What is Virtual Reality (VR) in Business?
Virtual Reality (VR) in business refers to the use of immersive, computer-generated environments that can simulate physical presence in real or imagined worlds, applied to various business activities such as training & development, retail and real estate.
Instead of just viewing information on a screen, users can interact with 3D environments in real-time. Here’s how VR is being used in the business world:
Benefits of Virtual Reality in Business
According to Greenlight Insights, 62% of consumers become more engaged with a brand if it offers a VR experience. VR allows businesses to create more impactful experiences, connecting with consumers on a deeper level.
In a nutshell, virtual reality revolutionizes business operations, from training to marketing, promising cost savings, enhanced customer engagement, and innovative solutions.
Here are 10 benefits of using virtual reality (VR) in business:
- Risk-Free Training
- Cost-Efficient Prototyping
- Immersive Product Demos
- Interactive Marketing
- Global Collaboration
- Enhanced Customer Experiences
- Streamlined Product Design
- 3D Data Insights
- Eco-Friendly Meetings
- Therapeutic Applications
1. Risk-Free Training
According to a study by the National Training Laboratory, VR training has a retention rate of up to 75%, compared to just 10% for reading and 5% for lectures.
VR provides a safe environment for employees to practice skills, from surgery to machinery operation, without real-world risks. Mistakes made in a virtual setting have no real consequences, allowing for risk-free repetition and learning.
2. Interactive VR Marketing
A study by Greenlight Insights found that 53% of respondents were more likely to purchase from a brand that uses VR than one that doesn’t.
By offering VR experiences, brands can create memorable and engaging advertisements, giving users a unique way to connect with products or services.
Related: 14 examples of highly effective VR marketing campaigns.
3. Cost-Efficient Prototyping
Virtual prototypes or simulations can save businesses money. Instead of creating a physical model or mockup, companies can visualize products or spaces in VR.
4. Immersive Product Demos
Businesses can showcase products in a fully immersive environment, allowing potential clients or customers to experience the product before purchasing.
5. Global Collaboration
Virtual meetings eliminate the need for travel, allowing global teams to collaborate as if they are in the same room. This not only saves money but also time.
6. Enhanced Customer Experiences
In sectors like real estate, customers can take virtual property tours. Similarly, in tourism, they can “visit” destinations before booking, ensuring they get what they desire.
7. Streamlined Product Design
Designers and engineers can interact with 3D models of their creations, making adjustments in real-time and streamlining the product development process.
8. 3D Data Visualization
VR offers a novel way to represent complex data. Businesses can dive into 3D data landscapes, making it easier to spot patterns or insights.
9. Eco-friendly Meetings
With VR meetings and demos, there’s less need for frequent business travel, reducing both costs and the business’s carbon footprint.
10. Therapeutic Applications
Businesses in the healthcare sector can offer VR-based therapies, aiding in rehabilitation, pain management, or treating conditions like PTSD.
Disadvantages of Virtual Reality in Business
There are 3 main disadvantages of using virtual reality in business:
- High Initial Costs: Setting up VR technology, especially for large teams, can be expensive. This includes the cost of headsets, software, and sometimes high-end computers.
- Physical Discomfort: Extended VR use can cause symptoms like dizziness, nausea, or eye strain, known as VR motion sickness. Approximately 60% of the population experience VR motion sickness.
- Space Requirements: VR often requires physical space for movement and interaction, which might not always be feasible in compact office environments.
How VR is Used in Business (8 Examples)
There’s a reason why 75% of the world’s top brands are now using VR technology in their marketing campaigns. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Meta (Facebook), Nvidia, Snap and many others are heavily investing in the metaverse.
Here are the main ways VR is being used in business:
1. Data Collection
Perhaps the most powerful use case of VR in business is data collection. Through VR, businesses can obtain insights that were previously challenging to collect. For example, retailers can track not just what products were purchased, but also which ones were looked at the longest, which ones were virtually picked up and put back, and the paths customers took through the store.
These granular details are invaluable for understanding customer behavior and preferences.
2. VR Marketing & Advertising
With VR, brands can create unforgettable experiences that immerse users in a branded universe. For example, Marriott Hotels’ “Teleporter” campaign allowed users to virtually travel to a beach in Hawaii or the top of a skyscraper in London. By giving users the feeling of “being there,” brands can forge a deeper emotional connection.
Some businesses create virtual store replicas where customers can browse products as they would in a physical store. Alibaba’s Buy+ VR shopping experience lets users browse products in a virtual mall, picking out items and even seeing virtual fashion shows.
Interactive Advertisements: Instead of passive ads, VR enables interactive ads where users can engage with products. For instance, a VR ad for a new type of sneaker might let users jump, run, or climb, emphasizing the shoe’s features interactively.
Fashion and retail brands use VR to let customers virtually “try on” products. For example, a few eyewear brands have developed VR apps where users can try different eyeglasses or sunglasses and see how they look from various angles.
Lacoste’s VR app lets users try on shoes virtually, providing a 360-degree view of how they look on the user’s feet.
From clothes to furniture, VR allows customers to virtually “try out” products. This is known as “try before you buy” and bridges the gap between online shopping and the traditional in-store experience.
4. Collaboration and Remote Work
VR can create lifelike meeting rooms or collaborative spaces where remote workers can interact as if they were physically together. This is an enhancement over typical video conferencing, as VR provides spatial presence, making meetings more engaging.
