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Why 360 Video and Virtual Reality Matters and 5 Great Ways To Use It

360 Video and Virtual Reality Guide

Interest in 360 degree video and 360 VR (Virtual Reality) is at an all time high as the tech matures and becomes more accessible. The Google Trends chart below shows the sharp spike in searches around the world, starting mid to late 2015. 360 content is hard to avoid these days…and even harder to ignore as a marketer. In some ways, 360 has also been a precursor to the virtual reality revolution that is almost upon us. So how can you tap into this powerful new format as a marketer? In this post we explore the basics of 360 video content and 5 great marketing ideas to get your efforts started.

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New to 360 video?

If you’re just getting started with 360 degree videos and VR content, here are a few basics:

What is 360 video? Wikipedia’s definition: 360-degree videos, also known as immersive videos or spherical videos, are video recordings where a view in every direction is recorded at the same time, shot using an omnidirectional camera or a collection of cameras. During playback the viewer has control of the viewing direction like a panorama.

How do you experience 360 video? Most 360 videos you see online on a computer are monoscopic in nature (2D). When using a mobile device, the built in gyroscopes allow you to look around a little more intuitively, compared to using a mouse on the desktop. 360 VR is stereoscopic video (3D) and is viewed as two distinct images directed individually to each eye. You can use VR devices like the Oculus Rift to experience this or more cost-effectively, your mobile phone inserted into a Google Cardboard viewer or a Samsung Gear VR. Check out YouTube’s curated 360 video content and see a few great examples for yourself. Facebook also supports 360 video uploads and playback.

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How is producing 360 video different to standard video? You can shoot 360 video with either custom devices built to shoot in 360 or a rig that uses multiple cameras, from which footage is extracted and stitched into an immersive 360 degree video. Given the nature of the format, the approach to storyboarding is very different to traditional video (after all, you have a lot more space and variables to play with…plus capturing and maintaining the viewer’s attention is harder, as they control what they see). Production workflow is also very different, depending on the equipment used and the stitching and editing required.

Finally, cost is a lot steeper, as the equipment required to produce and edit high quality, i.e. 4K 360 video is a lot pricier. One example of a prosumer option is the Jump, a 16 camera GoPro rig that’ll set you back a few thousand dollars. Entry level cameras like Ricoh’s Theta S cost a few hundred dollars and are very portable, but the quality leaves a lot to be desired (the Samsung Gear 360 Spherical VR Camera is a little better). At the highest end are professional options like Nokia’s Ozo camera (picture below), that’ll set you back over $45,000. You may also be interested in this great CNET article (10 things I wish I knew before shooting 360 video)

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Why does 360 video and 360 VR matter?

It’s a different approach to storytelling: Just as standard video is a step up from photography in terms of immersiveness, 360 video and VR amp this up considerably further. Controlling what’s in the frame and editing to hone in on the elements of the picture that we’d like the viewer to focus on is somewhat ‘easy’ with photography. With moving pictures (video), this is harder but with the right use of the camera, it’s still easy to direct the viewer’s attention to the elements of the narrative we’d like to highlight.

Since 360 and VR allow the user to essentially take control of the camera, content creators have a lot less control in terms of capturing attention. This has its upsides too though…360 video and particularly VR provide for a very rich sensory environment that standard video just can’t match. Here’s a great example from Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things…while a standard trailer does the job well, this immersive 360 experience allows you to step into the suspenseful world yourself.

A new format to break through the clutter: Again, as with most things today, what’s new is what garners the most attention. Creators and marketers are tapping into the ‘newness’ of 360 to capture attention and break through the clutter. Great 360 content is also the first step on the way to great VR experiences…so the innovators and early movers in this space stand to benefit tremendously in the future.

Higher conversion and engagement: The 360 format, due to its very nature, results in more attentive and repetitive viewing to allow viewers to capture the full experience. Well crafted 360 video campaigns (see Hilton example below) can also help drive consumers through the conversion funnel more effectively. What about 360 video ads? This great study by Google concludes that while 360 video ads (tested on YouTube) do not outperform standard video ads (especially for in-stream video formats where users may not be in the mood to switch from standard viewing to a 360 experience), the format does drive higher clickthrough, engagement and sharing.

5 Great Ways You Can Tap Into 360 video and 360 VR Content:

1. Storytelling – Creating Immersive Worlds:

Two great examples of an immersive world, created with 360 degree video. The first is Five Nights at Freddy’s, which draws you into a frightening world that dares you to ‘Find Freddy before he finds you!’. A very effective way to market the mobile game, which is based on the premise of animatronic robots gone wild.

From manufactured worlds to the real world…360 video is also a much more powerful medium for news delivery. Here’s a virtual reality report from war torn Syria, that really brings the disaster into sharp perspective.

2. Dreaming of Travel – More Effective Destination Marketing:

360 video and virtual reality is THE perfect format for destination marketing. Here are two great examples to prove the point. What better way to create the desire to travel than a VR experience?

Get Barreled in Tahiti:

Dubai. Here you are.

3. Living The Moment – Live Events, Conferences, Behind The Scenes

360 video helps capture the atmosphere at events much better than standard video or photography ever can. If you can’t be there in person, then this may just be the next best thing. A great way for marketers to also create appeal for upcoming events…below is an example from the global phenomenon, Tomorrowland (an Electronic Music Festival from Belgium):

360 video is also optimal in terms of capturing adventure sport and experiences – here’s a great example of a SkyDiving experience in VR with GoPro:

4. Improving The Conversion Funnel – Selling Online With 360 Video

For businesses that provide products and services that can benefit from a more immersive sales experience, 360 video and Virtual Reality provide an incredible opportunity to up the ante on web acquisition and conversion. The hotel business is a great candidate…hotels and resorts provide excellent settings to capture rich experiences. Plus, well crafted 360 content also helps lend credibility to the actual product…after all, its far harder to doctor 360 degree video than it is a photograph (or even video).

I loved the below execution by Hilton Hotels & Resorts. On mobile, a great, short HD video advertisement is followed up by a prompt inviting users to experience Hilton’s resorts in 360 degree video…followed by a strong call to action to make a booking.

Hotels have also started producing and curating 4K 360 video content on their channels, to provide a more immersive trigger to get guests dreaming about their next vacation. Here’s a great playlist from the Pine Cliffs Ocean Suites, a Luxury Collection Resort in the Algarve.

5. Mining The Data To Build A Better Experience

As the tech evolves, 360 content creators will have access to more analytics and insights that’ll allow them to both capture and analyze viewer attention and engagement. A good example from last year was Facebook’s release of ‘Guide‘, that allows creators to create an optimal viewing path so users don’t miss any of the important action if watching passively. Heatmap, on the other hand provides insights into which parts of the 360 videos were most engaging for viewers.

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Mining all this valuable data will allow creators to fine-tune the 360 and VR experience and produce ever more engaging content.

So there you have it…360 video (and more importantly, Virtual Reality) is here to stay for good this time. While uptake is still somewhat confined to early adopters, the tipping point is coming soon. As the tech matures and becomes cheaper and more accessible, expect a lot more consumers to hop onto the VR bandwagon.

Are you using 360 degree content in your eCommerce, destination marketing, vlogging or social media efforts yet? Leave a comment and let us know how!

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