Is Your Business Ready for Virtual Reality?

There is no question that the age of virtual reality is here. With the biggest names in technology betting on it, including Samsung, Google, and Facebook, we can only expect for this to become an everyday tool that changes our lives.

While the release of advanced headsets, including the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, will feed the VR revolution, businesses need to focus on how VR is being made accessible to the average consumer. The release of more inexpensive options such as Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR headset are great examples of how VR can be more accessible to consumers on an everyday basis.

So what does this mean for businesses? With new VR technology being issued every day, now is the best time to begin experimenting with VR to determine how it can drive business value. Companies from Disney to Virgin Airlines are already latching on to the technology to aid with their marketing and enhance customer experiences. Outdoor footwear maker Merrill enabled users to experience taking a dangerous mountain hike; Volvo also launched a VR experience this year, enabling its users to virtually test-drive its redesigned XC90 SUV.

Creating an Immersive Experience

With virtual reality, businesses have the opportunity to engage their customers and employees in a way that wasn’t previously possible. When a person slides on a VR headset, they are able to access an immersive environment that surpasses any 2D experience available. In VR, the viewer is empowered to interact with and explore the available content in any way they choose.

Allowing the viewer to take the reins means that businesses can create personalized connections with each and every consumer. As such, VR opens the door for companies to create experiences that are informative, compelling, and highly influential. That could mean better marketing for your product or service, faster and cheaper training for your employees, or improved communication and collaboration from your product development team.

Before pursuing a VR experience for your company, you first need to know what you want to get out of the content. As with any type of media or business plan, you must evaluate how the content fits into your company’s goals. What do you hope the viewer gets out of it? Do you want to enhance a real-world experience or show a new concept? The key to a successful experience is catering to your target audience and leveraging VR’s unique capabilities to create a one-of-a-kind experience.

Utilizing Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is such a malleable technology that its business applications are seemingly endless. Some of the following applications already have been put into play by business, while others suggest the technology’s potential.

VR tours.Tours are perhaps the most common application for virtual reality. Real estate agents, hotels, cruise lines, museums, and travel destinations promote themselves using virtual reality tours. These experiences allow potential customers to preview a location, or they can provide customers with an inside look at a company’s operations.

Model creation.Creating a VR model can save companies time and money. These types of models or prototypes allow viewers to examine a product and make changes without the time or expense of building a physical model

Employee training. Virtual reality experiences can provide hands-on training or education for employees. Simulated experiences can prepare employees for hazardous situations or to instruct them on how to use intricate and expensive machinery, without the risk of damage.

Events. Virtual reality can help companies share live events with a wider audience. VR video of an event can put viewers in the front row and make them feel like they are actually there.

Showcasing products. Virtual reality can allow potential customers to explore a product before they purchase it. VR’s immersive images can place a product directly into a customer’s (virtual) hands or empower viewers to see a product in action.

Communications.Many tech insiders have predicted that VR will become the ultimate form of communications. For businesses, this means coworkers could meet face-to-face or collaborate on a product, even though they are thousands of miles apart.

With companies including Google and Facebook developing VR departments, there is no question that this technology will live much longer than the average fad. In order to remain competitive and retain a large consumer audience, businesses should start thinking about how VR can be implemented into their strategy. With its ability to showcase the world around us in a whole new way, this technology will become an integral part of the world of entertainment and marketing, shifting how we conduct business.

This post originally appeared in All Business.