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Is Marketing Really Set To Break Into Virtual Reality?

From email to mobile to social media, marketing has embedded itself into the biggest digital trends as they have hit the mainstream.

So, with Virtual Reality (VR) seen as one of the leading trends this year—its global spend almost doubling from $9.1bn in 2017 to $17.8bn in 2018—there’s a lot of hype about its potential in the marketing industry.

But could a marrying of marketing and VR really take shape? And if so, what might it look like?

In this post, we’re going to explore the potential of marketing in VR.


The rapid progression of virtual reality

After first reaching consumers in the early 1990s through gaming headsets, virtual reality has made real strides in the last decade as computing power has increased. The advent of smartphones with high-definition displays and depth-sensing cameras has brought VR to consumers around the world.

Google Cardboard is the most affordable VR experience on the market. A headset that costs £11 or less. Used in conjunction with your smartphone, there are over 10 million downloads of the Google Cardboard app.

Advancements in technology have allowed VR to expand to industries like healthcare and travel.

Thomas Cook now offer a virtual ‘Try Before You Fly’ experience, while enterprise giants like Microsoft are developing mixed reality headsets aimed at businesses and consumers alike. And as the technology continues to expand in popularity, we can expect it to be used more in marketing.


The possibilities of VR marketing

How might virtual reality marketing take shape?

Select companies have already began to trial and test virtual reality marketing, and have seen positive results. We think marketing in VR will take hold in two forms, at least to begin with:

• Storytelling
The New York Times gave away 1 million Google Cardboard devices to subscribers of its Sunday newspaper for them to watch an 11-minute VR video. The video took viewers into refugee camps and abandoned villages to experience the lives of children around the world who had been displaced by war and conflict.

A visual and unique way to tell a story, this kind of storytelling can evoke a much stronger response from audiences. We can see how it could be transferred into marketing.

Marketers could benefit greatly from being able to transport their customers to specific locations, to show anything from a virtual property viewing to test driving a car.

virtual-reality-marketing-customers

• Tangible demonstrations
Product demos have always been a key marketing technique, and virtual reality can push the means further. From visualising furniture in your living room to scanning blueprints of product designs. Customers can see the product ‘live’ and in action. This is obviously a huge draw for B2C companies.


Virtual or real benefits?

Given virtual reality’s infancy when it comes to marketing, there are of course some drawbacks and potential barriers to its use.

The first, and perhaps biggest, is the number of people that currently own VR headsets, and most of the devices available come as a software development kit (SDK). Your potential audience is therefore quite niche.

However, the flip side to this is that if you can break into the space now, you can position yourself a leader as the technology continues to grow.

The second is the level the technology is currently at. The best-selling headsets in 2017 were Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR. Both intended for smartphone users. But the software for these smartphone apps is far less powerful than headsets like the Oculus Rift, which offers two controllers to enable gestures.

Until a lot more people invest in more powerful VR in their own homes, the marketing reach will be pretty limited.

There’s also the fact that creating VR ‘experiences’ is going to be pricey, certainly for the time being. While a car manufacturer, or major home-design firms might be able to afford to invest in the kind of expensive software development and design that VR would require to bring their products to life.

Most firms will likely prefer to use their ad spend on more traditional, lower cost alternatives.


Virtual reality offers potential

The reality is that VR is not yet accessible enough for widescale marketing to take place like it does on social media. But virtual reality is only going to grow through 2018 and beyond, and has a real chance to change the way we market products and services.

So, keep all your senses aware of the potential for VR.

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