Virtual marketing is having more than a moment; it’s here to stay. When gatherings resume they should remain to enhance your in-person presence.
Connecting with customers has always been a top priority. Only now, the methods of connecting have expanded. It’s no longer a question of “Do I need a virtual environment?” The answer is now undeniably YES, it’s a necessity.
Not all virtual environments are created equal.
With so many options on the market now, how do you select the best solution for your brand? It’s important to do some research and educate yourself to determine what works best for you.
Look, we get it. When we launched our own virtual environment product in April 2020, we saw there was no shortage of competitors. Not just competitors, but other software developers outside of the events industry who saw the need for a virtual marketing tool and made an offshoot product specific to events.
Any quick Google search will lead to an overwhelming amount of options — so where and how should you begin your search for the best virtual marketing environment for your brand?
There are a few key components that make a virtual environment solution:
The platform’s core technology
The pricing options
The training and support
Let’s break it down:
Virtual Environment Technology: 2D, 3D, VR
Most of us in marketing are not tech-experts. The good news is you don’t have to be in order to find the best product for you! Having just a basic understanding of the technology you’re looking for will guide you in a good direction.
Start by thinking about the experience you want your user to have.
- Do you want them to have access to a self-guided experience of your brand?
- What do the graphics look like — 2D or 3D?
- What features from your physical presence do you want included?
- What features that are too costly in your physical presence can you now include here?
If you simply need an online platform to host meetings, show 2D graphic elements or presentations, and want to have some (but limited) interaction in the meeting — then platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts will certainly get the job done.
Some marketers who are seeking in-person and event enhancements know that they want more than a Zoom meeting. They want that next level, customized interactive customer journey.
I just saw another virtual environment demo and I was really disappointed. It was just a 3D rendering of our trade show booth, with some arrows to click
- said one of our clients during a recent online demo. This client knew she wanted her virtual environment to feel immersive and have stunning, realistic 3D graphics as you’d find in experiential video games. It’s also important to note that not all 3D platforms are created equal.
I just attended a (very large and prominent) virtual trade show, and the interface reminded me of a website from the early 2000's
- said one of our staffers. Yet exhibitors were promised a 3D experience… yikes!
This is why Steelhead researched and tested until we found the best of the best for its 3D technology platform. Our goal is to create virtual environments that have the highest quality level of graphics. We want to empower our clients by giving their users the feeling of immersion within the brand, with the autonomy of a self-guided experience that is both intuitive and FUN.
It’s one step away from a fully immersive VR experience. VR might be considered the ultimate way to experience a virtual environment, but it also means that the user needs access to VR equipment (such as a headset or glasses) which could require some extra logistics. But it’s certainly not impossible, and Steelhead can work with you on this, too.
With so many options for programs, it’s helpful to have at least a ballpark budget in mind. And like we just discussed with the quality of graphics and user experience, pricing for these products can vary greatly.
One thing to consider is that most solutions offer a basic or standard package for engagement areas, with optional upgrades. Online demos are designed to impress, and you may see a few awesome products with all of the bells and whistles. Just be sure to get clarification as to which features come with the purchase and which are an upgrade.
For example, Steelhead’s virtual solution comes with the following engagement zones:
- 360° Product Animation
- Product/Service Info (PDF/Graphic)
- Web Links
Steelhead’s virtual solution upgrades include:
- Downloadable E-Literature
- Live Guided Tour
- Meeting Scheduler
- Product Animation
- Text Chat
- Video Chat
- And more!
Training & Customer Support
Once you’ve found a few potential solutions that are within your budget and offer a great quality of experience, it’s important to think about how you’re going to incorporate the program within your branding and events. Is it easy to learn? Is installation and/or training included with the purchase? How easy will it be for you to train your team?
Think about the support you will need surrounding the activity in your virtual environment. Do you prefer to use a chatbot feature with technical support? Or is there someone you can call? What hours are they available?
In a perfect world, your environment will always run without a hitch and tech support wouldn’t even be a thought. But any good marketer knows it’s necessary to have a backup plan. Be sure to ask about your provider’s support plan before you’ve made the investment.
Hosting Your Virtual Environment
This may be the least fun thing to think about when you’re excited about your shiny new virtual environment. But it could potentially leave a lasting impression on your audience. Even “the big guys” need to take hosting into consideration, as we saw with SAP. D’oh!!
In recent virtual events where show organizers offered a virtual expo hall, the reviews of these interfaces have been lackluster. Exhibitors may not know they have the option to integrate their own virtual environment into the virtual expo hall. And in some cases, this may not be possible. But if it is, why not take the opportunity to stand out?
One benefit of Steelhead’s virtual environment is that it’s hosted on a custom micro-site. This can either be hosted by Steelhead, or on your own server. Either way, it gives you more control over the bandwidth when you’re engaging virtually with a large audience.
Take the First Step
Woo hoo, you’ve made it this far! You’ve done your research and you’re armed with some great questions. Now… what?!
Start booking demos.
The best way for you to test drive these virtual environments is to book an online demo with your top 3-5 choices for providers. Not only do you need to see it in action, but it’s also a chance for you to get to know more about the provider. Would they be a good fit for you? Do they offer awesome support, guarantee no surprises, with fun along the way?
And hey... why not start here?
Ready for a FREE demo? Click here to schedule time with us.