Jimmy Woodard is Business Development Manager at 360 Designs, a virtual reality company with expertise in live production and advanced custom cameras. He is leading the charge to help music companies, sports leagues, and Fortune 500 companies monetize digital experiences through the strategic use of 360-degree video. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Strategic Insight: Forward-thinking retailers have an opportunity to leverage frontier technologies to create exclusive digital experiences for today’s consumers, reinventing themselves and the slumping retail industry in the process.

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, there have been nine retail bankruptcies so far this year. Macy’s, J.C. Penny, Ralph Lauren, and several retail chains are closing down stores nationwide It’s a trend that is only going to get worse.

Enter virtual reality. While we’re still 5-10 years from VR shopping malls, VR e-commerce has already arrived and forward-thinking retailers have an opportunity to leverage virtual reality and other frontier technologies to reinvent themselves with today’s consumers.

Let’s use Bebe, the global women’s retailer with annual sales of more than $600 million who recently announced the closure of dozens of U.S. stores, as an example of how VR could save the slumping retail industry.

Run a social media campaign that is built to go viral

Bebe has a marketing budget for the fiscal year 2017 of approximately $17 million. The company plans to reallocate its marketing spend to digital media. What would happen if Bebe took $2 million of this budget and invested it in a 360 video campaign featuring a social media influencer targeting 18- to 35-year-old fashion-forward women?

With a $2M budget, Bebe could create a special live concert VR experience for its 3.7 million Facebook fans.

Create magic with VR

Live streamed 360-degree video will be the catalyst that turns a concert series into an unforgettable experience. The beauty of live 360-degree video for a company like Bebe is as follows:

For Bebe, the engagement with 360-degree video on mobile and desktop is key. If a fan is actively moving their phone or mouse around to watch every possible angle of the VR concert, Bebe can use this to its advantage.

Creating incredible 360 content that is shown before, during, and after the live performance and highlights Bebe as a brand. With the right content, this strategy can work wonders for Bebe. Imagine a mini movie dispersed throughout the concert in 60-second clips, that tells a compelling story and has Bebe products embedded into it. Fans will be excited to watch the content all the way through, unlike commercials that everyone wants to skip.

pasted image 0

Photo Courtesy of 360 Designs

Reap the rewards

When the campaign is all said and done, Bebe’s marketing team must assess the results of its VR campaign. Critical questions to ask: Did the fans who came to the concerts enjoy themselves? How many people tuned into the VR live streams? And most importantly, how much product did we sell as a direct result of this campaign?

With the right implementation, there are several benefits Bebe should expect to gain from this VR marketing campaign:

  • Increase in Facebook fans
  • Instant PR for being on the cutting edge of technology with VR
  • The respect of its peers who appreciate Bebe’s ingenious creativity
  • Loyal customers and followers who praise Bebe
  • And best of all, an ROI that far exceeds its initial $2 million investment!

This hypothetical case study illustrates the potential impact VR can have on the retail industry. VR is far from the silver bullet that will save the retail industry on its own, but if VR can be used to boost the retail industry like Spotify did (and is still doing) with the music industry, then that’s a win for all parties involved.