leaving businesses with a battle on their hands. The digital age has provided many different ways for brands to communicate with their customers, however it is often marketers who are left to decipher these new technologies. Which format or device will add business value and make their brand communications stand out?

In our recent Digital Disruptors report, we found that businesses in the UK are actively thinking about new trends in technology for brand communication. 24 per cent already use VR and a further 46 per cent said that they will be ready to use it within the next year. However, at the same time, we were shocked to see that whilst so many may appear tech savvy, 36 per cent of businesses in the UK still do not even have a mobile-optimised website or app.

It is intriguing to see that so many brands want to invest in new technology, but are they doing this for the right reasons? It is imperative that they choose new technologies that will improve their customer experience and add value to the brand, rather than just trying to keep up with trends. Brands must undertake a digital transformation process to identify the right way to communicate with their customers, rather than just jumping to use brand new, unproven interfaces.

Prevailing misinterpretations

Marketers, IT and procurement teams often misinterpret digital transformation strategies and think that they simply mean investing lots of money into new technologies that are breaking into the market. However digital transformation should be thought of from a customer viewpoint, not from a product perspective.

In the age of digital domination, building personalised and meaningful relationships with customers is mandatory. Brands need to understand how their audiences want to be reached and more importantly, how they would like to interact with the company. This information is critical to build personalised experiences.

The same approach needs to be taken when developing content. Marketers should be asking themselves how content will be useful to the user. Once this is decided upon, it can be served from a single source, no matter the medium. If 36 per cent of businesses can’t deliver their messaging via an app or mobile site, their customers realistically aren’t calling out for VR content. However this doesn’t mean VR isn’t right for some businesses; some brands have enhanced their customer experience with VR. The videogames industry has changed completely and customers can’t wait to see what’s next, whilst VR could complement businesses such as tour guides or estate agents.

Getting the most out of your money

In the report, we found that for 41 per cent of businesses, their biggest concern with VR is the cost. Whilst this is an understandable concern, it isn’t the only challenge facing marketers when it comes to implementing new technologies. 

For example, in our State of Marketing Tech report earlier in the year, we found that 66 per cent of marketers have now taken the reins from the IT department and are making most of the decisions when it comes to investing company money in technology. However, the findings also revealed that marketers struggle beyond making an initial investment in marketing technology products, with 53 per cent admitting that they find it difficult to use marketing automation software.

For this reason, marketers need to ensure that they are taking a cautious approach with investments. It could be an expensive mistake if a business was to invest in something like VR, only to find that it doesn’t serve their customers’ needs, nor can the teams who invested in the technology actually use it. Without the skills to create customer experiences through VR, the technology will become an overhead that isn’t able to fulfil its true potential.

Manage change successfully

Whilst marketers are owning the technology investment decisions, they do need to rely on IT departments for support, alongside other departments. Marketers should be focused on improving customer experience and getting results, however they need to collaborate with the IT department to gain a technological advantage.

Only with numerous stakeholders on board can marketers get a full view of the customer experience and make a valid assessment as to whether a new tech purchase would enhance that journey. Digital transformation projects are key for businesses who want to ensure that they are stepping into the future. To do so however, the company’s customers need to remain at the forefront of any decision – this includes adopting new tech for communications.

Digital innovation is a completely unique journey for each brand; whilst VR might be right for one brand, it could be a mobile optimised site that is the perfect solution for another.    

Stephen Morgan, Co-Founder of digital transformation business, Squiz

Image source: Shutterstock/Halfpoint