Virtually stroll through the store before shopping

Virtually stroll through the store before shopping

“Welcome to the underworld of Kreuzberg,” says Lisa Jaspers as she descends the tiny basement stairs of her store. She looks into six cameras that record what is happening in a 360-degree perspective. 2013 Jaspers founded the fashion brand of folk days. Today, a camera team from Facebook works in the small Berlin basement to attract more customers to their store. “We sell two thirds of our products online,” says Jaspers.

In the past, she has therefore already placed ads on Facebook, but learned: “If you do not have a huge budget, advertisements do not translate into sales.“

This is exactly where Facebook now wants to counteract with the “Digital take-off” strategy. The campaign aims to make small and medium – sized companies fit for the digital world-also with 360-degree videos. “Such formats give visitors the opportunity to experience a business in advance on the Internet and offer entrepreneurs enough space for their stories,” hopes Xochilt Balzola-Widmann. She is Facebook’s director for small and medium-sized companies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Into Business Class with Virtual Reality

With the videos, the social enterprise wants to dissuade local companies from thinking online and offline worlds separately from each other. Because excursions into virtual reality attract a lot of attention on Facebook, it is said. In order to market this format more strongly, Facebook is also trying to take local retailers by the hand and bring them online.

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In the social network, however, the all-round videos are still a niche existence two years after their start. In Germany alone, however, more than 21 million people are connected to at least one company on Facebook. Facebook now wants to bring these worlds together.

So far, large companies in particular have relied on Virtual Reality (VR). For example, Lufthansa is currently trying to sell passengers an upgrade to a better flight class directly at the gate with a virtual insight. According to its own information, the company was able to achieve an increase in upgrades of up to 50 percent.

Only the market for high-end devices is growing

But what works with large VR glasses at the gate has not yet made the leap into private households. This is shown by the current Global Mobile Consumer Survey of the management consultancy Deloitte, for which more than 53,000 consumers worldwide, 2,000 of them in Germany, were surveyed.

“The hype around virtual reality is not partially reflected in the sales figures. VR is still a long way from the mass phenomenon,“ says Deloitte technology expert Andreas Gentner. The prevalence of VR glasses in Germany is only marginally higher than a year ago: Only three percent of respondents have glasses for excursions into virtual reality-this is only one percent more than in 2016.

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For entry-level devices, the share of glasses used even decreased in 2017. The too low resolution of mobile phone screens is currently hampering the success of affordable models, explains Gentner. Only at the upper end of the price scale were manufacturers able to record profits. This success is currently supported by Sony’s Play Station glasses, but for just under 400 euros have to be paid.

Virtual Reality just a gimmick?

While the Japanese electronics company wants to lure video players into virtual reality, Jaspers plans to do so with fashion buyers. In the Kreuzberg cellar, she tells you more about her business. “It’s like a second home to me,” she says. This feeling should be conveyed to the viewers via 360-degree video.

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But Peter Kenning from the Chair of Business Administration at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf doubts that such videos really lure users from the Internet into business. User-friendliness and added value are crucial for success. “These measures are, if at all, predominantly effective in target groups that are constantly trying out new things. And even in curious Berlin, this effect is likely to be short-term.“

A rapid increase in the number of devices sold could help Facebook’s advertising strategy. Because only with appropriate hardware can users completely immerse themselves in other worlds and hide everyday life. But Deloitte expert Gentner puts the brakes on expectations: “In the coming months, a rapid turnaround in sales of VR glasses is not expected.“

According to the survey, interest exists only in the young and middle age segment – but across all age groups, the intention of the German respondents to buy is only four percent. “Too often VR applications do not create additional value after trial and error. The young market segment urgently needs new impetus, ” explains Gentner“

Nevertheless, Facebook recommends that companies produce 360-degree videos on a long-term and independent basis. “Corresponding cameras can already be purchased quite cheaply and are certainly a sensible investment for many small and medium-sized companies,” believes Balzola-Widmann. For Kenning, on the other hand, the format will remain a technological gimmick: “Such videos often do not offer a really useful differentiation from the competition. Marketing based on this alone does not have a great future.“

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