Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) blur the two worlds of reality and digital landscapes. Each puts the user into a scene that looks as close to a real-world environment as possible.

Some predictive models show virtual reality and augmented reality impacting the United States economy by about $29.5 billion annually by 2020. As virtual reality and augmented reality have become more commonplace and the cost of the technology comes down, more and more businesses are looking at how they utilize the technology.

While it seems virtual reality and augmented reality are gaining popularity, particularly online, it is not yet commonplace on the trade show floor, which presents a perfect opportunity for your booth to stand out from the crowd.

Consumers want to interact with this technology and experience the growing virtual reality/ augmented reality trend first-hand. Here are six ways you can use virtual reality and augmented reality in your next trade show exhibit.

1.    Visualization

Let’s say you have a product that can be used in someone’s home or office. By offering virtual reality that emulates the layout of their home, people can see what the product looks like and how it functions in a familiar setting.

It helps the consumer imagine what it might be like to own that item. If you sell couches and the consumer is worried whether or not it will fit in their living room, simply input the size of the room and select a layout and see how the various couch models fit.

For example, Ikea used augmented reality to take a photograph of customers’ living rooms and show them how a particular couch or color of rug might work with their overall design (see video above).

You can do something similar whether your business sells exterior siding, garage doors or any number of other home products.

2.    Hands-On Training

Do you have a product that can be best demonstrated when the user receives hands-on training? Particularly if you’re selling complex machinery, virtual reality can allow you to train potential customers right then and there on the trade show floor before they ever place an order.

Imagine, for example, a prospective buyer approaches your trade show booth and expresses interest in placing a large order for your product. You can allow the buyer to train right there, which can instill confidence in the product and perhaps even mean the difference between an order for 1 or 100.

Walmart has utilized VR to train its employees (see video above), so implementing this type of training for your customers and employees will put you alongside one of the biggest retailers in the country. VR training can be more immersive but still protect the beginner from moving parts on a machine or from making catastrophic mistakes.

3.    Drive Traffic

Interactive VR or AR games can help create excitement and drive traffic to your booth. If you can tie a game into your product, even better. There are any number of ways you can utilize virtual reality games to draw traffic to your booth.

Smoothwall, a web filtering and firewall solutions provider, demonstrated the power of augmented reality at a trade show with its AR interactive experiential setup at BETT 2017 (see video above).

In another example, a company that sells sports equipment might want to install an interactive VR experience to play and try out products within the booth.

The key is to try to tie the game back into what you have to offer in the way of products or services, but even if you don’t, you’re sure to stir up a buzz and attract booth traffic.

4.    Demonstrate New Technologies

Introducing new and emerging technologies is another great use of VR at trade shows. For example, you can allow medical professionals at a medical show to try out new equipment in a virtual setting, such as an operating room or triage simulation.

Using the equipment on a VR patient can give them a feel for how your product(s) might work in reality. However, the medical field isn’t the only industry with advances in technology. This concept can be applied to nearly any industry.

5.    Bring Entire Product Lines

One of the drawbacks of trade shows is that booth space is limited and transportation can be prohibitive. If you have a large inventory of products, you can’t bring every single SKU that you offer with you.

However, with the help of virtual reality and augmented reality, you can digitally upload your products and allow trade show attendees to interact and browse entire product catalogues as though they are physically there.

This can be particularly useful if you are trying to connect with large retailers that may be interested in picking up entire product lines.

6.    Customization

One of the best uses of AR is in being able to completely customize almost any product imaginable. Taking a base product and allowing the user to make changes to it makes it his or her own. This allows attendees to put their own individuality into the design and gives them ownership of the product.

McDonald’s did something similar to this at SXSW, letting attendees paint the inside of a happy meal box using VR. People ‘painted’ the inside of a giant Happy Meal box by using a launcher to send balls of paint onto the walls (see video below). This created a fun and unique experience that was tied to the product itself.

The Big Business of AR and VR

AR and VR are definitely a way to draw people into your trade show booth. In a crowded venue where you’re competing against a lot of other vendors, adding something unique is certain to make your booth a popular stopping point for attendees. No matter which way you plan to utilize this technology, it is an investment worth looking into.

Lexie Lu is a graphic designer and writer. Most days you can find her creating new graphics in her studio with a large coffee in close proximity. She is the owner of Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

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