Women using VR headset

Virtual and Augmented Reality Uses in Marketing

The ever-changing digital landscape can make it both incredibly exciting and a little challenging to keep your marketing strategy ahead of the ecommerce trends. One of the newer contenders on the block is virtual and augmented reality. While the technology has been on the rise for quite a while, only in the last few years has it become viable for applications other than gaming. From the supremely affordable Google Cardboard, to the moderately expensive HTC Vive, VR headsets have become available across all economic backgrounds. In 2014 there were less than one million users, but by now in 2018 that number has grown to 150 million. AR has also gained traction through smartphone apps, such as Snapchat with its camera filters and Ikea with Ikea Place. AR trends predict that it will be one of the main uses in marketing campaigns over the next few years and is no longer considered a gimmick. Big companies have invested in this technology and the results are astounding. So, what is VR and AR and how can you use these technologies in your marketing strategy?

What is Augmented Reality?

On the less immersive end of the spectrum there is augmented reality. AR adds digital elements to live view, often by using the camera on a smartphone. It gained mainstream attention due to the mobile phone game, Pokémon Go. When it was launched in 2016, it was such a massive hit that businesses bought ads integrated into the gameplay that drew players to their stores. AR offers an advantage over VR due to the lack of expensive equipment. Almost everyone has a smartphone these days and that’s all anyone needed to play Pokemon Go. Ikea did something similar with the technology through the Ikea Place app. While not nearly as exciting as catching cartoon monsters, the Ikea Place app allows users to see how chosen furniture would look in their home by 3-D mapping the physical room. Wayfair also has a similar feature through their app, though not nearly as advanced.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality is the complete immersion into a virtual environment. It shuts out the outside world entirely and transports users to any place, whether real or imagined. Headsets use high-end graphics, as well as audio and aural sensations to create an atmosphere that feels real. So far, virtual reality uses have been mostly to demo headsets as a gimmick. In 2016, McDonald’s gave away free VR headsets to try out the HTC Vive. In the demo, users interacted with a floating Happy Meal box that transported them to a white canvas. They were encouraged to paint a mess, while the golden arches logo made up their surroundings. That’s simply one example of what the headsets have been used for. YouTube and Facebook optimized 360-degree video for use with VR, The New York Times created a virtual story telling campaign to immerse users in a different style of journalism, and Lowe’s introduced the Holoroom which is a home improvement design and visualization tool. All these uses created new experiences for their consumers which increased engagement and sales.

Uses for Marketing

According to statista, VR and AR will have a projected economic impact of $29.5 billion by 2020. Though it might be costly to implement, there is no doubt that it can be a boost for your brand. Currently, digital advertising has seen a decline in reach due to adblockers and increased intolerance from users. These technologies offer a new alternative. When it comes VR vs AR in the marketing world, AR seems to be the more obvious choice. It has more accessibility due to widespread use of smartphones, as well as, the introduction of more wearable technology in the near future.

One of the drawbacks of selling online tends to be that consumers want to try their products before they buy them. AR and VR can help bridge that gap by allowing users to see the product in their homes and interact with it. AR marketing examples include Lacoste’s app that allows users to try on shoes. L’Oréal recently acquired AR beauty app ModiFace which will be used to help customers virtually try on makeup. VR was used by travel company CarnivalCruise. They transported users on an instant vacation through a 360-degree video experience. They wanted to ease the uncertainty that prospected customers have before their first cruise. The experience gave them a small taste of what they could have if they booked.

 As with any marketing strategy, your content needs to tell a story so that you can draw an emotional response with your audience.

That’s what HBO did by transporting Game of Thrones fans into the land of their favorite show. Every brand has a message and story. Through VR you can invite your customers to be a part of it through an immersive experience that lets them really get to know the purpose behind your company.

The Future

It’s no doubt that these technologies are only going to advance in the future. As they become more affordable and more mainstream, they are going to revolutionize marketing. The most important thing that businesses need to know and understand is that with AR and VR, consumers don’t simply want advertisements, they are looking for experiences. Advertisements must be more creative and integrated with these technologies. If users are playing a game, the ad will have to fit seamlessly, not interrupt the content. The adoption of AR apps are no longer seen as a novelty or gimmick and are becoming a long-term investment. This is only the beginning of what is possible with AR and VR, and in the near-future things are going to pick up speed. Businesses need to start optimizing their marketing strategies now if they want to be ready or they might fall behind.

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