Instead of looking at a picture of a dress online, the new age of marketing would have a woman step into a virtual world to see how it looks on her, how it flows — and even meet the designer who made it.

Virtual reality marketing is blossoming, and marketing firm SapientNitro considers a new tool for retailers to add in reaching consumers.

“We think that virtual reality is the next wave of experience that marketers and retailers and anyone who has a brand and wants to connect with consumers have to explore,” said Adrian Slobin, vice president and global innovation lead at SapientNitro.

SapientNitro’s Minneapolis office has two rooms dedicated to trying out the technology.

One room offers a virtual reality experience that takes people to a nice New York City apartment with items people can experience and then buy. “The Apartment by the Line” earned the company a “Best in VR-AR as Advertising and Live Event and Installation” award earlier this month from Digital Hollywood.

“The intensity of the experience is really what is interesting to us,” Slobin said. “People start to think of the experience as the brand … not the slogan as the brand.”

Sixense, a company that partners with SapientNitro, has set up virtual reality situations where people can use an Oculus Rift, grab a drone off a shelf and fly it around. They are creating different scenarios that give people the “try before you buy” experience.

Dave Hopkins, director of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management’s Enterprise Program, said his students have worked on research projects related to the application potential in the entertainment industry.

“What it does at the end of the day is it can enhance the experience and create associations with a particular product or brand that could enhance selling,” Hopkins said.

Slobin still considers this the Wild West days when it comes to using virtual reality as a marketing tool. He said it is not as expensive as people might think, and massive advancements in technology continue to make it more affordable.

Slobin believes some of the forays into the VR space will fail and others will be successful.

“It is not going to destroy the brick-and-mortar store,” Slobin said. “It is not going to eliminate mobile shopping. It is not going to eliminate the Web. It’s going to be one experience that retailers are going to have to stitch into a true omni channel offering for their consumers.”


Twitter: @vsawkar