The disruptive effects of Virtual Reality, or VR, on industries across the board is on its way. Advances in VR technology are rapidly redefining what Virtual Reality can do and whose lives it will impact. No longer is it a novel entertainment platform. VR, you see, is growing up fast with ambitions to change the world. While that vision may not be fully realized for some time, Virtual Reality is poised, for certain, to transform the world of marketing.
The value of Virtual Reality in marketing may not be immediately apparent to the average consumer, but the emergence of VR in marketing is well underway. Here, we will take a look at the technology, the players, and growth potential VR offers the forward-looking marketeer.
Faced with the challenge of providing a high-end experience at a high-end price point, or providing a lesser experience within the budget of an average consumer, the VR industry decided to do both. With high-tech headsets and low-tech smartphone viewers available, the industry clearly intends to leave no one out.
For those who demand the best in interactive, immersive 3D reality, the Oculus Rift and
HTC Vive and meet the challenge. At price points of $599 and $799 respectively, a premium virtual experience is beyond the reach of many consumers.
Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, on the other hand, put virtual reality — albeit at smartphone quality — into the hands of the masses. The Google Cardboard viewer can be purchased for under $20, or homemade from scrap cardboard.
Virtual Reality Marketing Trends 2016
Virtual Reality marketing trends suggest that companies will embrace VR to the fullest. With Goldman Sachs projecting the VR industry to grow to $80 billion USD by 2025 to exceed, smart businesses are looking to VR to engage their customers and prospective customers in ways never-before possible. Far removed from the flat appeal of the print ad, beyond even the power of targeted video advertisements, the virtual marketing experience promises to provide consumers with the next best thing to conventional brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Actually, it's even better.
According to Adrian Slobin, of SapientNitro Global Innovation, VR gear is only going to become more affordable. If that's true, the opportunity to allow nearly every customer to experience products in a 3D environment before making a selection is just over the horizon.
A 2015 survey conducted by Walker Sands indicated that Virtual Reality will entice some people to shop more online. Further, the survey suggested that more than one in five US consumers would be more willing to buy online than from a physical store if VR technology were available to them.
If you think Google Street View is cool, imagine it on steroids and you will begin to see the potential value of VR to the tourist industry. Transforming the mouse-driven 360 degree concept into a 3D immersive experience, VR offers travel-related businesses to put plant their customers' feet at the world's hottest destinations before they even buy the ticket.
Until now, trying to decide which vacation spot would be the most exciting has been left to the traveler's imagination. With little more than colorful travel brochures and short videos with which to help customers decide, travel agencies have struggled to attract business. But those days are over.
Travel agencies have already begun to embrace the power of VR to get their second wind. Through a 'try before you fly' strategy, Thomas Cook, a top European tour provider, breathed new life into its stores. By offering a 360-degree navigable experience to its customers, the company yielded a 40% return on its investment in VR gear and footage. They also enjoyed a 190% increase in New York bookings.
The Marriott Example
Marriott has combined VR technology with brilliant marketing creativity to create "VR Postcards." Marriott has sent 3D videographers to destinations around the world to create the virtual reality travel series. From the mountains of Chile to an ice cream shop in Rwanda to the bustling streets of Beijing, if you want to go somewhere, Marriott will put the wind in your hair and the sand between your toes.
The program is available at select Marriott hotels and is just one of the VR services Marriott offers guests through its VRoom VR platform. Hotel guests are allowed to borrow Samsung Gear VR headsets and accompanying headphones. From the comfort of their hotel room, they have 24 hours to enjoy virtual travel experiences.
VR Postcards will soon be made available at more Marriott hotels and to the general public through the Samsung Milk VR video service, using the Samsung Gear VR headset.
No doubt, other hotels and resorts will follow Marriott's lead in using VR as a powerful and effective marketing tool.
eCommerce or vCommerce?
As with many technologies that redefine their industries, VR marketing is also rewriting it's own catchphrases. To distinguish traditional online shopping from immersive 3D shopping, the term vCommerce has emerged as the latest buzzword.