Through VR workspaces, employees can create customized environments tailored to their productivity needs. For instance, a developer might choose a calm beach setting to code, while a designer might opt for an inspirational mountaintop view.
Meanwhile, new hires or clients can be given a virtual tour of the company’s primary facilities, labs, or other areas of interest, even if they’re located halfway across the world.
5. Product Design and Prototyping
VR platforms can integrate seamlessly with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tools.
With VR, designers can instantly bring their concepts to life. They can walk around, interact with, and analyze their designs in 3D space, gaining a more comprehensive understanding of how the product will look and function in reality.
Modifying a design in VR is immediate and cost-effective. Designers can quickly test different variations, making adjustments on the fly, and instantly seeing the results without the need for creating multiple physical prototypes.
And before committing to a final design, companies can use VR to simulate how end-users will interact with the product. This provides invaluable feedback on usability, ergonomics, and user experience, allowing designers to make necessary adjustments.
6. Training and Onboarding
A study by PwC predicted that nearly 23.5 million jobs worldwide could be using AR (Augmented Reality) and VR for training by 2030.
New employees can be trained in a VR environment, experiencing real-world scenarios without real-world consequences. This immersive training can accelerate the learning curve and is especially beneficial for roles that involve complex tasks or machinery. For instance, medical students can practice surgeries in a risk-free virtual operating room, allowing them to make mistakes and learn without any consequences.
VR training programs can provide immediate feedback, allowing trainees to understand their mistakes and rectify them instantly. This immediate loop of action-feedback-correction accelerates the learning process. Using AI in conjunction with VR, training modules can adapt in real-time to the needs of the trainee, offering personalized learning paths or altering scenarios based on the trainee’s performance.
While the initial setup for VR might be costly, in the long run, it can prove to be cost-effective. Once a VR training module is developed, it can be easily replicated and distributed to multiple trainees regardless of their location. This means that businesses can maintain consistent training standards globally.
7. Real Estate and Architecture
According to a survey by Coldwell Banker, 77% of prospective homebuyers preferred taking a virtual reality tour before physically visiting a property.
Real estate agents and developers can offer virtual property tours, allowing potential buyers to walk through properties from the comfort of their homes. This is especially beneficial for international clients or those unable to visit the property in person.
For properties still in the development phase, VR can offer potential buyers or investors a detailed visualization of the finished product, aiding in pre-sales or securing investments.
Architects can present their designs in VR to clients, making it easier for them to understand and approve layouts, aesthetics, and spatial arrangements, reducing the back-and-forth often associated with 2D blueprints.
Since VR provides a true-to-scale spatial experience, it helps both clients and architects understand the size, layout, and feel of spaces more effectively than traditional models or drawings.
8. Product Showcasing
VR allows customers to engage with a product virtually, understanding its features and functionalities firsthand. For instance, a car manufacturer can offer a VR experience where users can virtually drive a car, exploring its features and performance.
Brands can create virtual showrooms where customers can browse through products, explore different variations, and even customize products according to their preferences – all without stepping into a physical store.
Combining VR with AR can further enhance product showcasing. For instance, after exploring a furniture piece in a VR showroom, customers can use AR to visualize how it would look in their actual living space.
The Cost of VR in Business
The cost of using VR in business can be broken down into hardware costs (VR headsets), software costs, and training & implementation costs.
- VR Headsets: The price can range from low-end, mobile-based systems like Google Cardboard (around $10-$20) to high-end systems like the Meta Quest 3 ($500). Prices can fluctuate of up to thousands of dollars, based on the model and its features.
- Computers: High-end VR experiences require powerful PCs with advanced graphics capabilities. A VR-ready computer can cost anywhere from $800 to $3,000 or more.
- VR Software Platforms: Monthly or annual licenses for professional VR platforms, which can range from $20/month to several hundred dollars per month, depending on the features.
- Custom VR Application Development: If a business requires a bespoke VR application tailored to its needs, development costs can range from a few thousand dollars for simpler applications to hundreds of thousands for complex, high-fidelity VR simulations.
- 3D Modelling and Animation: Creating virtual environments or product models may require 3D design work, which can vary in price based on complexity and detail. This can range from a few hundred dollars for basic models to tens of thousands for intricate designs.
- 360-degree Videos: Producing or sourcing 360-degree video content can add costs, depending on the production value and length. For example, professional-grade 360-degree cameras can range from $1,000 to over $50,000, depending on their features, resolution, and capabilities.
Training & Implementation
- Employee Training: Staff might need training on how to use VR equipment and software, which can entail additional costs, either through in-house training sessions or external courses.
- Integration: Integrating VR solutions with existing business systems or processes might require technical expertise and consultancy.
- Maintenance: Ongoing software updates, bug fixes, and enhancements can add to the total cost.
Implementing VR into businesses can vary widely in cost, ranging from modest investments in basic equipment and software to substantial outlays for high-end technologies and custom applications. Companies must carefully assess their specific needs and the potential return on investment before diving into the world of virtual reality.
Is VR the Future of Business?
VR (Virtual Reality) is undoubtedly shaping the future landscape of many business sectors by offering immersive experiences, enhancing remote collaboration, and revolutionizing training and product showcasing. While it may not replace all traditional business practices, VR’s potential to transform various aspects of business operations and customer engagement suggests that it will play a significant role in the future of many industries.