As time goes on, more and more companies are beginning to take advantage of virtual reality (VR) to provide their customers with an immersive experience that showcases their products and services. So what's driving this marketing with virtual reality trend? First, with the widespread availability of VR devices such as the Oculus Rift, VR is more accessible than ever at the consumer level. In addition, the costs associated with producing VR content, such as 360 video technology, have been dwindling in recent years.

As Inc. reports, "VR has overcome a huge hurdle in the last year by winning huge interest and support from consumers. Google has shipped millions of their Cardboard AR viewers and says that over the last year, search volume about VR has increased four-fold."

Over the next few years, VR capabilities will only increase. Here are some ways in which virtual reality presents unique marketing opportunities for small businesses.

Selling the Customer Experience With VR

Some powerful uses of VR for marketing include, among other things, creating viscerally engaging product demonstrations and providing customers with a taste of the services and experiences your brand offers. For example, Quark Expeditions, a Seattle-based travel company, launched a VR video series that allows customers to feel like they're on an Antarctic adventure. Similarly, retailer North Face is creating adventure videos about Nepal. These videos feature the company's products in harrowing scenarios on some of the highest mountains in the world.

How Immersion Enhances Customer Engagement

As a Think with Google post points out, the immersive, sensory power of VR makes it "an incredibly powerful tool to create empathy." But how can you leverage VR to optimize your marketing message? The best tactic for you will depend on your products and services, as well as the possibilities of VR itself. Ideally, VR should give your customers a memorable experience that's impossible to duplicate. "The subject matter should truly take advantage of the medium — transport people to a place, immerse them in a world and compel them to explore," according to Think with Google.

VR can be used to create a "real" shopping experience, too. In fact, many customers are demanding VR be part of their online shopping experience. According to a study from Ericsson ConsumerLab, many smartphone users across the globe are interested in VR, with 64 percent of respondents expressing a desire for "the ability to see an item's actual size and form when shopping online."

It's clear that marketing with virtual reality may be the "new thing" and a potential game changer for small businesses. While we can only speculate about the future applications of this emerging technology, it is already opening up opportunities for companies that want to viscerally engage their customers.

Tags: Technology Marketing Campaigns