What’s The Impact Of Virtual Reality On Marketing?

The Impact Of Virtual Reality On Marketing

Virtual reality, it’s finally happening.

People have been talking about it for years, and the time has come. The Oculus Rift is set to hit shelves on March 28th, and many other forms of VR technology are following suit. The VR race will heat up with companies like HTC, Samsung, Steam, and PlayStation. Rest assured that Google is not far behind.

Interestingly, Samsung is one of the first companies to push their VR offering by leveraging celebrity influencers. They’ve released a new series of commercials for the “Virtual Reality powered Galaxy S7 Edge,” featuring Lil’ Wayne and Wesley Snipes:

So what’s the economic impact of VR? Tech Digi-Capital predicts that VR will generate upwards of $30 billion in spending by 2020. If you work in marketing, that just has to pique your interest. After all, marketing leads to sales - and that’s one thing that isn’t about to change.

So, have you thought about the impact of virtual reality on marketing? Here are a few ideas worth considering:

Unlimited Ticket Sales

Virtual reality will create a world where events cannot be sold out. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be a physical limitation on the capacity of each event. But you will be able to attend any event in the world.

Want to sit next to Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars? It will be possible.

Want to sit front row at a UFC event? That will be possible too.

Want to travel with NASA astronauts to space? That is very do-able.

African safari?! Why not.

For event marketers, virtual reality will create a world where you can sell an unlimited amount of tickets. There will be zero logistical boundaries.

Every sport entity will sell “virtual season’s tickets” to fans. You will be able to choose between different packages, and the cost will be dependent upon the experiential level you select. Do you wanna sit in the nose bleeds? Or do you want to sit next to Connor McDavid on the Edmonton Oilers bench? Either way, there will be an option to fit your price point.

Virtual Shopping will be huge:

Here’s a novel idea… Virtual reality will be coupled with drone delivery to bring maximum efficiency to the buying experience. This will happen.

Sure, some of us “traditionalists” will still prefer to walk or drive to the mall and shop in the “real” world. After all, the idea of ordering products through a headset is difficult to comprehend - but it’s going to happen. Why? