Best Buy Adds VR To Stores; Agency Sees Tech As Secondary

Best Buy is adding virtual reality to most of its stores so consumers can see and try it before the holiday shopping season.

The retailer has been rolling out virtual reality merchandising and sees potential in the market, according to Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy

“By holiday, we expect to be selling an expanded assortment of virtual reality products in the vast majority of our stores and more than 500 stores will be equipped with demonstrations so customers can try out this exciting new technology,” Joly said in the retailer’s Q2 earnings call this week.

The CEO said he sees the potential of virtual reality boosting Best Buy’s growth in the longer-term future. “We’re early in the cycle.”

At least one major agency tends to agree.

The landscape of VR in the hands of consumers is currently in its early stages and very limited, according to Steve Callan, vice president and director of creative technology at Hill Holliday.

“In the short term, this is something you either use at your home or something that you use with a particular installation in mind, like experiential,” Callan told the IoT Daily.

“Long-term, the convergence of AR, VR and MR (mixed reality) all become one, that’s something that’s going to take that mass adoption route.”

“VR has certainly been in the press a lot lately and I can see why certain people would want to do VR for the press publicity aspect, but we’re at the point now where just doing VR for novelty won’t get much attention.”

Clients have been most receptive to 360-degree videos because of the reach with platforms like Facebook and YouTube supporting them across devices and platforms.

Deciding to use 360-degree video, VR or other capabilities ultimately is decided on a client by client basis, Callan said.

“Trying to force VR for VR’s sake is never going to work. It’s about finding something that needs to delight our audiences,” he said.

“I think it’s always been about what is the idea, what are we trying to get across and then the technology is secondary.”

Ultimately, VR is another creative tool used to tell a brand’s story. If the story lends itself well to immersing a consumer in a different world, then 360-degree video or VR would make sense, Callan said.

One such example would be 360-degree videos of concerts and other live events, where viewers want to immerse themselves in the experience of attending the event.

“The immersive factor is absolutely it. When we talk about making the customer feel something, that immersive factor drives a certain level of empathy for the certain situation they’re in,” Callan said.

“Certain experiences are going to require that. Some experiences will fall flat in that context, but others will be powerful.”

For the developers creating VR experiences, the industry appears to still be in its early stages, according to a recent poll of 500 VR developers by the UBM Game Network.

The survey found that half (50%) of VR developers say they personally fund their projects, while a third (33%) said funding comes from existing budgets within their company. Fewer than a quarter (17%) said the funding comes from clients. This is not specifically on the agency side, but might be an indicator of who is backing VR projects in other areas.

Here is the breakdown of VR platforms that developers are currently working on:

  • 48.6% -- HTC Vive
  • 43.2% -- Oculus Rift
  • 33.8% -- Samsung Gear VR
  • 29.2% -- Google Cardboard
  • 24.1% -- None


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