With virtual reality bringing new dimensions to users' screens, marketing is no longer about showing your customers a product or idea. It's about immersing them in it.
Virtual reality adoption is rising, with headset shipments increasing 70% year-over-year in Q1 2017, according to research firm IDC. One reason is that headsets have finally become affordable. The Oculus Rift is available for $500 (less than most cell phones) and the new Samsung Gear VR retails around $100. IDC tracked 2.3 million augmented reality and virtual reality headsets in Q1 2017, forecasting triple-digit growth for the full year.
So what’s limiting the adoption of VR? It’s not hardware accessibility. Instead, the ad industry is challenged by a lack of compelling content that will appeal to a wide audience. That's where marketers have an opportunity to reach eager, curious audiences — few of whom have found their VR niche.
When thinking about how your brand can test the waters of VR, consider these use cases:
An automotive brand can send customers on a virtual test drive, allowing them to customize the car's features without ever leaving the experience. It won't truly replace try-before-you-buy for high-cost products, but it will help at the top of the funnel. It will also, in the immediate future, set you apart from your competitors.
In real estate, virtual models and walk-through videos have become the norm. Now imagine being able to immerse your prospects in the property, letting them take a tour in virtual reality. In the long run this will cut down on pricey, time-consuming open houses, saving time for both the buyer and seller.
The most obvious opportunities for VR are with expensive products and luxury industries, but we predict use cases at a lower price point, too:
The travel industry (hotels, airlines, etc.) is challenged with selling expensive experiences to customers who can never sample what they're about to buy. Virtual reality changes that. Soon customers will be able to tour a hotel's rooms and amenities, choose their airline seat by sitting in it, and even select a destination by going on a curated virtual tour.
62% of brick-and-mortar shoppers still shop in stores so that they can see, touch, feel, and try out the items they’re planning to purchase. Virtual reality offers online retailers the opportunity to reach those audiences too, creating a virtual store for shoppers to explore. While this opens up a world of opportunity for online sellers, it also lets brick-and-mortar retailers scale their offerings internationally and to less-populated areas where physical stores don’t yet exist.
CPG brands are unlikely to see early benefits of VR for direct sale, but they will be tempted — and creative executions will follow. Especially for brands that identify with consumer lifestyles, we'll see VR experiences ranging from extreme sports to a relaxing afternoon in the Caribbean.
Soon virtual reality will do to traditional video what video did to photography. Yes, photos are still beautiful, compelling, and all over our social channels. But it's videos that most grab our attention, pull us into their world, and prepare us to invest in a product or experience. In the near future, as VR becomes more commonplace, standard video won't be enough. Customers will crave more immersion and will be drawn to brands that offer it.