In 2015, high-end retailer Tommy Hilfiger was among the first major retailer to test the vCommerce waters. By renting Samsung Gear VR to customers visiting its Fifth Avenue store and letting them experience the label's New York fall fashion show without a VIP invitation. Using the headset, customers experienced the show in 3D splendor. A sign of things to come, the Startups, large and small, are stepping up provide retailers with the VR technology solutions they need. In the case of Tommy Hilfiger, Netherlands-based startup WeMakeVR, filmed the show using a 3D camera. The camera was equipped with 14 special lenses that allowed the camera to capture video not only in 360 degrees horizontally, but also 360 degrees vertically. The setup resulted in a fully immersive environment with no blind spots to remind the viewer that they were having a 3D experience.
Chinese eCommerce powerhouse Alibaba is taking an interesting approach to VR commerce. Rather than jumping into the deep water, Alibaba has launched its own VR research lab called GnomeMagic Lab, which is exploring how to best integrate VR with the company's existing online presence.
Meanwhile, Alibaba has already created hundreds of VR product images to help its merchants integrate VR into their sites.
GnomeMagic Lab's Zhao Haiping envisions customers virtually shopping in Fifth Avenue's stores without leaving home. While VR shopping may not make luxury retail items more affordable, it provides the only way most customers could ever even browse the stores.
Another company breaking ground in the VR space is makeup giant L'Oreal. Touted as the "First Ever Virtual Makeup Tester," its VR app, dubbed Makeup Genius, allows users to apply virtual L'Oreal makeup to their reflection in real time. The applied makeup moves with the user's face, just like the real thing. A vast array of L'Oreal products are available within the app, which can be downloaded on iTunes.
While vCommerce allows customers to browse products in 3D and to virtually handle them, VR has something to offer brick-and-mortar stores, too.
The In-store VR experience
Using VR technology, retailers can now carry a virtually unlimited inventory without having to physically stock every item. Unlike in the past, customers are not limited to selecting unstocked items from the store's website. Coined "experiential retail," with VR headsets and viewers, customers can now explore products in more detail, allowing them to make a more-informed purchase.
We can easily imagine that entire virtual malls may eventually come to be, in which hundreds of headset-donning customers shop in an altered state of reality.
Lowe's Home Improvement
Lowes has found a practical and productive use for VR technology. Collaborating with Marxent Labs, Lowe's developed a tablet app which allows customers to build their own dream kitchens and bathrooms using Lowe's products. The customer can then place himself or herself within the newly remodeled room. The company debuted its popular app at the CES 2016 show in Las Vegas.
Although not exactly retail, Audi has brought VR experience to the showroom floor. Audi City, the world's first digital showroom, allows customers to view the full range of models. Did we mention that there are no actual cars on the showroom floor?
A Bright Future
Both eMarketer and Forrester predict that U.S. eCommerce retailers will rack up between $355 and $393 billion in sales in 2016. Regardless of how big a piece of the money pie VR takes this year, we must remember that we are seeing the future of marketing in its infancy.
AppReal: VR Marketing Specialists
Virtual Reality is soon to transform the face of marketing, from eCommerce to local business. Companies that embrace the power of VR in their marketing strategies will reap the benefits. As customers turn increasingly to sellers who can provide a 3D shopping experience, those who can deliver will capture both customers and sales, while those who can't will fall behind.
Scary thing is, as a retailer, what do you know about virtual technology? How can you hope to turn your marketing department into a high-tech VR selling machine when you're still trying to grasp the concepts yourself?
You need a plan.
AppReal specializes in providing leading-edge technology solutions to businesses around the globe. From mobile app and game development to monetization platform solutions, our team of professional developers has the skills and experience to turn technology into solutions.
Together, we can develop a custom marketing strategy that allows your company to meet customers where they will be found — in Virtual Reality.
Please contact us, today, for a free consultation.
The VR marketing revolution is about to begin. Will you be a player or a spectator?