VR is not an activation or innovation-led concept. It is here to stay. Perhaps a lot of chatter around it needs to settle down for the real VR experiences to emerge. That is, experiences that are brand endorsed/supported, engaging for consumers and easy to distribute and consume. There are unmistakable signs of the entire ecosystem — content creators, brands showing interest and hardware providers — to work in synergy towards evolving VR experiences globally. Nearer to home, the story is a little different.
India is still breaking ground on brand-led VR experiences and is often mistaking VR for ‘just an innovation’. It is much more than that. It has the capacity to unshackle a brand from its limitations while trying to deliver an experience and to create an alternate ‘magical’ universe for the consumers to know the brand better in. But brands should refrain from relegating it to be an ‘item number’ in a brand communication plan.
There are three fundamental questions which we together need to ask.
1) Why am I here?
If a consumer is experiencing VR, she should have a very convincing reason to do so. Going beyond being innovative, it needs to have a good narrative that allows immersion. If the content is good and it is accentuated by usage of immersive VR technology, consumer engagement is higher and the likelihood of shareability is more. Brands need to answer this together with the creative agency and content creators as to why should consumer look at this content, what is it delivering, or can it be delivered using a 2D film also? How is the story leveraging VR technology? For example, a virtual tour of a coffee plantation before one sips on coffee in an outlet is a good way to use VR.
2) How to distribute it?
Unlike conventional media channels, the VR ecosystem in India is still evolving. There are high end gears like Gear VR, HTC Vive etc with limited penetration, and affordable gear like Google Cardboard, but it is important for consumers to have easy access to them to be able to experience VR. If the brand has not cracked the distribution parameters well in advance, we are talking of a piece of content but not enough eyeballs. It is pertinent that we leverage the mobile handset population in India and combine it with apt pieces of hardware.
3) What is the ROI?
Innovation can get you good press, but not ROI. Brands need to seriously address the ROI factor early on. How am I going to measure engagement? A good VR experience will deliver well on parameters like downloads, shares, views and action expected in the app. Talk about parameters like how many users have downloaded the experience using an app, what part of the story they liked the most, what were the actions taken, and how many were obliged with a call to action. The experience will bring in a treasure trove of data. The analytics will allow a brand to build inferences and subject to permission, even an opportunity to reach out to the consumer at a later date. VR has much better chances of success in a market like India thanks to our ever increasing smartphone penetration. What we then need is a deep and strategically sound understanding of the ecosystem and knowhow of leveraging the same.
By Ashish Limaye
The author is CEO — APAC, Happy Finish