Jun 13, 2023
A trucking company wants to reduce accidents by allowing its drivers to simulate best practices in safety procedures. A museum seeks to offer people living too far away to visit a taste of its latest exhibit. A streaming service hopes to stand apart from competitors by providing subscribers a three-dimensional approach to enjoying its programming.
Virtual reality (VR) offers businesses across almost every industry an opportunity to enhance or extend the kind of customer experiences they offer today, but bringing it into your digital ecosystem requires careful planning and execution.
Branding and messaging must be integrated into VR in a way that feels natural and intuitive, rather than forced or jarring. No matter what your customers are doing in VR, it must feel seamless and consistent with your brand's identity. The service or solution you develop should also be cohesive and additive to everything else in your digital ecosystem, increasing its value as a whole.
The surge of investment in VR suggests now is the time to begin thinking about taking the next step. According to market research, for example, the VR market is projected to attain a valuation of $20.9 billion by 2025. The growth can be attributed to the constant advancements in technology, and the expanding digital landscape.
If you’re not sure where VR fits into your product ecosystem, however, you’re not alone. What follows are some best practices we’d recommend exploring with your team – and with Loft – that could inform the direction your use of VR will take.
1. Revisit the needs, behaviors and goals of your target audience
Most companies have found themselves at this sort of crossroads before. A bank, for example, might have started off with financial products and services that were delivered through a physical branch but eventually moved into online banking through its web site.
More recently, many banks offer mobile apps to let customers access these products and services with greater flexibility and convenience. They’ve also established a presence on third-party channels, such as social media, to market themselves and offer customer support. VR may be a new frontier, but the same principles of ecosystem design apply: whatever you offer has to be intuitive, empathetic and useful.
Bringing VR into the ecosystem of digital products or channels you offer should start by thinking about its potential to align with the outcomes your customers or users are seeking. By immersing them in a VR environment, for example, you might be able to help people absorb complex subjects more easily, convey information more quickly or make better decisions by allowing them to experiment in a safe space.
2. Consider the context in which VR is accessed and used
It took time before many brands moved to responsive design, where their website would be easy to navigate whether you were loading it on a PC or laptop. VR will bring in even more contextual considerations, including whether people will need to wear a headset, potential impacts stemming from the space around them and how VR experiences might connect or continue across other products and channels. Consider the materials and surfaces used in your design and how texture can add depth and dimension to 3D user experiences, as well as the overall mood and how it reflects your brand’s voice, tone and style.
Consider the materials and surfaces used in your design and how texture can add depth and dimension to 3D user experiences, as well as the overall mood and how it reflects your brand’s voice, tone and style.
Don’t forget to consider the digital fluency and accessibility needs of your audience, as well as demographics and the typical ways in which they use technology in their work and lives. Nowhere has the age-old notion of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes been more applicable. You should be aiming for a consistent experience that can be adapted as devices evolve and contexts change.
No matter the context, VR has to deliver from a performance perspective. This includes smooth animations, fast load times and responsive interactions.
3. Put storytelling at the center of the VR experience
There’s a reason VR has quickly gained popularity in the gaming and entertainment sectors. These are products and services that are inherently narrative-driven, whether a player is put into a quest to hunt down aliens or a movie lover gets to follow the main characters through the setting of a film.
Whether you’re using VR to provide employee training or give your customers an opportunity to visualize new products, think about the story your “heroes” will be going through. How can you lead them on a journey that helps them confront a challenge or overcome obstacles in a way that changes them for the better? No longer bound by real-world expectations, how do you set the user up for success understanding their role in your experience?
Unlike the stories in a novel or a TV show, VR narratives may be non-linear, meaning that they open up greater opportunities for your audience to return to key moments of a story or retrace their steps to improve their outcomes. Examples could include VR experiences for real estate that allow prospective buyers to make repeat visits to a simulation of a property, or a VR fitness app that provides inventive alternatives to building strength and resilience.
4. Put an emphasis on aesthetics and interactivity
There can be a lot going on at once in a VR experience, but you can make it memorable by applying consistent visual language, typography, and color scheme.
Aesthetics aren’t limited to visuals, of course. Sound can have a significant impact on 3D user experience, from background music to sound effects. Consider how a surround soundscape can enhance the mood and atmosphere of your design, while also ensuring that it is not overwhelming r distracting for the user.
You should also be as intentional as possible in the use of animations, videos, and gamification – these elements are all great ways to create a sense of discovery and keep users engaged for longer periods.
Interactivity needs to be coupled with effective wayfinding. User navigation is critical in 3D user experience. Consider how users will move through your design, including the use of paths, waypoints, and landmarks. Ensure that navigation is intuitive and easy to understand, while also providing a sense of exploration and discovery.
5. Treat VR experiences as ever-evolving and improving
Testing and iteration based on user feedback is another foundational principle in existential design, and it’s just as important when you’re working in VR.
Establish mechanisms that make it easy for customers or employees to provide details on what works well, what doesn’t and how their needs and expectations change over time. These are still early days in this area of technology, so you should go into projects expecting to refine designs on an ongoing basis.
Ultimately, a successful transition to augmented and virtual reality requires brands to embrace innovation, stay adaptable, and be willing to experiment with new ideas and technologies. With the right approach, brands can create compelling experiences that resonate with their audience and establish a strong presence in this exciting new frontier.
The point is not only to recognize the potential of virtual reality to create unique and memorable experiences for your customers. By incorporating interactive elements and gamification, you can engage with your audience in entirely new ways and create a lasting impression.
Loft can help. Connect with us and learn how we can make your vision for VR a reality – virtual and otherwise.
Jun 13, 2023