Virtual reality is finally catching on, and it’s transforming the nature of marketing. The virtual reality market will grow from a compound annual growth rate of 57.8 percent between 2016 and 2022 from $1.37 billion in 2015 to $33.90 billion in 2022, projects Markets and Markets. The growing availability of VR accessories for popular mobile devices is feeding the consumer market, satisfying demand for head-mounted displays (HMDs) by entertainment and gaming enthusiasts. Use of VR for military training and simulations in addition to declining prices for displays and hardware components are other factors spurring market growth. As VR devices become more widely-used by consumers, marketers are taking advantage of the opportunities opened up by this emerging technology. Here’s a look at three ways virtual reality is reshaping marketing.
360-degree Video Marketing
Virtual reality went mainstream during the 2016 Oscars when Los Angeles ABC affiliate ABC7 broadcast a 360-degree behind-the-scenes look at the Governors Ball red carpet and an aerial view of the event venue. Samsung, the Academy Awards’ main sponsor, took the opportunity to run an ad featuring William H. Macy in Gear VR paired with a Samsung Galaxy S7 edge as he steps in and out of virtual reality.
Samsung’s promotion foreshadowed the future of VR marketing, marking a mainstream breakthrough for marketing methods that had been pioneered in the early stages of VR development. For instance, in 2014 Topshot had offered a virtual reality view of the London Fashion week catwalk, providing a first-row vantage point for viewers who could not be physically present. 360-degree cameras, combined with the growing availability of HMDs, provide marketers with an opportunity to immerse target audiences in enhanced sensory experiences.
Virtual Reality and Webrooming
Over the last few years, e-commerce businesses have increasingly lost revenue to webrooming — the practice of consumers researching products online only to buy them at a local store. Brick-and-mortar stores have an advantage over online retailers to the extent that physical products are more tangible to shoppers and more compelling to buyers seeking instant gratification. Virtual reality is helping leverage this advantage by providing online retailers with a way to lure internet shoppers into the store for a more compelling experience of their product.
For example, outdoor apparel company The North Face has partnered with cinematic virtual reality company Jaunt to give customers a realistic preview of the experience they would have wearing and using the company’s products. Shoppers can take an immersive tour of outdoor attractions such as Yosemite National Park and virtually experience hiking over landscapes or scaling rocks in company apparel. Car dealers are applying this type of technology to give shoppers virtual test drives of vehicles not physically on the lot, cutting inventory costs in the process.
VR Test Drives
But brick-and-mortar vendors aren’t the only ones benefiting from VR’s ability to give customers virtual test drives. Online marketers are also finding ways to use the technology to enhance sales. For instance, cosmetic supplier Sephora has created an app that lets online shoppers become virtual artists. Online customers can upload a digital picture to see how they’d look wearing different shades of eye shadow and eye liner.
You don’t necessarily need a physical product to use this marketing tactic. E-commerce sites that offer services, and even nonprofit sites, are finding virtual drives an effective marketing tactic. TOMS Shoes, a nonprofit that donates its shoes to children in need, uses VR so prospective donors can experience virtual giving trips. By providing a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to give shoes to needy children, TOMS enhances the emotional impact of its appeal. This powerful marketing tactic can be adapted to virtually any product or service, making VR a versatile and efficient promotional tool.