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Reality check: How businesses can take advantage of VR and AR

by Eleanor Hanwell

October 6, 2021

If you’ve ever used a filter that alters your face, played Pokémon GO, or tried out how a product would look in your home or on your body, then you’ve experienced virtual reality (VR).

Many VR experiences rely on headsets, such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Google Cardboard, in order to enter a fully virtual world. Whereas augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) utilize the technology available in mobile devices to combine the real-world with virtual elements so we can play games or even try on make-up.

But how can you take advantage of immersive tech in your business?

Let customers try before they buy

A great way of using augmented reality is through apps that help customers to try products before they buy, from viewing products in their space to products on their face.

Home furnishing brand IKEA’s AR app shows how furniture will look in your home, while L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius allows you to explore different make-up styles. To promote a new line of Ace sneakers, Gucci launched an AR feature in its app and later on Snapchat. The app tracked movement, so when users pointed the camera at their feet, they could see how the shoes would look from multiple angles.

If you sell physical products, it’s work thinking how you might be able to utilize immersive technology to help customers get a feel for them before they buy. Utilizing social media platforms to do this provides a simpler entry point than creating your own app. Lens Studio from Snapchat, for example, is designed for creators to build augmented reality experiences using built-in features, including custom shaders and advanced tracking technology.

Create branded filters for UGC

The collaboration between Instagram and Spark AR now allows the creation of custom AR filters to overlay images, words and effects on the camera view, which can be used in stories and reels. The benefit of this approach is that filters can be created, which include branding such as logos or characters.

When added to images or videos, branding elements can receive a greater exposure as any user can use these to enhance their content or simply share. Whether your filter uses branded elements or not, your company name will be visible at the top left.

H&M used filters to great effect when they worked with Kangol last September. Using Instagram stories, they previewed their new 31-piece collection in a music video, with British singer Mabel. Alongside the video they released six augmented reality filters, which let users create their own versions of a music video to share with friends.

Spark AR for Instagram and Snapchat’s Lens Studio both offer an easy way for businesses to get started with augmented reality marketing.

Create a personalised experience

One of the benefits of VR is that it can be personalised to the individual. For high value and large products (where having every possible variation in store might not be possible), using VR can be the perfect solution. Using augmented reality in a car showroom, for example so that customers can see a virtual version of a car from different angles, and even switch between different colours and options, creates a personalised experience.

Architecture and design are other areas where VR can be used to showcase different alternatives to clients. As well as showing different options, it’s even possible to highlight how the change in light might affect design elements throughout the day or even at different times of year. The BBC’s Your Home Made Perfect series, for example, shows how VR can be used to bring architectural plans to life for different individuals with different needs.

Equally, the technology can be used to great effect in house tours, where 360 video can be overlaid with specific features that might be relevant to each individual buyer, giving estate agents the opportunity to provide the same level of personalization online that they would in face-to-face meetings.

It’s not just large purchases where VR can help provide a personalised experience; ASOS’s See My Fit app gives customers the chance to view AR versions of clothing avatars that reflect their own body shapes to personalise their online shopping experience.

It’s not just when selling that an experience can be personalised, it’s also possible for VR to be used to benefit health and wellbeing. As VR systems produce a controlled environment, they can provide affordable ways of assisting treatments for mental illnesses, such as phobias, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Using VR, therapists are able to control what a patient sees and hears, providing a tailored approach to the individual needs of the patient. Guided virtually, patients experience a safe space to develop their emotional responses, which can help with their recovery.

Limit who sees your message

Often you want as many people to see your message as possible, but very occasionally you need to limit the number of people who are aware of communications. Whether you want to release a new product or service at an event without broadcasting your secrets to the competition, or simply want to create a sense of mystery, VR headsets can be a great option.

From streaming a live video to multiple pairs of VR glasses at once to create a communal experience, or to individual users one-by-one, using this approach can keep your message private, remove the distractions that a regular presentation would bring, and add a sense of mystery.

Make education and training more enjoyable

Many physical activities which have an element of danger can benefit from utilising VR. From simulations for pilots, drivers of HG vehicles and even soldiers, they give trainees a safe space to learn before being put into live experiences.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment have been exploring the training possibilities offered by VR. Those involved have been swapping combat helmets for head-mounted displays and ‘tabbing’ for state-of-the-art treadmills to examine innovative technologies.

Although the above examples might seem very specific, VR training has implications for all businesses. Health and safety and fire safety are both areas where the British Safety Council offer VR and AR training. In fact, recent research has investigated how the development of fire safety behavioural skills can be delivered via VR.

There are numerous VR training providers, so if you are still employing remote working or need to ensure you provide consistent training across multiple locations, this could be a good option to consider.

It’s not just internal training you can consider, you can also use VR to train your customers too.

What will you do with VR?

Hopefully you can now see some of the ways that the different types of VR can be used to enhance the customer experience both prior and post purchase. It’s time to think about the areas of your marketing plan where VR would add value to your business and how you can get started. Need help? Get in contact with our expert team to discuss your options.


Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality (VR)
augmented reality
Augmented Reality Marketing