Are you wasting time with VR for VR’s sake?

AR and VR are the hot new tools.

Augmented Reality. AR. Virtual Reality. VR.

These should be tools that change the customer experience for the better.

Instead, they’re often being used as toys to help businesses appear cool. 360 degree videos that put your customers into the cockpit of a spaceship, or smartphone apps that let them walk with dinosaurs ahead of the summer’s big blockbusters.

It’s helping businesses to grab column inches and Facebook shares, but is it really a good idea to take this new world of AR or VR and use it for nothing more than old-fashioned PR?

I don’t think so.

Investing time and money into AR or VR toys that might make a few millennials write a Twitter post is a waste of some fantastic potential.

Which of these VR and AR applications do you think is more helpful to customers?

Is it Topshop London’s VR water slide, which lets people pretend Oxford Street is a giant flume, whisking them damply towards the fashion retailer’s new range of swimwear?

Or is it Specsavers’ Virtual Try On app that lets customers see which of their thousands of frames suits them best?

I think the answer here is clear. One is a gimmick, that will be spoken about in the press and then quietly shelved when shoppers decide they don’t want to sit in a sawn-off plastic tube before they buy a new shirt or pair of jeans.

The other has quietly allowed Specsavers to upsell designer frames to customers before they even set foot in a store, streamlined the buying process once a person enters the shop, and given consumers a wider range of choice than ever before.

One’s turning expensive VR into cheap PR. One is using virtual reality to make life easier for customers and retailers alike.

It’s a decision DigitalBridge was faced with when we decided to adopt VR tools for our business.

Would we prefer something fun and gimmicky that would grab us a few thousand shares on Facebook and a few dozen barely interested Twitter followers?

Or did we want something to provide our customers with genuine value?

I think you can guess what we picked.

We came down on the side of value and sustainability. A tool that would guide our customers through the interior design process. Helping them to plan and visualise their brand new kitchen or bathroom.

It’s not been picked up by any virtual thrillseekers, but it has helped to shorten buying cycles, improve conversion rates and increase the average value of our orders.

That might not be as exciting as flying a spaceship or zooming down Oxford Street on a water slide, but it’s helping customers to create spaces that they’ll live in for decades to come.

So which way will you go when it’s time to make a decision?

A flash-in-the-pan VR gimmick for VR’s sake?

Or something that’ll make the lives of you and your customers easier for years to come?

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