4 Opportunities VR Affords the Digital Travel Marketer

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Virtual reality is said to be worth more than $60 billion within the next decade. And while VR is still in its infancy, it’s quickly becoming the next-gen tool for marketing.

A lot of that potential has to do with VR’s immersive nature. Once consumers strap on that headset, they’re pretty much free of distractions, which allows a brand to focus its audience’s attention almost exclusively on its message.

Brands in any field can benefit from VR’s immersion, but industries that are experiential themselves — like travel — have even more to gain.

What Can VR Provide Digital Marketers?

VR provides digital travel marketers with a unique opportunity: Brands can bring consumers as close to travel destinations as they can be without actually hopping on a plane.

As part of its “Travel Brilliantly” campaign, Marriott International released a VR experience in 2014. The hotel brand constructed booths called “Teleporters” to transport viewers into the virtual worlds of London and Hawaii.

VR also has a knack for grabbing the attention of and building credibility with those tech-savvy, digitally-driven Millennials.

Even colleges and universities are seeing VR’s experiential opportunities. In 2015, the Savannah College of Art and Design used VR as a recruitment tool. It sent 5,000 prospective students branded headsets, hoping they’d virtually tour the campus to experience what it might be like to enroll at the school.

Digital travel marketers everywhere should begin taking advantage of this tool. Here’s how to get started:

1. Embrace mobile. With its computing trajectory and VR-accommodating processing power, the trusty smartphone is one of the most important devices in VR. All it takes is an app, and you can start marketing virtually — no clunky headset required.

2. Don’t give in to gimmicks. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a new tool’s novelty, but don’t rely solely on VR’s newness. Make sure your campaigns focus on giving consumers an engaging travel experience, not on being cool and edgy. Immerse people in content with tours, concerts, and other branded experiences. Gulfstream, for example, offered the chance to explore the inside of a G650 at a recent aviation conference.

3. Encourage participation. VR is already a participatory experience, so it makes sense to include consumer input as much as possible. Create a community of users, and urge them to provide input on improving your VR content. Asking them what they’d like to experience will help burst that creative dam.

4. Engage the senses. No matter how immersive, it’s hard to ignore that you’re wearing a headset. To draw people deeper into the experience, find ways to engage the other senses. Marriott enhanced its virtual experience by adding heat or mist when consumers stepped into the Teleporters.

With VR’s ability to immerse users in any setting, it’s almost too easy an opportunity for travel marketers. Jump in with this tool while it’s still in its early years, and take your audiences to places they’ve never dreamed of going.

How would you use VR in your digital marketing strategy in 2017? Can you think of other industries that VR would help with in marketing?

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