It's been a busy month for the InstaVR team. After exhibiting locally at TechCrunch Disrupt, our team headed over the pond to Cologne, Germany for dmexco (digital marketing exposition & conference), followed by another great trip this week to Dallas for Shop.org.
What is the main theme we've encountered? Marketers love Virtual Reality!
They love that it gives them a new, exciting platform to garner the attention of distracted consumers. They love that it is immersive, allowing users to experience an environment that they don't have to physically occupy. And they love that -- at least with InstaVR -- it's simple to create and publish, without any engineering involvement needed.
We loved meeting representatives from automotive companies, beverage companies, athletic clothing companies, large mall retailers, children's toy companies, and more. To encapsulate the whole experience in a blog post would be fruitless, so I'll try to convey two big things we learned at each show:
1. Europeans are ahead of the curve on embracing 360 images & videos.
This we kind of already knew. Among our over 3,000+ users who have signed up for InstaVR this year, a large percentage are based in Europe. However, the excitement at our booth in dmexco was electric.
Visitors had great familiarity with Google Cardboard and Gear VR, and we even had a few HTC Vive owners stop by. What's more impressive is that not only were we meeting people who had heard of 360 cameras, we were meeting people that owned them.
Why is 360 VR so popular in Europe? Perhaps it's the beauty of the cities (see below for my capture of the Justice Fountain in Cologne). Or the general love of photography. I'm not entirely sure. But I do think we'll see a lot of European marketers leading the charge into VR going forward.
2. Digital Marketing practitioners are getting more creative to stand out.
There was a time early in the Internet Age where just having an online presence gave your brand a boost. Now, with every major company online, and internet users saturated with advertising, digital marketers are having to get more creative.
That's part of the reason they were so excited to learn about InstaVR. They immediately saw the potential to create experiences that are unique. The thought process has moved from "should I use VR?" to "how can I use VR?" With our simple-to-use web-based platform, marketers found themselves discussing potential use cases that could be executed in days or hours, not the weeks or months that it takes to plan a normal advertising campaign.
1. Retailers are now early adopters of technology.
Retail has historically been thought of as a relatively entrenched business. You have your physical space, your seasonal inventory, and your squeaky escalators.
Thanks to the incorporation of web and mobile into the shopping process, the physical part of retail is rapidly becoming almost secondary. Storefronts are becoming tools to get consumers to go home (or really anywhere) to purchase on their laptops or mobile devices.
Retailers know VR is going to radically change the customer experience. There were two well-attended panels on the topic at Shop.org. And almost everyone stopping by our booth said VR is part of their marketing plans for the coming quarters.
Just like early adopters of the internet, the marketers and retail consultants we met with identified early embracers of VR as having a distinct advantage over the competition.
2. Creating an experience is key in retail.
We talk a lot about VR experiences. The "e" word comes up quite often in retail as well. Brand perception is key to gaining new customers. And how people experience the brand is the key to generating new and loyal customers.
Creating an e-commerce website and mobile app are almost a given nowadays for members of the Internet Retailer 500. But how do you get additional brand recognition? We talked a lot about creating cool VR experiences that give your brand a perceptual boost in the eyes of consumers.
Does your retailer sponsor auto races or golf events? Create a 360 mobile or web app for the sporting event. Does your retailer sponsor concerts or state fairs? Create a 360 mobile or web app to showcase that. Does your brand sponsor athletes or celebrities? Create a 360 mobile or web app to showcase them.
Part of selling anything will always be brand perception. Virtual Reality is gaining in popularity, so having a brand association with it is a no-brainer. It's really not surprising that the panels on VR at Shop.org were standing room only -- VR & retail make too much sense together.