Anthony Hill, Geeks2U’s head of technology, authored the below blog for SmartCompany.
As retail giant IKEA invites customers to explore their dream kitchen in virtual reality, is it time for your business to engage customers in the virtual realm?
The year of virtual reality (VR) has been a long time coming but this year the technology is set to move from science fiction to science fact for many people.
Three high-profile virtual reality headsets are finally hitting the shelves in the next few months; Sony’s PlayStation VR, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
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Initially these new immersive platforms appear to be focused on winning over gamers, but virtual reality has plenty of applications beyond doing battle with hyper-realistic zombies.
Swedish retail giant IKEA has been quick to see its potential as a business tool, partnering with the HTC Vive to offer virtual tours of designer kitchens.
Rather than just wandering around admiring the decor, the IKEA VR Experience will let users interact with their environment, such as changing the colour of cabinets and drawers.
They’ll also be able to alter their perspective, touring the kitchen as a small child or towering adult to see how it will feel for every member of the family.
It’s still early days and the IKEA VR Experience is a five-month trial designed to give the retailer insight into what customers want from a virtual experience. IKEA envisions a big future for the technology so it wants to get in on the ground floor and be ready for whatever comes next.
Your customers might not be ready to embrace expensive first-generation virtual reality headsets but they probably already have a basic VR system in their pocket.
The budget-friendly Google Cardboard platform makes it easy to turn any smartphone into a Virtual Reality viewer, using it as a split-screen to present a slightly different image to each eye.
Even if customers don’t have a Cardboard headset they can still view 360-degree photos and videos on their phone, moving the handset to explore the scene around them. It’s easy to embed 360-degree content in your website or mobile app.
As with any medium, the key to virtual reality is engaging content and that will vary from business to business. You might offer virtual tours of your stores and other locations, or perhaps 360-degree behind the scenes videos to help connect with customers.
Real estate agents have been quick to embrace virtual rental tours, while travel agents are using VR to give potential tourists a taste of what awaits them.
Alternatively you might use 360-degree content to let customers get hands-on with your products, rotating objects in a virtual environment to view them from every angle.
Whether you’re selling pendants, pottery or power tools, a taste of virtual reality could help boost online sales or bring people into your store.
Virtual reality is finally within reach of the masses, so it’s worth thinking about how it might help you reach your customers and show them what you’ve got to offer.
David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.