Retailers are looking into virtual reality and wondering what’s in it for them and when should they jump in. Should you invest in a shopping experience where a virtual person tries on virtual clothing?
Let’s be clear on one thing: When you start using 360 and VR to engage your audience on a regular basis, it’s important that you will be able to test different ideas to see what works best with your customers. This means that you want the average cost of a story to be closer to a thousand dollars rather than a hundred thousand dollars.
Secondly, when you invest time and money in creating a virtual store, you want to maximize reach, and make sure that the people who don’t happen to have their VR headset handy, can still view the story on their laptop or mobile phone. 360 images can be easily shared, and viewed on desktop and mobile, bespoke virtual reality implementations can’t.
Most brand and retail-related 360 and VR examples are still more about sharing the brand’s story than actually driving conversion. But why shouldn’t you have both? Annotating 360 photos allows users not only to experience an environment, but to interact with it and take action.
Here are three use cases for a virtual store using 360 images:1) VIRTUAL 360 STORE OR SHOWROOM
The easiest way to get started is to take a 360 image of your store or showroom, and enrich it with detailed information of products in the picture. For this purpose, we’d recommend a professional photographer, that comes to your location at an agreed time and takes a hi-res photo that can be used directly on your website. The average cost per image is somewhere between $400 and $800 per photo including some hours of post production, and the delivery time is typically a couple of days. In this example, we had a darker interior that showcases items from Restoration Hardware, and it would have been hard to capture this properly without a professional photographer. He used a remote contoller to take the image and in post production adjusted the contrast and edited out the tripod so it's all nice and clean.
Alternatively, for a quick DIY version, use a camera like Ricoh Theta and your phone for closeups. The below picture is taken at the Marimekko store at the Stanford Shopping Center. Although the quality is not nearly as good as in the previous example, you still get a good idea of the store and its selection, and this photo would work perfectly as a social media update. After I had taken all images, I just sent the 360 image and the closeups from my phone to my email, download them to computer, and combined the images in the ThingLink 360 photo editor.
2) INSPIRATIONAL 360 BRAND EXPERIENCE
Let’s say you don’t have an actual physical location at the moment (maybe you are an online-only business or your brick-and-mortar store is under renovation) but you still want to showcase products in a 360 environment. Here you can get creative and choose any photograph that aligns with your brand identity. You’ll be making a custom world for users to explore. In this example, we licensed a 360 degree image of a birch forest form 360cities.net, and annotated it with a collection of Marimekko products. Depending on the provider, licensing cost for one 360 image is typically around $250.
3) INTERACTIVE 360 FOR DESIGNERS
For home decorators who want to impress their clients, you can use 360 experiences to really immerse clients in your vision. Bring your 360 camera to their house and when you follow up send a link with your 360 rendering, complete with annotations showing paint swatches, suggested dinnerware, furniture and more. This is a perfect case for using a consumer facing 360 cameras such as Ricoh Theta or the new Samsung 360 camera. Unlike in the first example, the items are not in the actual photo, but we use annotations to bring them in. Here we have selected products from Heath Ceramics to match a client's kitchen. How much work does it take to create an example like this? When you have the image, the annotation takes about 15-30minutes.
How to get access to ThingLink 360 Photo editor?
Sign up to ThingLink’s Premium account on ThingLink.com. The Premium account also includes a service to locate a professional 360 photographer in your area.
ThingLink 360 images can be embedded on websites, shared and promoted on Facebook News Feed, and viewed with mobile VR headsets like Google Cardboard.