5 Ways to Incorporate Virtual Reality Into Your Marketing Plan

Big Companies are successfully using VR to market to customers. You could, too.

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By Elena Titova

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According to the Digi-Capital, virtual reality (VR) will be a $30 billion market by 2020. And while the technology still requires some work and testing, there are ways to take advantage of this trend early and use VR for your startup right now. Companies like IKEA, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and the New York Times are already.

1. Make a 360 video.

360 videos capture everything around the operator, allowing those watching to feel a full interaction. If you're watching this kind of video from your smartphone, you can move your device and the picture in the video will move as well, just like you were there. If you use a VR Headset, you can move the image while you're moving your head - like in real life. If you're watching from the laptop or computer, the video can be moved by simply dragging it via touchpad or mouse.

Because the 360 experience is pretty new, these videos usually get more attention than regular videos. Some of them get up to 15 million views. And some companies are already using 360 videos for branding purposes, making immersive interviews, test drives, tours and other kinds of content that can be viewed via computer, phone or VR headset. For example, The North Face is offering the chance to join a mountain climber adventure in Nepal.

Making a 360 video is not too difficult. Some companies make special cameras for 360 videos. There's the Samsung Gear 360, Kodak sp360 and Ricoh Theta S. Prices for these vary between $250 and $500. After shooting is done, the video needs to be edited in special software, such as FinalCut. Or, if you're not into shooting and editing yourself, you can hire a company to do it for you. Just google "360 video production."

2. Brand Google Cardboard for your customers.

Google Cardboard is the most popular and affordable VR headset. You can buy it online or download schemes for free, and create it yourself.

Some companies have started to produce their own cardboards with a branded logo, and you can as well. If you create a 360 video, you can double the brand experience through branded cardboard viewing.

Even if you don't create videos, you can still reach a tech-savvy audience by branding headsets. The New York Times took it a step further by giving cardboards away. The newspaper announced last year that it will be shipping free cardboards to all its print subscribers. Later on, when the New York Times VR experience was launched, subscribers already had a branded tool to view the content.

Prices for branded Google Cardboards vary depending on material, colors and the quantity of the order but usually range anywhere between $1 and $10 per 1,000 pieces. Search for "branded google cardboards" to find manufacturers.

Related: Why Virtual Reality Is Vital

3. Turn your package into VR glasses.

You can also create your own cardboard headset out of your packaging like McDonald's did. For its thirtieth birthday, the company launched Happy Goggles, a Happy Meal box that transformed into VR cardboard glasses. The project was launched in Sweden and received great acclaim.

Coca-Cola did the same with packaging for Coke that transforms into VR glasses. And Budweiser did it another way, turning a VR headset into the package. For the NBA playoffs, the company developed a special branded packaging based on VR headset. So their customers received both beer and VR headsets to watch VR content at the same time.

For this kind of project, consider hiring a marketing company or working directly with custom cardboard makers.

Related: Brain Break: Watch This Kid's Virtual Reality Wipeout

4. Create a VR game.

Games have been broadly used by small and big businesses to support brand and customer engagement. Some restaurants and cafes provide branded arcades, where clients can earn points they can use to redeem discounts. Disney and other entertainment companies launched games related to released cartoons, movies and popular characters.

You too can create a game in VR. It can be a simple arcade with your branding, like McDonald's did by launching "Slope Stars" - a VR Game that allows you to have a skiing experience and earn points. Or it can be an advanced game directly dedicated to your brand like IKEA has done. The IKEA VR experience lets you walk in the Ikea kitchen, where you can open doors, walk around and explore the space. IKEA even added the ability to cook their famous meatballs in the VR kitchen.

Like other games, prices depend on your requirements and who you hire. Search for "VR games development services" for a list of companies.

Related: Will You Be Ready for the Virtual Reality Future?

5. Create a VR app.

VR apps are available for customers to use right now. Automobile companies create a VR experience in auto showrooms, where customers can walk around, look at cars and even take a test drive. To support the movie, The Walk, Sony Pictures released an app where you experience walking on the rope stretched in between Word Trade Center towers.

Just like with all VR games or apps, prices vary depending on your requirements. Search for "VR app development services."

VR may be new, but it's already opening opportunities for new and existing businesses. And even though current technologies are still a step or two away from breaking into mass market, now is a great time to start paying attention to the VR market. Now, you can master the tools, and build brand loyalty before your competition does.

Elena Titova

NYC based serial entrepreneur and UX professional

Elena Titova is a serial entrepreneur and user experience expert based in New York City. She has been working in fintech, web and app development startups. Her areas of interest include Virtual Reality, business strategy and creative problem solving.

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