A virtual reality for Australian SMEs

Australian SMEs are dipping their toe into the virtual reality world in clever ways.

When potential buyers from overseas or interstate contact Brisbane real estate agent Justin Hagen to find out more about a property, he now shows them how to upload a virtual reality (VR) walk-through.

The interactive inspection gives potential buyers a more accurate feel for the size and layout of a property, than a reel of still photos ever could.

“The beauty of the camera is there’s no Photoshop, so the house is what it is and people can get a real feel for what the fittings are,” Hagen says.

“So if you’ve got it on your phone you can move it around as if you’re standing in the room and look at different parts of the property.

“You can slide your finger on the device whether it’s an iPad or computer and tilt the view up and look at the ceiling, look at the floor, look left, right and out the windows.

“It is a genuine representation of the property.”

VR is speaking volumes

If a picture is worth a thousand words, VR can speak volumes.

Hagen’s Calibre Real Estate spent between $6,000 and $8,000 on technology from US virtual reality firm Matterport, including a 3D camera and virtual reality goggles, in October last year.

The goggles are kept at the agency and are commonly used by buyers in the off-the-plan apartment market.

Hagen says VR has enhanced his company’s marketing strategies and the results are already starting to show. “I’ve noticed an increase in enquiries from overseas, for example,” he says.

“I got a call yesterday from someone in the United Arab Emirates and another from someone in San Francisco."

“The investment of buying the camera and integrating it into our marketing gives those people an opportunity to stand in the house, from the other side of the world.”

Growth on the cards

The application of VR to the real estate sector demonstrates the many possibilities of VR for other SMEs, with the applications of this technology endless.

VR penetration will reach 25.5 per cent of households by 2021, emerging technology analysts firm Telsyte predicts. The same report also shows 59 per cent of SMEs already have a VR strategy or are exploring one.

And with Australia on track to have a VR device in 20 per cent of households by 2020, it makes sense for small businesses to start thinking about how they can use the technology now.

Retailers are also grasping the possibilities of VR and experimenting with ways to implement it. For example, fashion brands TopShop and Uniqlo have showed experiences allowing customers to see what clothing looks like on, without actually having to enter a changeroom to try it on.

SMEs are harnessing VR technology for marketing, brand activation and improving their workflow, but sales is a new frontier says Nick Busietta, co-founder of VR start-up Liminal 360.

“There’s some emerging infrastructure for that purpose and the likes of Alibaba have been investing heavily in VR to help provide a marketplace to use VR to help sell products, but that’s down the track,” he says.

While there’s no one-size-fits all approach to integrating virtual reality into a business model, Busietta says there are two methods to choose from.

“If you wanted to use VR for marketing purposes you might want to gravitate towards a mobile VR offering, because then it can be utilised on people’s own phones,” he says.

Or, you can offer people a headset for a more immersive VR experience. The approach you take will depend on how this technology will be used to help you reach those goals, so SMEs should take the time to think carefully about this before investing in this technology.

VR meets insurance

The emerging world of VR opens the door to a host of potential game-changers in the insurance industry. Equipped with a VR headset, insurance brokers may be able to inspect sites for risks or inspect damage to property following an accident or natural disaster.

This technology will then translate to a reduction in travel expenses and quicker turnaround times for claim processing, meaning business owners can get back to their business faster.

VR is even being utilised to help businesses mitigate risk in the US. A VR mobile app is being used to reduce accidents in manufacturing plants and warehouses by creating a virtual world where people fly through a warehouse like Superman, saving co-workers from hazards such as getting hit by a forklift or falling off a platform without a safety railing, Fortune reports.

But with new technology comes new risks, including suggestions it can become addictive. VR-induced nausea has also been reported, which could pose a risk to your customers.

A good way to be sure you can be covered for the potential risks of implementing new technology into your business is to consult your Steadfast insurance broker. They’ll be able to offer you tailored advice for the types of insurances needed for your growing business needs.

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