VR Will Transform Marketing Experiences But Not Before 2020

Virtual Reality generates lots of buzz and massive investments. Isn’t it the next computing platform according to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg? Hasn’t Magic Leap - the most secretive start-up- raised up to $1.4 billion to deliver on that promise?

Together with my colleague Samantha Merlivat, we decided to evaluate the opportunities VR will open up for marketers. In the next decade, we believe that unlike any channel to date, VR will offer highly immersive and intimate experiences with a future integrated with social and IoT. This unique combination will create not just new storytelling capabilities, but also opportunities to craft whole new experiences as part of the brand offering. Companies like Facebook are betting on VR to fulfill the dream of what Second Life tried to achieve in 2007: enabling social interactions and gatherings within virtual spaces. Moving forward, VR will be enhanced by sensory devices that increase the immersive and realistic nature of virtual experiences and transition the users from passive participant to live actor. Think of it as “human teleportation”.

We’re not there yet. Let’s look at the facts. Magic Leap has not launched anything yet and TechCrunch is right to question its PR approach. Device penetration is still niche and will remain so for a couple more years. Content costs are high and production is complicated. Forrester estimates that critical-mass consumer adoption of high-end VR headsets is at least five years away. In the meantime, 360 video content will flourish on low-to-mid-end VR devices, but 360 video is not a truly immersive VR experience. Benefits for brands and consumers alike are limited.

So, should marketers wait and see? Not necessarily. Ask yourself two simple questions to determine whether your brand should invest in VR:

  • The first question you should ask yourself is whether or not your targeted consumers are early adopters of technology innovation. Among the 17% of VR enthusiasts in the US, 86% of them are interested or very interested in viewing movies, TV in an immersive environment, while 82% would like to tour virtual homes/apartments and hotels.
  • Second question to ask yourself is whether VR is a natural fit for your brand. The more aspirational your brand, the more complex the path to purchase and the more experiential and digital your offerings, the more you should invest early. That’s why we start seeing amazing demonstrations and pilots from gaming and entertainment companies, from automotive, real-estate or hospitality brands. Their initiatives will start scaling in 2018.

For more information, clients can read the full report here.

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