Virtual reality is set to explode, says Moosejaw’s CEO Eoin Comerford.

Which is why the outdoor apparel and equipment retailer decided to launch a virtual reality app.

“Virtual reality was very much in line with where we want to be,” Comerford says. “One of our core values is to be notable.”

Moosejaw, No. 273 in the 2016 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, debuted its iOS app, called the Moosejaw VR app, on May 6. A consumer can use the app for any plastic virtual reality headset. However, if the consumer wants to use the app on a smartphone for use in a cardboard virtual reality headset, the smartphone has to be an iPhone 6. About 2% of U.S. broadband households, or 2.3 million households, own a virtual reality headset, according to new survey of 10,000 U.S. broadband households by research firm Parks Associates. Moosejaw is also giving away cardboard VR viewers with any order.

Here’s how the Moosejaw VR app works: In the app, a consumer selects one of three videos, then inserts an iPhone into the cardboard headset and puts on the VR headset. The 360-degree video shows scenes all around the user—left, right, above, below and behind. Consumers can view the videos in app without a headset, but it will not be the same 360-degree experience.

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The three videos, each three to four minutes long, take the viewer on an outdoor adventure, such as rock climbing, hiking and camping. Each video is sponsored by an outdoor brand that has products available at Moosejaw. The models in the video are wearing that brand’s apparel or using its gear, and the product is featured in the app and links back to Moosejaw’s e-commerce site, Comerford says. The brands paid Moosejaw an undisclosed sum to have its products featured in the video.

In the first week and a half of the app’s launch, it has accumulated in the low thousands of downloads, Comerford says. He is happy with this number, and Moosejaw will soon ramp up marketing to garner more downloads, he says.

While the products link back to the site, sales is not Comerford’s goal for the app. “The point is engagement and building that relationship with the consumers,” he says.

Moosejaw will measure the app’s success on how many consumers download it, use it and stick with it over time, Comerford says. Moosejaw also incorporated a contest into each video. Moosejaw is shooting for 100,000 downloads and 10,000 entries per contest.

To enter the contest, consumers who watch the video must answer five questions about content in the video. For example, one question in the rock climbing video is, “When things are looking down, she’s always here.” The consumer has to look down during a rock climbing scene and see the word “Mom” (which is the answer) spelled out in rope.

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“They are a little tough,” Comerford says. So far, Moosejaw has a few hundred contest entries, Comerford says.

Moosejaw also distributed print and digital catalogues promoting the new virtual reality app. Within these materials are codes that unlock additional clue videos in the app. A consumer who inputs the code can see a video that will provide a clue to the answer, Comerford says.

The winner of the contest will receive all the clothing and gear featured in that video. Consumers who complete the contest within 48 hours of the video launching will be entered into an additional contest for a $500 Moosejaw gift card. Consumers know when a new virtual reality video is live via a push notification or an alert sent to the lock screen of a smartphone.

“We want to incentivize people to really be on top of things as they are released,” Comerford says.

Moosejaw plans to release more videos featuring yoga, trail running and kayaking in the next two months. In addition, Moosejaw plans to release two more virtual reality videos featuring snow sports and apparel in the fall, Comerford says.

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Moosejaw started working on this initiative in early January, Comerford says. Moosejaw worked with app development firm Happy Medium for creating the virtual reality app. Moosejaw already had an in-house photography team of four—two photographers, one manager and one videographer—who worked on the video production with some help from Happy Medium.

It takes about a day to film a video, and Happy Medium’s team and Moosejaw did the filming on-site together, Comerford says. Moosejaw purchased its own drone for the filming and GoPro provided Moosejaw with six cameras, he says.

With personnel, the cost to develop the app and the cost of the video shoot, the Moosejaw VR app cost into six figures, Comerford says.

Now that the app is live, Moosejaw plans to produce videos with its in-house team, Comerford says. Depending on the demand and use of the iOS app, Moosejaw will launch an Android version, he says.

 

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