Once thought to be another trade show gimmick or fad, virtual and augmented reality have proven to be effective tools to engage attendees, and drive home important brand messaging. Most importantly, they provide a way to differentiate your company from competing products and services.
But beware, deploying these technologies to promote engagement isn’t as easy as handing out headsets and telling people to have fun.
In the right hands, VR and AR can be new and exciting. Rather than grabbing a brochure or hearing a sales pitch, it allows visitors to have an immersive and memorable experience with your brand.
However, in untrained hands, VR and AR can cause back-ups at your booth, or create technical problems, leaving potential customers unsatisfied with the experience provided.
It’s vital to plan your VR/AR strategy months ahead, and make sure your hardware, software, and staff are rightfully equipped and ready for anything.
Know Your Tech
First, companies need to understand the differences between both systems in order to know which makes sense for your event marketing goals.
Offering endless applications and creative possibilities, Virtual Reality (VR) puts a user in a completely digital environment that energizes the senses. Participants access this 3D world by putting on a headset that lets them see and sometimes hear this world in 360 degrees. Add-ons like gloves, controllers or even special treadmills allow more interaction with this world, including being able to move, grab items and activate menus.
VR systems and programs vary in price, features, and quality, from the ultra-inexpensive Google Cardboard, which essentially holds people’s mobile phones in their field of view, to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which are considered some of the top-of-the-line products with stereo sound and high-definition images.
- Inexpensive ($5-$10 not including phone).
- Headset can be easily branded for your own company.
- Cheap enough to “giveaway” meaning you will be in the customer’s mind even longer and give them something to share with friends and colleagues. (provide a QR code so the app is easily downloadable).
- Highly portable – flat packs down.
- Lower image fidelity – relies on user’s phone for rendering graphics which may vary in capability depending on model owned.
- Less comfortable to watch for extended periods.
Oculus Rift / HTC Vive
- Fantastic user experience and high definition imagery as powered by high-end PC.
- Ability to use controllers for full interactivity and immersion.
- Positional tracking so you can walk freely around the virtual space.
- Higher cost to rent
- Less portable and headset is tethered to a PC.
- More comfortable fit and adjustable focus for less eye fatigue.
- Improved interaction via external touch pad.
- Better immersion due to less light leakage and better head tracking.
- Affordable to rent or buy.
- No positional tracking – so stationary use only.
- Only works with selected Samsung phones.
- Requires batteries.
Augmented Reality (AR) also can use a headset such as smart glasses, but most commonly utilizes cameras via handsets, such as a smartphone or tablet, to place computer-generated images on top of a real-world setting. You may recall the popular Pokemon Go game that allowed people to use their mobile phone cameras to discover Pokemon creatures in real-world settings.
In a trade show booth environment, Augmented Reality provides exhibitors the ability to amplify their message and immerse attendees in a unique brand experience.
Benefits of Using Technology in Your Marketing Strategy
The use of AR and VR technology allows brands to go beyond the ordinary trade show event experience and bring your story to life. Having a clear understanding of your goals — whether it be reinforcing your message or collecting leads — will aid in defining your content strategy and ultimately set your business up for success.
Increase Attendee Engagement
By developing thoughtful content, such as an explanation of your company’s history through the use of a game or an interactive sales pitch that addresses the prospects unique needs, your message will further resonate with your ideal audience. Simply creating the content isn’t enough — it must address the target’s wants and needs in order to make a meaningful impact.
Go Beyond Your Booth’s Footprint
Attracting visitors and making connections at your booth are likely at the top of your priority list. Within this face-to-face environment, take these interactions a step further by transporting your guests outside of the physical limitations of your booth.
With AR and VR, your options are virtually endless. For example, you can transport attendees of your booth to your company’s headquarters and give them a tour of your warehouse or production facility. Imagine being able to not only explain your process but show it to a potential customer in real-time!
Immerse Visitors in a Store Experience
In cases where you are selling a large product that cannot be transported to the showroom floor, the use of technology is key. The most common form of sharing these products is by creating a demo video to be watched on a TV monitor. The use of AR & VR technology, however, provides companies with the capability to deliver a true store-like experience where they can interact with the product as if it were right in front of them.
Tips Before Deploying AR/VR Technology
Being aware of your booth space and any limitations is crucial when determining which technology to deploy at your event. Without the use of an omnidirectional treadmill, for example, some versions of VR would require you to have enough space for the user to move around and look in every direction — up, down, sideways and behind you, as if they were physically there.
Because AR technology uses a device’s camera to show text and/or images on top of existing elements, a large amount of space is not required. Regardless of which option you choose, the following principals apply:
- The technology serves best as an opener/attention grabber for your sales pitch. Use the demo as a way to showcase your product, service or company and how what you do benefits your consumers.
- Presentations should be shorter, between 1 and 3 minutes.
- Be sure your staff is trained on the technology and can troubleshoot or answer questions quickly.
- Audio is important with VR because it allows for full immersion, this is not as important when using AR.
- Make sure there are no blemishes on the screen which could blur the attendee’s experience.
- Use wipes to keep the devices clean.
- Having monitors that can show what the person in the VR demo sees can help draw a bigger crowd, but be prepared to engage or entertain the attendees that are waiting to participate in your demo.
- Allot for a minimum of 45-60 days for development.
Technology in Action
Sure, you could opt to stick with traditional pamphlets or promotional videos to share your brand’s message, but they will be far less memorable than providing prospects with an opportunity to engage with your brand through technology. Here are a few great examples of VR and AR technology in use: