How the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Delivered a VR Experience
If you’re planning to use virtual reality (VR) in your marketing this year, you aren’t alone. Research firm IDC predicts 30 percent of consumer-facing Global 2000 companies will experiment with augmented and virtual realities as part of their marketing efforts in 2017.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen virtual reality gain traction through a number of marketing applications. But the most effective applications are those that give audiences the ability to experience a product or service before they make a purchase.
Virtual reality delivers immersive and interactive experiences that appeal to the emotional parts of our brains, helping to drive conversions.
The technique has worked well in the hospitality and travel industries. Companies are using virtual tours to create anticipation and excitement for their products, like Carnival Cruise Line.
Others, like Marriott Hotels, push the limits of VR to sell the destination. From taking potential travelers on a virtual vacation to immersive storytelling delivered through in-room headsets, they are using VR to make an emotional connection.
In the B-to-B space, we’re finding that same “try before you buy” concept works really well for event and trade show marketing. By combining a virtual reality app with direct marketing, marketers can add to the user experience before, during and after the show.
AEM Delivers the VR Experience
A good example is a mobile app we recently developed for the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). The organization holds one of the largest events in the construction industries — CONEXPO-CON/AGG — and attracts more than 2,500 exhibitors and 130,000 attendees, covering more than 2.5 million square feet. Because of its massive size and the logistical challenge of bringing in so much construction equipment, the event is held only once every three years.
For its upcoming 2017 show, AEM wanted to deploy a marketing program targeting potential new attendees. The association was particularly interested in communicating with industry up-and-comers who had never attended the expo before. Because the audience is younger and more technology-savvy, the idea of incorporating a VR app is particularly attractive. VR would also provide a perfect vehicle for demonstrating the sheer size of the show.
To get the audience’s attention, the campaign began with a dimensional direct mail piece. Inside was a Google Cardboard VR headset and instructions for downloading the VR app. AEM delivered over 13,000 of the box mailers to a global audience. Through the VR experience, users could visualize the scope, see the excitement and understand that this was a not-to-miss industry event.
The branded app, available for both Android and iOS, is controlled by gaze interaction. By staring at an element, users can bring an image to the foreground, play a video or navigate through the experience. A 3D model of the expo grounds helps transport viewers to the eight show areas. Each virtual environment is designed to capture the excitement of the show and offer a glimpse into what attendees can expect in each hall or lot.
The app was designed to work with Google Cardboard and other 3D mobile virtual reality headsets. However, it also works by touch, sans a VR headset. That adds to its long-term value while helping the organization solve a communication challenge: how to stay in touch with its audience between events.
VR App to Content Delivery Channel
The real value of the VR app is the ability to update content over time. For example, pre-show content is aimed at generating excitement, educating prospects and driving registrations. During the show, content could drive participants to events and document what’s happening in each of the show areas. Post-show content could give users access to recorded presentations and 3D videos and create anticipation for the next event. Email or direct mail postcards can be used to drive people back to the app to view new and relevant experiences.
AEM plans to use its app to engage with recipients throughout the show and after. It plans to add “Easter eggs” and interactive content to keep the audience engaged over the long-term. A content delivery channel opens up the possibility of keeping the virtual event going in perpetuity. There are also opportunities to add value for the organization’s members through virtual show sponsorship, educational content and product demonstrations.
In the next five years, IDC predicts that augmented and virtual realities will reach mass adoption levels. Researchers expect that more than a billion people worldwide will regularly access apps, content and data through an AR/VR platform.
One thing is for certain: The experiences will only get better. Here at TREKK, our development team has been experimenting with new software development kits. The experiences now possible are mind-blowing. Not only can we build three-dimensional environments, but also give audiences the ability to move around the environment and interact with virtual tools and objects. More importantly, these new tools are allowing us to get to the six degrees of freedom that are necessary for truly immersive VR experiences. We’ll talk more about that next time.