Virtual reality is more commonplace than it used to be, but it’s still an underused technology. Incorporating virtual reality into your trade show booth can give you a leg-up on your competition. Here’s how to use it to your advantage.
First, Understand Your Immersive Technology Options
Virtual reality and its cousin, augmented reality, are examples of immersive technology. These are technologies that either change what existing reality is like or create a whole new reality. Immersive technologies are also defined by their use of 360° space. This is what makes them immersive: They alter what we can see all around us—even above or below us.
While all immersive tech has these attributes in common, they differ in other ways. Some examples of immersive tech include:
360° video: This is the most basic kind of immersive technology. In fact, most modern phones can make these videos using apps such as Google Sphere.
360° VR videos: These are 360° videos that are viewed through a virtual reality headset. Wearing the headset, you can look in any direction and see the world of the video. These videos aren’t true virtual reality, however, as they’re based on flat 2D images.
Virtual reality (VR): A VR world is a 360° space but unlike 360° videos, virtual reality is stereoscopic, meaning it has depth. The most powerful immersive tech, VR creates a new 3D reality that the user can actually move around in. Virtual reality is typically explored via a full-coverage VR headset that blocks out the real world, replacing it with a digitally created one.
Augmented reality (AR): This technology adds virtual elements to the real world. Currently, AR content is mostly viewed via phone apps or AR smart glasses. Some basic examples of AR tech are social media filters that overlay digital elements on top of photos or videos.
Mixed reality (MR): This combines elements of both virtual and augmented reality. It involves wearing a headset, like VR. However, rather than building an entirely new world, MR overlays digital images over the real world, like AR does.
How to Use Virtual Reality in Your Trade Show Booth
Introduce Your Brand
If you’re introducing a new brand or product to the world, adding a virtual or augmented reality experience to your trade show booth can be an effective way of getting the word out. Virtual reality is still new enough that it’s a novelty at many trade shows. By offering a VR experience, you can attract lots of foot traffic and get lots of eyeballs on those new products or other booth offerings.
As well as this, offering a VR experience can increase your chances of getting covered by press and talked about on social media. As a means of raising visibility, virtual reality is a great prospect.
Tell Brand Stories
A well-crafted brand story can be an effective way of evoking emotional responses in viewers. Using virtual reality to tell that brand story heightens the effect. Generally, the bigger the emotional response, the more of an impact you make, and the better your booth and brand are remembered.
To get started, think about the things you want consumers to know about your brand. Is it your brand’s origin story? A unique product or manufacturing process? Something else? When you know what story you want to tell, you can then think of ways to put the viewer in the middle of that story.
For instance, if you want to tell the story of a product and how it’s made, your VR experience might include visiting locations where raw materials are harvested, followed by a factory tour that shows how those raw materials are turned into the product.
A brand origin story might include a tour of your company headquarters, where you take a virtual walk through the history of your brand. VR can also help you describe where you hope to take it in the future.
Provide Product Demonstrations
For many exhibitors, it’s hard to accurately reflect the customer experience. When you can’t provide the full product experience in your trade show booth, virtual reality offers a solution. A virtual reality product demo can put the viewer in the driver’s seat—literally, if necessary! With a VR experience, the user can trial the product in a digital setting. This helps them get a true-to-life understanding of what the product is actually like.
Another approach is to use VR to highlight the solutions that your products offer. What are the common pain points exhibit visitors experience? How can your products address them? Using virtual reality is an effective way to showcase specific solutions because it reminds potential customers just how frustrating those pain points can be!
Take a Look Behind the Scenes
Virtual reality isn’t always a suitable medium for product demos or brand stories. If your exhibit falls into this category, there are other options. For instance, virtual reality can give viewers a look behind the scenes, giving them access to an experience they couldn’t get any other way. A factory or warehouse tour can offer some interesting and informative insights into a brand and give booth visitors an experience that piques their interest.
If You Opt for Virtual Reality Trade Show Booth Design, Keep This in Mind
If you want to use virtual reality or augmented reality in your trade show booth, keep these considerations in mind.
VR Is the Medium, Not the Message
When you use immersive technology, don’t make the mistake of creating a flashy experience that has nothing to say about your brand or products. Virtual reality isn’t the message—it’s the medium you’re using to deliver the message. If your VR experience is all flash and no substance, it won’t have the desired effect.
Instead, your VR experience should tie in with your trade show goals. If you’re launching a new product or brand, make it all about your brand story. If you’re looking for new leads, make it about the product. Then design an experience that delivers the viewer to the desired point in the sales cycle.
Make It Short and Simple
Some people who use VR experience nausea or motion sickness. Users are more likely to experience this if they’ve never experienced VR before or if they use it for an extended period of time. This is one good reason to keep your virtual reality experience on the short side.
Another reason is simply that if it’s too long, you may end up with lots of people waiting in line and few getting the experience you planned for them. A good length for a trade show VR experience is around three minutes. This is short enough to avoid motion sickness and will ensure you can get people through quickly as well.
It’s also important to make sure the learning curve is gentle. Viewers shouldn’t have to spend the entire three minutes learning how to use the VR headset. The most effective option is generally to provide voice-over instructions that guide the attendee as they move through the virtual space.
Use Virtual Reality Thoughtfully to Bring Attendees to New Worlds
Adding a virtual reality experience to your trade show exhibit can be a highly effective strategy. It can get more traffic into your booth and may get you some press too. It’s important to deploy this technology thoughtfully. When you use virtual reality, it shouldn’t just be for the sake of going high-tech. As with any marketing medium, wrap it into the story you’re telling with your brand and products in order to be effective.