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Pakko De La Torre // Creative Director

The Rise of Virtual & Augmented Reality at Trade Shows

The Rise of Virtual & Augmented Reality at Trade Shows

Two of the hottest trends in the technology industry today are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). With the rise of the metaverse and new-age devices like the Oculus Quest and Google Cardboard, the use of VR/AR technology is becoming increasingly popular.

Businesses and brands in almost every industry are starting to experiment with these tools to increase engagement among their target audiences. In fact, a recent study revealed that 56% of businesses have already implemented sort form of VR/AR technology, while another 35% consider adding it. Below are just a few of the ways it’s currently being used:

  • 60% to virtually supplement labor on production floors
  • 53% for virtual customer visits
  • 53% for virtual design and product engineering
  • 26% to train their employees

While there are endless opportunities for how VR/AR technology can be used, one specific area where that use is growing is at trade shows and other events. These events allow for the opportunity to integrate both the physical and digital worlds in order to create a unique experience for attendees.

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality: What’s the Difference?

Before we dive into how to effectively use VR/AR technology at your next trade show or other event, let’s take a quick look at the key differences between the two concepts.

Virtual reality is the use of technology and computers to create a simulated, completely virtual environment. Tools like the Oculus Quest headset are used to virtually transport individuals into an artificial world. They are then able to interact with elements within this virtual world, making it feel like a real experience.

On the other hand, augmented reality is when the real world is mixed with a virtual world. This provides a view where there is interaction between computer-generated images and a user’s surroundings. AR can be accessed through certain apps on smartphones and computers, or through things such as AR smart glasses where users see both their actual surroundings as well as digital data. AR allows for information to presented in more of an interactive way.

How to Use VR/AR Technology at Your Next Trade Show

Trade shows and other events are great opportunities for businesses to showcase their products and services, as well as market themselves to potential customers. Although there is a lot of potential for brand exposure at these events, they can often be highly competitive and full of “noise” as a large volume of exhibitors battle for the attention of attendees.

However, by using VR/AR technology at these events, businesses are able to stand out and create a highly memorable experience for attendees. It’s an example of how experiential marketing can be used to add a level of personalization.

For example, Charity: Water wanted to make an impact during its annual benefit dinner by using virtual reality. At the event, each attendee was given a VR headset and asked to put it on. They were then transported to a village in Africa where each person was able to watch a young, 13-year-old girl experience clean drinking water for the first time. This provided a highly emotional and captivating experience that ultimately increased donations.

Key Benefits of Using VR/AR Technology

VR/AR technology can be used in a variety of ways to showcase your latest product innovation or to create a unique, personalized experience for your customers. Below are five key benefits of leveraging the power of virtual and augmented reality at a trade show or event:

  1. Maximizing Space: Typically, trade show booths are small and compact. By incorporating the use of VR/AR technology into your exhibition experience, you can take a small space and transform it into a completely different world.
  2. Demonstrating Your Product or Service: Sometimes it can be hard to conduct a demonstration at a trade show due to a variety of external factors. With VR/AR technology, attendees can virtually see a product being used and even interact with it.
  3. Immediate Feedback: If you are using VR/AR to showcase a product or service demonstration, you can then receive immediate feedback from attendees instead of having to wait for them to physically demo it on their own time.
  4. Personalized Experiences: The personalization aspect of using VR/AR is one of the major benefits to be gained by brands. This technology allows for event attendees to customize a brand experience that is completely unique to them.
  5. Creating an Unforgettable Event: VR/AR is still in its early stages. So, take advantage of it now! People at events are drawn to this technology because it is new and exciting. Not every business is using it yet, which offers the ability for brands to create an unforgettable experience for attendees.

Another example of VR/AR technology in action is Honda, who used an exhilarating ride in a racecar as a fun way to make a statement. At Honda’s recent trade show in Thailand, attendees didn’t even need a license to drive! Participants were gifted a Google Cardboard VR headset and invited to take a Honda Civic for a test drive around a racetrack.

Best Practices for Using VR/AR at a Trade Show

While it can be tempting to jump in headfirst and start incorporating VR/AR technology into your next trade show or event, it’s important to first consider these best practices for the best results:

  • Always Test Run Beforehand: Nothing is worse than technology not functioning properly when you need it to. Before the event starts, make sure everything is working like it should and that any malfunctions or other issues are fixed beforehand.
  • Keep the Attendees at the Forefront: Ultimately, you are using VR/AR with the goal of grabbing the attention of potential customers. So, keep them top of mind when creating your experience. What are their motivations, wants, needs and desires?
  • Tell a Story: The way to stand out at a trade show is to tell your brand’s story. By using VR/AR, you have the opportunity to connect with your attendees on a whole new level. People connect with stories, so use them to your advantage.
  • Keep it Quick & Exciting: Oftentimes, people come to trade shows and events for more than just one business. So, you want to get your point across in a quick and effective way. You don’t want people to miss out on viewing your exhibit because the wait is too long!

The rise of VR/AR in the marketing industry is happening now, especially when it comes to trade shows and other events. This technology allows businesses to make a memorable impact and really connect with their audiences. Not only does the use of VR/AR help to increase foot traffic and build greater brand awareness, but it gets people excited and talking about your brand.

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