Virtual Reality… A New World For Marketers

virtual reality marketing

Read Time: 6 minutes

The 18th-century works of Irish painter Robert Barker, 1999’s sci-fi hit The Matrix and Facebook’s Oculus Rift. What do these three things all have in common? Virtual reality.

The concept of an environment that shuts out the real world arguably derives from artists such as Barker, whose 360-degree panoramics (a term the artist actually coined) boldly attempted to transport viewers to otherwise unattainable events and worlds by filling their field of vision.

225 years after Barker’s cylindrical artwork exhibited in London, we are living in a society that is moving closer and closer to not only Virtual Reality becoming a part of everyday life, but Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality, too.

The difference between VR, AR and MR

Virtual reality, as previously mentioned, completely shuts out the real world, transporting you to completely new experiences. This could be exploring the Taj Mahal, climbing Everest or walking on the moon, all in the comfort of your front room.

Augmented reality, meanwhile, is when a device layers digital content on top of the real world. Pokémon Go, the recent phenomenon that allowed you to hunt for creatures in your local community, for instance.

Mixed Reality, the most advanced and futuristic of this tech, portrays digital content that actually interacts with the real world, recognising and acknowledging objects, environments and distance, enabling you to try on clothes via virtual mirrors or preview what furniture looks like in your kitchen, for instance.

The Stats

Facebook, who purchased Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014, currently has 400 employees dedicated to developing their VR products and services, while companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung all have AR and VR departments.

Why? Not just because of the huge revenue potential from buyers, but because of the seemingly endless capabilities for advertisers and marketers.

There are currently over one million monthly active users of virtual reality headsets, with 10.1 million units shipped in 2016 alone; a figure that is set to grow at an annual rate of 58%.

Why is it so important?

Imagine a future that consists of screen-less televisions; of seeing the world through enhanced eyes, a future in which gaming is no longer manipulating a character on a screen, but adopting the role of the protagonist in an immersive experience.

American scientist John Carmack describes virtual reality as ‘being freed from the limitations of actual reality’. If brands can find a way of leaving a footprint of ‘actual reality’ within this remarkable world, they have hit the goldmine.

You’re battling a dragon while wearing the latest Nike trainers; traversing across a futuristic city, battling aliens to a backdrop of billboards promoting L’Oreal beauty products. Half the time, you may not even know you’re consuming these adverts as it’ll be the same as walking past someone in the street wearing a branded t-shirt or cap.

However, by jumping two feet first into this industry, marketers can enhance the realism and excitement of the virtual world, adding to the user’s experience while increasing brand awareness and generating leads.

The key thing to remember in order to be a key influencer in this field is to never devalue or damage the experience of the user. Don’t affect their game with a pop-up, instead, give users who have shown an interest in your advert a notification on their device once they have finished their virtual experience.

Having a call to action on a pretty banner ad will no longer be enough to entice consumers. In fact, banner adverts, despite the efforts – or lack of in this case – of marketers, don’t even render in the virtual world, as you can see below.

This suddenly dated format of advertising is being replaced by interactive objects, 360-degree interstitials and native 2D posters.

Jargon Buster:

360-degree interstitials – An advert that adopts virtual reality’s 360-degree capabilities and is displayed while the user’s content (game, for example) is loading.

Native 2D posters – A non-interactive visual in the form of a billboard or poster within the virtual reality.

Interactive object – This could be a mirror that shows what your character would look like in the latest Adidas menswear, for example.

Attention, Retention, Focus

Currently, a business will more than likely have adverts running on social media, YouTube, maybe even on mobile phone apps, all of which will provide them with data in terms of click rates and reach, but how accurate is this?

The reach of an advert will tell you how many times it has presented itself to a potential consumer, but not whether or not it’s actually been seen. A promotion could have simply gone unnoticed, given the attention span of the average online user.

Virtual Reality advertising, on the other hand, is opening up a whole universe of data for marketers. This new format is capable of knowing where the user is looking (via eye tracking and heat maps); their head movement; even their feelings when watching the advert in regards to facial recognition, sweat, and heart rate.

How can this affect your marketing and customer journey?

People are beginning to shop in ways that were once only depicted in futuristic sci-fi films.

For instance, you’re looking into purchasing a new car. You go to the showroom to discover that not only do they no longer host the car you seek, but they don’t host any vehicles at all. It’s just a friendly salesperson standing there with a headset.

Whether you have a clear image of the car you need, or are working from a blank canvas, with this device, you are given the means to build your vehicle from scratch, flicking through various customisable options before strapping in for a virtual test spin.

Or maybe you’re going on holiday. As you can only afford one trip every couple of years, you want to ensure you not only book the perfect destination, but the best hotel and flight options.

To help you decide, you can sit in a virtual gondola in Venice, relax and enjoy the view from the balcony of your suite, or experience the slopes of the Andes.

This is happening now. Brands have begun to welcome virtual reality with open arms, further enhancing their marketing and consumer experience.

 The Future

“One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.” These were the words of Mark Zuckerberg, a firm believer and early adopter of Virtual Reality, in 2014.

While we may not be anywhere near this point as of yet, the figures are indeed rising. Below, you’ll be able to watch the Facebook creator’s live virtual reality demo at Oculus Connect in October 2016.

Right now, the focus appears to be on headsets and how they can enhance the world of gaming and its advertising revenue, but it won’t be long before pockets are rendered redundant, with virtual reality glasses – or contact lenses – uniting essentials such as phones, wallets, laptops, and more.

As exemplified by this year’s Champions League final being broadcast in VR, it won’t be long before this technology is affecting additional avenues of entertainment, as well as education, training and everyday life.

The question is, will you be embracing Virtual Reality? Years down the line, you may risk becoming obselete without it.

Oliver Wilkinson
Content Marketing Executive