Virtual reality has taken the tech world by storm over the past few years. Suddenly, the market is flooded with goggles, peripherals, platforms, and experiences that are opening new ways for people to interact with the world.
The newest wave of VR technology has appealed to brands and marketers since its earliest inception. The unique capability of VR to connect a consumer with a product is hard to overstate, particularly when it comes to illustrating product scale.
The forecast of VR consumers is just as exciting as the technology’s potential. Statista reports there will be 171 million active VR users by 2018. The most enthusiastic adopters are the young members of Generation Z. By 2020, these up-and-comers will make up 40 percent of all consumers, and according to research from Sonar, they’re 80 percent more likely to visit stores that offer a VR or AR experience.
Despite the enthusiasm for VR in the popular consciousness, however, it has not yet reached must-have status in the consumer electronics sector. A Parks Associates survey found that, as of May 2016, only 2 percent of U.S. households owned a VR headset. VR won’t realize its marketing potential until the goggles become something that the average person straps on every day.
Obstacles to Adoption
Anyone who has tried VR recently knows that it is an astounding experience. The imaginative applications devised for VR are proving the versatility of the platform. So why aren’t people rushing out to buy a set of goggles for every member of the family?
It would be naïve to deny that price is a significant barrier to entry. The cheapest setups still cost hundreds of dollars, and the best packages can easily cost more than $3,000. Only hardcore enthusiasts are willing to make an investment of that magnitude. The average consumer is priced out.
The VR market is also confusing and, quite frankly, intimidating for many. Consumers are understandably unsure about exactly what kind of equipment and living space they need, not to mention installation.
Finally, VR, in its current iteration, is individualistic and isolating. The whole point is to pull you out of the world and deliver a one-of-a-kind experience. It can be an exciting adventure, but until VR can offer a more social component, it will not connect with a broad base of regular users.
The Way to Use VR Now
The VR market still needs time to evolve, but that doesn’t mean this technology isn’t a viable marketing tool right now. In fact, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie said, “Virtual reality is the greatest technology that could have the biggest impact on our business that I know of.” At the shoemaker’s flagship store, shoppers are invited to sit in a “virtual reality chair” to view a 360-degree video of a giving trip in a Peruvian village. Not only does this immersive video reaffirm the brand’s mission, but it also enhances the retail experience in ways that excite customers.
Marketers don’t have to wait for VR to saturate the market. There are ways to begin incorporating this technology into today’s digital marketing strategy:
- Focus on accessibility. Any VR experience you create should be accessible to the largest number of consumers possible. That means making it exclusive to Oculus Rift headsets, which can cost more than $1,000, is not a smart decision. Instead, focus on low-cost VR technologies like Google Cardboard. Affordable headsets allow you to reach more consumers with a minor investment.
- Integrate the experience. Many consumers still need to be introduced to VR to feel enthusiastic enough about the experience to buy a headset. So why not build a simple cardboard headset into the product itself? Companies like Budweiser and McDonald’s have already tried this with great success. Not only does this strategy extend access, but it also associates your brand with fun, high-tech experiences.
- Invest in a VR app. Focusing only on headsets and not on apps is like building a movie theater without having anything for an audience to watch. If users are going to buy into VR, they must be truly excited about what they can see and do once they own a pair of goggles. Developing a VR app is a way to entertain and engage your consumers while surrounding them with brand messaging that is subtle yet persuasive.
- Produce a 360-degree video. App development is exciting but expensive. However, 360-degree videos are dazzling to users and relatively economical to produce. They are also viewable on other devices, such as smartphones and PCs, making them versatile marketing assets. If you’re eager to jump into VR but not sure what to offer, combine the tactics of video marketing with the capabilities of VR goggles.
Once VR jumps over certain hurdles and floods into homes, it will be a game changer for marketers. Traditional forms of marketing are quickly becoming ineffective, and VR could be the technology that ushers in the next generation of advertising. For that to happen, however, marketers must begin adopting, implementing, and evangelizing the technology right now.
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