Virtual Reality: The Trade Show’s Quiet Game Changer
“Virtual reality” may still seem like little more than a “buzz” term, but recent statistics have proven that it's anything but. According to one study, it's estimated that over a billion people worldwide will regularly access VR and AR (augmented reality) content by as soon as 2020—mostly on their smartphones via an app. Not only do 73% of Generation Z Internet users say they're very interested in VR, but this also goes a long way towards explaining why as many as 30% of consumer-facing companies will experiment with VR as part of their marketing this year.
Make no mistake: VR is here to stay and it may very well be the biggest trade show trend that you're still not paying attention to for a number of important reasons.
VR is About Creating a Lasting Impression
In many ways, the true power of virtual reality has nothing to do with flashy technology and everything to do with what ultimately matters most: creating a lasting impression. Quality VR experiences, like HBO's “Ascend the Wall” VR experience for their hit show “Game of Thrones” or the “Blade Runner 2049” experience that wowed attendees at this year's San Diego Comicon were successful because they were able to create a rich, multi-sensory experience that engaged audiences on a level that few others could match.
Yes, those two particular examples are backed by incredibly famous intellectual property, but the underlying theory is still sound.
In many ways, trade show exhibits and marketing in general are nothing if not unique forms of storytelling. Only instead of telling a story about a farm boy from outer space who joins a Rebellion to fight an evil Galactic Empire, you're telling a story about why your product, your service or your brand is meaningful. VR is effective because it helps you tell that story in the richest way possible.
Great VR isn't just “put on these goggles and it will look like you're in a room with our product.” VR enables you to tell a meaningful story about your company, or to take people on a journey that breaks down the barriers of your physical trade show booth. But it also does it in a way that lets them interact with the story being told, taking the relationship between attendees and your brand to a much higher level than ever before.
See MC²'s client GE Transportation at InnoTrans in Berlin. GE Transportation used VR instead of shipping a full-sized locomotive to Germany.
The Budget Factor
One drawback of virtual reality in a trade show environment can be budget. Not every trade show exhibitor currently has the funds required to create a convincing VR experience. In the meantime, think about this. Any technological solution, whether you're talking about VR or AR or 3D or something else entirely, is only a means to an end— it is not the end in and of itself.
Until you can budget for VR, find methods that fit into your budget that achieve the same results. VR is all about immersion, so double down on the other aspects of your booth like design, lighting, and sound that allow you to reach the same destination. A quality experience is a quality experience, whether it's the product of a smartphone app, an Xbox experience or an in-person interaction.