Persistence of vision is the brief lingering effect of images on the retina (for around 1/16 of a second), facilitating animation. The illusion of motion occurs because of a chain reaction of that lingering image, which causes the brain to interpret multiple still images as one continuous stream.
It is also a suitable metaphor for the creativity required to capture consumers’ attention in this new, digital multiple-input marketplace. The average attention span is shrinking, and individuals transition quickly and seamlessly throughout their day from one digital interface to another. Brands need to be imprinted in the consumer’s mind during those brief intervals of contact and engage the user into a deeper, more animated exploration.
That’s what Emirates’ has accomplished with its latest virtual reality (VR) experiences campaign, which was named top 6 finalist in this year’s 5th International VR Awards in the “VR marketing of the year” category.
The virtual reality (VR) tours, available through various interfaces, allow digital tourists to explore Emirates’ First Class Suite and other signature products in full VR with immersive and interactive elements. This campaign is part of Emirates’ vision to offer realistic VR experiences for customers and fans across multiple digital platforms.
Would-be travellers can roam freely around the cabin on emirates.com, via the Emirates app, and on the Oculus Store for Oculus Rift users.
The Emirates Oculus VR app on the Oculus Store: offering users real, life-size and interactive cabin interior experiences onboard Emirates’ flagship A380 aircraft and Boeing 777-300ER Gamechanger aircraft. Virtual flyers can “pick up” items from the Onboard Lounge, “turn on” the Shower in the Shower Spa or close the private suite doors behind them. They can also explore the cockpit. The Emirates Oculus app is the first of its kind for an airline on the Oculus Store, the world’s most popular VR content platform.
Emirates.com on PCs, mobile devices or the Emirates app for iOS and Android offers an immersive 3D, web VR and 360-degree view of Emirates’ Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft cabin interiors (all 20 different configurations across the airline’s fleet). Customers can explore their seats before checking in online with the 3D seat map. The tool allows customers to navigate from one seat to another. It even allows shoppers to book their preferred seats from within the 3D environment. Users can also enjoy hands-free cabin navigation and seat selection by using any VR headset like Google Cardboard. This technology is compatible with all devices without the need for external applications or plugins.
“Emirates aims to provide innovative and outstanding customer experiences whether onboard, on the ground, or in the digital space,” said Boutros Boutros, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand. “In 2018, we were the world’s first airline to introduce advanced web VR technology on our digital platforms, offering our customers an immersive opportunity to learn about the fantastic Emirates experience that awaited them before they stepped on board. We’ve continued to invest and develop that experience, and today we are delighted to be the first airline to launch a fully-fledged Oculus VR app.
“This initiative expands our global reach and ability to engage with our audiences across digital platforms. It is also particularly relevant right now, as many people have not travelled for a while due to the pandemic and are seeking inspiration and researching and rediscovering their flight options.”
Emirates created the VR tour in partnership with Spanish technology company Renacen, which also developed the 3D SeatMapVR technology that allows the user to choose a seat in 3D during the booking process.
The aim is to take the user from the “discovery and inspiration” phase before buying a ticket through virtual web tours and the VR application. Even during the selection of their seat, at the shopping phase, by showing their selected seat in the aircraft in 3D and immersive. Emirates and Renacen have effectively developed a 360-degree digital marketing strategy that reaches the users wherever they may be and in whichever digital platform suits their needs.
“Innovation is part of our DNA. And doing it hand in hand with Emirates, offering something that no other airline has in the world, is one of the best ways to do it, as it positions and differentiates us internationally as leaders in 3D and VR development, both for web and heavy applications. In that sense, Emirates has become a strategic partner for us, and having their trust encourages us to keep improving our products every day,” says Diego Cachero, CEO of Renacen.
Virtual tours of the cabin took off as a marketing tool years ago. But, during the pandemic, we’ve all become more dependent on digital connections, with streaming entertainment, Zoom meetings, app-based and online shopping.
Now is an ideal time for the return of VR passenger experiences to reawaken people’s desire to travel, particularly when marketing luxury.
As McKinsey analysts pointed out in an article published in April of this year, business travel recovery will lag behind leisure travel for a while. They estimated “it will only likely recover to around 80% of prepandemic levels by 2024.”
Leisure will rule for a while, but leisure travel can be luxury travel too. Airlines must successfully persuade leisure travellers to buy up to those unfilled premium seats. Of course, airlines can reconfigure their cabins to allow for the shift in demand, as McKinsey suggests. But this means pulling high-cost seats and suites off the aircraft long before the end of their service life, wasting that heavy investment, disrupting the overall revenue balance of the cabin, and incurring the costs of a cabin reconfiguration. In three years, when business travel starts to recover, airlines will need to do it all over again.
Cabin reconfigurations are a costly approach to shifting passenger demand. They are best reserved for new aircraft deliveries. With the wealth of digital tools now available, airlines have an opportunity to redefine and realign themselves for pennies on the dollar. When cash is tight, as it is now, investing in creative digital marketing of what you already have to offer in the fleet seems like money well spent.
Emirates demonstrated confidence in the value of their onboard product with this approach and preserved the integrity of their brand. Now is an ideal time for all airlines to get creative, be persistent, and regain a foothold in the consumer’s imagination.
BY MARISA GARCIA
Pictures by Emirates