Virtual Reality: Has its time come for construction marketing?

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Virtual Reality has resulted in significant sales increases for builders applying the technology, says Event Dev president David Payne (Image from inventdev.com website)

Finland-based Aarni Heiskanen poses the question in his AEC Business eletter: “Is VR (Virtual Reality) finally feasible?” 

His conclusion: Yes — though the technology’s adoption won’t be immediate and dramatic. He suggests it can find applications in experience design, project collaboration, decision-making and professional training (think airline simulators, but for the construction industry)

However, he observes the most immediate use of the tool will be for residential development and sales.

The most obvious use for VR in the industry is in residential business. I wrote an article about my visit to Teatime Research, a startup company developing VR for homebuyers. The experience of being inside your future home, moving around, and changing materials, fixtures, and furniture, is exceptional.

A very important factor is what you can see outside the windows of the home. A nice view can not only speed up the buying decision, it can also justify a premium price. A virtual home is also a great place to present products and services that you can buy for yourself.

The use of VR can be extended outside the home. Wouldn’t it be nice if the buyer could walk or drive around the neighborhood and see e.g. how to get to the nearest day care, school, or mall?

There is evidence that builders applying VR are seeing immediate payback.

In an interview with Ontario Home Builder Magazine, David Payne, CEO of VR service provider Invent Dev, said:

We did a project for a Waterdown builder whose sales centre had already been open a few months. There were a couple of floorplans they were struggling with, one of which hadn’t sold a single unit. We created a virtual model home in a little over a month and launched a VR version of the two models. Within six weeks their entire project was sold out. And that was a project that wasn’t moving!  It’s not just about tech; it’s about making a difference in sales.

One of the models they were having problems selling was also the most expensive, but it had a beautiful backyard. It was a case where you just can’t appreciate the value you’re getting until you see the actual finishes and how big the front and back yards are.”

This report suggests VR should have immediate application in residential construction and renovation markets. I think it will take longer to catch on in other sectors, because of the decision-making process and greater challenge in measuring (immediately) the payback. However, the technology should certainly be on your front burner in evaluating potential construction marketing trends and leadership opportunities. It won’t be hard to be first in the field.

Your observations and comments are welcome. You comment below or email Mark Buckshon at buckshon@constructionmarketingideas.com.

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