VR is going to change business - here's how
When you think of virtual reality, you probably think of games. But like the smartphone, VR is going to change everything in business.
How VR is being Implemented today
Technologies which change the world of business used to come along once in a generation, but in the past 30 years we’ve seen two: the PC and the web. Virtual reality (VR) is poised to become the third, and could be even bigger than the web itself.
Even though VR has only become mainstream in the past year or so, there’s already a wave of consumer interest in it. According to MediaTel, 52% of UK adults say they have a good understanding of VR and 47% are keen to try it out. Tractica claims that 200m headsets will be in the hands of consumers by 2020. To put that into context, it’s roughly the same amount as the current number of smartphone users in India, the world’s second largest market.
Business adoption of a new technology often lags a little behind consumers, but in the case of VR it’s following closely. According to TechResearchPro, 48% of companies are putting VR on their strategic roadmap for the next three years.
In this series of articles, produced in association with Samsung, we’re going to take you through how VR will impact on different areas of business, as well as looking in depth at a few specific industries. We’ll arm you with the knowledge you need to make the most of VR in your business and how you can use it to give your employees more good days at work.
HR and training
Every company, large or small, has some kind of requirement for training. The larger the business, the more likely it is that there’s a need for bespoke training programmes taken by employees over long or short periods of time.
VR training allows you to deliver large amounts of complex information in a way that’s more easily absorbed than conventional video or a book. Take, for example, teaching someone how to operate a machine. Using VR to place the person being trained at the machine itself, and walking them through how to operate it in a virtual environment, will mean that the employee is much more familiar with operating procedures when they ultimately use the machinery in real life.
One simple example of an application for training is presentation skills. British startup Virtual Speech has developed an application which uses a headset that lets you practice a presentation inside a virtual environment similar to that which you will ultimately present in, whether that’s a boardroom, a hall or in a pitch environment. You can load your own slides into the app, which lets you present to them in a more realistic way, and in some scenarios the audience can also ask pre-written questions for you to answer.
Estate agents are also looking at using VR as a sales tool that can improve the experience for potential customers but also add to overall efficiency. As anyone in the industry will tell you, the majority of visits from potential buyers don’t lead to a sale, and in fact it’s usually quickly apparent that a property isn’t the right fit for a customer. This wastes vast amounts of time for customers, but also makes the property-selling process inefficient.
This is where VR comes in. With VR, you could create virtual tours of properties that allow customers to get a much richer experience of what the building is like. You could also do things which are not currently possible at all – for example, giving a tour of a house during both daylight and evening to give a better indication of what the light is like at different times of day.
As you might expect, estate agents are already experimenting with this for high-end homes. The Matthew Hood Real Estate Group, which is part of Sothebys, has been using Samsung Gear VR headsets to give tours of some of the multi-million-dollar properties it sells. According to Matthew Hood, founder of the company: “I can lead a VR tour remotely and even see where the client is looking, which allows me to address things like a kitchen-counter style while they’re looking at it – just as I would in a real-world tour.”
Advertising and media
One area that’s already a little ahead of the pack is advertising and media. Sky has created a production team called Sky VR Studio, which will create content across a broad range of programme types. The studio will create VR content for “broadcast” via Facebook, producing more than 20 videos across sports, movies, news and entertainment genres over its first year.
For Gary Davey, managing director of content for Sky, VR represents a new frontier for storytelling. “The Sky VR Studio allows us to add a new dimension to storytelling, taking viewers to extraordinary places and offering a unique perspective on a whole host of events.”
In advertising, VR offers the chance to create experiences for consumers which are much more emotive and powerful than has been possible with previous formats. One simple example is a “test drive” VR experience created by Volvo for the launch of the XC90 SUV. This put you in the driver’s seat of the car, effectively allowing the product to “tell its own story” – a powerful pull on the emotions of the potential buyer. With over 175,000 views on YouTube, where it was hosted to maximise reach across VR platforms, it proved to be a low-cost and effective way to reach an audience.
Retail sounds like it might not be that suitable for VR. After all, if you’re in a store in the real world, do you really need to be transported to the virtual one? Isn’t real-world shopping the antithesis of virtual?
The answer to this turns out to be “no”. In fact, retailers are already experimenting with integrating VR experiences into retail in interesting ways.
Last year, fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger created an in-store VR experience allowing customers to watch its autumn fashion runway show in immersive VR. Available in its flagship stores, including the one in London, customers could then buy the products they had just seen debuted. Tommy Hilfiger himself described the experience as “a compelling and interesting elevation of the traditional shopping experience”.
For customers this is more than just a novelty, as it allows them to get a much closer “view” of the products and genuinely engage with the brand. For fashion in particular, allowing customers to have a front-row view of the action gives an insight into the brand which is much more engaging than was possible before.
Where do I start?
In order for businesses to make the most of VR, they need to be able to make their own content. As with video, if you have to spend large amounts of money on paying someone to create every piece of content for you, using VR would be prohibitive in the long term.
Thankfully, solutions are around that let you do this – and we’ll be publishing a full guide to creating VR content for business using low-cost equipment later in this series.
However, you can start working out your strategy for adopting VR right now. VR is going to have an impact on every part of your business, but some areas will move faster than others. For example, if you’re a retailer or estate agent then you can begin to develop VR experiences for your customer engagement immediately, but if you’re a manufacturer then working out how to integrate VR into your training systems will be a good starting point.
Of course, every investment needs to have a business case behind it, but we think the case for VR is clear. VR will allow you to communicate with customers more engagingly and more effectively. It will also enable parts of your business to increase efficiency, whether that’s in training, personal development or simply by better communications. And it will enable applications which at present simply aren’t possible, particularly in areas like manufacturing and real estate.
Overall, VR offers you the chance to improve the quality of the experience of your business for employees and customers. Think of that example of training someone to give better presentations using a VR headset. This won’t show on the bottom line for some time, but it will improve the confidence of employees and that will ultimately make them happier and more productive.
Given all this, it’s obvious that VR will become a transformative technology in business, as important as the web has been over the last 20 years. Anything which allows you to significantly improve the quality of experience for your customers and your employees, getting closer to them and helping them achieve more, is always going to mean big improvements for a business and more good days at work. And, just as with the early web, we think it’s going to be a very exciting time.