As a means of transporting customers into new and deeply engaging brand and product experiences, there’s simply no other creative technology like Virtual Reality.

It can create deeper customer engagement, transform your digital presence and increase sales. It’s the content/channel hybrid that no-one was expecting, and we’re still trying to tame. But what’s certain is that the medium’s unique ability to deliver brand narratives in previously unimaginable ways is already encouraging marketers to explore how they can use VR content to deliver more impactful marketing.

From a content perspective, VR and 360 video is already pulling away for the peloton in terms of its ability to engage, move and connect with people. In turn, it’s triggering new depths of all the efficacy brands seek: meaning, emotion, connectivity, interaction, talk ability and share of heart and mind. This is especially relevant for the ‘try before you buy’ industry of travel and tourism.

And the future is even brighter for VR, with Goldman Sachs predicting 43m users worldwide by the end of the year, and a $30bn industry by 2020 – it’s even been cited that VR will be bigger than TV in terms of revenue by 2025.

The success of VR will be determined by the rate of consumer adoption – all of which is pointing the right way at the moment – and one industry that will most definitely benefit is travel and tourism.

 

Dream vs Reality

Perhaps it’s drifting over Victoria Falls in a hot air balloon. Or it’s breathing in the sights and sounds of a souk from your hotel balcony in Marrakech. Maybe it’s just feeling what it’s like to fly first class. Wherever our imaginations take us, we all dream of journeys we’d love to make.

Allowing travellers to explore their hotel, stroll down the beach or experience some far out adventure before they have even left home is the Holy Grail for travel brands. There’s only so much brochures, TV ads and websites can do. Today, the travel brands that stand apart are turning to VR to tell the most meaningful stories about who they are and what they can do. In turn, this is completely reshaping how people are choosing, planning and buying those journeys they’ve been dreaming of.

 

What’s next?

What has been especially prevalent this year for the industry is the rise of 360 video – of which both YouTube and Facebook have adopted. Although some purists will argue this is not true VR, for the travel industry this ability has been of extreme importance. In terms of the distribution of VR we have seen 360 video implemented through a number of marketing tools.

The Financial Times recently distributed 35,000 Google Cardboards to subscribers to promote their new Hidden Cities content that was being hosted on a dedicated landing page. A project we did with South African Tourism actually returned more when it was shared on their Facebook channels with over three million views compared to when it toured around Europe with headsets.

As an industry, we need to create experiences that deliver deeper customer engagement, transform a brand's digital presence as well as increasing sales. Right now we are seeing brands starting to take steps in to producing more meaningful content - telling stories about their locations and taking users on a journey.

Well thought out VR helps:

- Create deeper customer engagement. Capture imaginations by using VR or 360° immersive video to unveil honest, compelling perspectives of the unique experiences you can offer.

- Transform your digital presence. Create trailblazing VR travel experiences that resonate across multiple platforms from mobile and desktop to VR goggles and VR apps.

- Reach new audiences. Ramp up social sharing of your story on 360° and VR enabled platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

- Nurture qualified leads. Design immersive try-before-you-buy moments that make things fun and stimulate the planning and buying stages of the customer journey.

- Accelerate sales. Integrate interactive booking software into the customer’s VR journey that enables them to make bookings in advance as they explore your virtual worlds.

 

VR is relevant to every realm of travel. Imagine making a customer feel immediately at home in one of your hotel’s virtual rooms or training airport staff with a virtual tour. Imagine sitting someone down in your airline’s virtual cabin and giving them the opportunity to try before they fly.

And with the future only comes more developments. We’re already seeing some 4D experiences to really immerse the viewer, people having wind, hot air, water and other physical cues while in VR. Once VR cracks the social barrier and has a robust system for people to interact in a virtual world we will start to see VR tourism really take off. Exploring virtual worlds, for the enjoyment of just being in VR rather than as taster for the real thing is a long term opportunity for virtual reality.

Start preparing now and your brand will be at the front of this revolution.

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