Just when you thought you were finally understanding how the Internet of Things is changing the way brands market their products, an entirely new strategy has emerged in the industry. While tools like Snapchat and Periscope are helping people connect in real time, there’s a new trend that’s bringing people virtually “inside.”

In April 2015, the camera company GoPro acquired Kolor, which is a virtual reality and spherical media company. Kolor helps users combine photos and videos into panoramic media, which is an essential element of virtual reality media. So what does this news mean for GoPro? They’re taking content marketing as we know it to an entirely new level.

GoPro is by no means alone in the virtual reality market. By this time next year, several virtual reality systems are expected to be competing on the consumer market, including the HTC Vive, Sony’s Project Morpheus, and the Oculus Rift. MarketsandMarkets projected that virtual reality hardware will produce $66 million in revenue in 2015, which is a 164% increase from 2013.

The leader in the field is the Oculus Rift, which Facebook purchased for $2 billion in 2014. Though virtual reality devices have been long dreamed of by geeks, nerds and sci-fi fans since the 1960s, the Oculus Rift is the first VR system to successfully overcome “sim sickness,” an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of virtual reality environments that renders the user disoriented and nauseous. This single factor has been the main road block for VR development for the last fifty years.

Now that “sim sickness” has become a thing of the past, the real question is, how can brands best take advantage of virtual reality technologies?

Here are five benefits for brands to think about:

1. Tell a Better Story 

Storytelling is the most powerful way to build relationships with customers. No strangers to storytelling, the people behind HBO’s Game of Thrones have used the Oculus Rift system to successfully immerse fans into a virtual reality experience in the “Ascend the Wall” exhibit. The exhibit provides a unique opportunity for fans to scale the ice wall from the books and television series in a way that is visceral, immediate and emotional.

The benefit of implementing virtual reality content like “Ascend the Wall” is that you’ll be able to engage more senses. Customers will not only have the opportunity to see content from a new perspective, but they could have the opportunity to feel and smell the virtual environment as well.

2. Pique Consumer Interest for New Products

Virtual reality content will serve as a great tool for launching new products. For example, if your home improvement business is thinking about offering a new line of paints, launch a virtual reality experience that allows users to virtually paint a wall of their home. This is a great way to allow customers to get excited about your products.

3. Create Loyal Customers

Businesses are always looking for ways to keep customers coming back for more. When implementing virtual reality content, brands can use this strategy to keep customers interested in a product.

For example, Elle magazine announced plans to livestream a fashion show using VR technology, though they have not chosen which platform yet. This is not Elle’s first attempt at using VR content. They released a VR-friendly photo spread for their iPad edition in December 2014.

Another fashion brand, TopShop, set up five Oculus Rift headsets in their flagship store in London, so that fans would be able to “virtually” sit front row at their Winter 2014 show, a place normally reserved for the fashion elite. What better way to build brand loyalty than to give your fans a taste of the “good life?”

4. Offer More Ways to Educate and Entertain

Virtual reality content makes it easier for people to consume content in real time. It also gives brands the opportunity to educate their audience and provide them with more entertaining content. From creating interactive how-to videos to demonstrations, virtual reality technology gives brands more ways to connect with their audience.

The North Face, for instance, offered a virtual reality experience that allowed customers to go base jumping inside the store. This experience gave customers an entirely new way to experience The North Face brand.

5. Push Customers Through the Sales Funnel

Although free samples or couples can incentivize customers, there’s no better way to hook their attention than the opportunity to find out whether they’ll truly benefit from the product or service. By allowing potential customers to experience your product before buying it, they’ll be able to make a faster purchasing decision.

For example, Sephora launched technology in 2014 that allows customers to virtually try on makeup in the store. By creating a mirror that tracks a consumer’s face, customers can tap on a screen to see what a shade of makeup would look like on their face. This technology enables customers to try a product without having to purchase it, ultimately pushing them through the sales funnel more quickly.

The future is finally here and marketers need to be prepared for virtual reality content. As more consumers demand instant access to events, news and entertainment, brands will need to think about how they can deliver a more personal experience through virtual reality content.

The Author

Born in Los Angeles, Blair Strasser is a business and marketing enthusiast that enjoys sharing his knowledge through his writing. He is also Founder and CEO of eMerchantBroker and passionate about technology. You can contact him via Twitter @BlairStrasser.

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