Businesses are already adopting VR, but Nigel Phair wonders where the strategy is.

Virtual reality (VR) is, according to the Wikipedia entry, technology which can “generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulates a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment”.

VR isn’t just about online gaming. It’s already creeping into many aspects of business and social life. If VR becomes as pervasive as its enthusiasts believe, any organisation without a virtual reality strategy will soon be left behind.

Virtual reality’s arrival in marketing

Big companies have already taken advantage of virtual reality, especially in their marketing space.

In 2015, Marriott Hotels created an experience which “teleports” guests to different places so they can experience the destinations through their senses. The experience included visual stimulation through a headset, as well as the physical sensations of heat, wind and mist. Qantas has a similar setup in some of their airport lounges.

Also in 2015, Hyundai launched a 4D Hyundai driving experience based on Oculus Rift technology. This multi-sensory experience combined a VR headset with a moving platform which added motion, and a soundtrack complete with road noises.

These experiments were designed to draw in consumers, and encourage them to become part of an experience, rather than be “sold to” through regular marketing and advertising.

Virtual reality in small organisations

Virtual reality doesn’t have to be as big and complex as those two examples. Consider the recent Pokémon Go craze, where people were catching Pokémon just using their smartphones. Small businesses were able to trade on this virtual experience by registering as PokeStops to lure potential customers inside.

For small organisations, VR means being able to conduct virtual meetings, or offer product walk-throughs to potential clients. It means being able to test a product during development, finding faults before investing in production. It also offers a way to train people on specialised equipment or techniques without exposing them to injury, or risk damaging expensive equipment.

As with any other business decision, however, you need to show that implementing VR into any aspect of your business will provide a clear value to your organisation.

Developing a virtual reality strategy

Your strategy must consider how VR can increase your organisation’s competitive advantage while still meeting the requirements of your vision and values.

  • How are you going ensure your organisation stays up to date with advances in virtual reality?
  • What might work and what might not?
  • Where will we get the most benefit from VR?
  • What is the most cost-effective use of VR?
  • What is the likely return on investment?
  • Who is responsible for managing the VR experience?
  • Is there another way to achieve the same result without yet having to tap into this technology?
  • How will you know when your organisation is ready to adopt VR?
  • What resources do you currently have available?
  • Part of your strategy development should also include an analysis of your own role as company director. How and where will you fit into the overall strategy, and how will you stay up to date with current developments in VR?

At the moment, there appears to be very little information available on developing a virtual reality strategy, but we do know that consumers are keen to explore the virtual reality experiences you can offer.

Your challenge will be to develop a strategy that keeps you up to date with technological advancements and one step ahead of your consumers.

Updated 26 October 2017.