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What Gets Measured Gets Made: How Can VR Drive Real Results?

I’m writing this piece from high above Park City, Utah, where I’ve spent the last few days at the Mobilenomics conference. In between hikes, yoga classes and meals on a patio with a mind-blowing view, I’ve had several conversations with senior marketers about virtual reality. And they almost all seem to loop back to the same concept: while VR is fun and great, it remains hard to measure any real results from activations. At the end of the day, brands really want to drive sales.

As it stands, there isn’t a single, simple way to measure the effectiveness of VR campaigns. But that doesn’t mean those metrics can’t be developed. In some cases, the same solutions brands have used forever can be applied to VR projects.

Consider activations — whether those involve headsets or not, there’s an easy way to determine whether or not it worked. If it drove meaningful increases in sales, then it can be considered a win. And given how much secondary conversation VR experiences can drive, marketers are likely to see a knock-on effect even if someone didn’t come through the headset.

But that pales in comparison to the reach VR can have once people can start purchasing in the app. Sure, people will still need the headsets, but aside from cost, a big part of why most people haven’t invested is because there isn’t enough compelling content to make the price worth it.

What if you never had to go to a store, wait in line for a dressing room, and stand under fluorescent lights while you tried things on? Any woman who has ever bought a bathing suit knows just what a miserable experience this is. But VR could completely shift that paradigm to be pro-consumer. Brick and mortar stores, by their very nature, have limited supply. In VR, you can try and buy anything from any designer, as long as they’re able to ship to you.

Commerce in VR is possible today, and could drive real, tangible results. It’s not just for clothes, either — other consumer goods, like furniture, are a natural next step. If you see a great VR experience for a film, you can buy tickets or merch right in the experience. Creators can also offer freemium experiences, where you need to pay to unlock certain content. If that content is sponsored, the brand that underwrote it can share in the rewards.

Too often, brands see VR as being something that wins awards and drive press coverage, but doesn’t move the needle in terms of revenue. That’s why so many brands have only produced a few experimental pieces. But it doesn’t have to be confined to that.

A great VR piece can be used to drive sales while telling a compelling story, too. As the cost of producing VR experiences continues to come down, it makes sense for brands to start working it into their strategies and holding it to the same standards as other content.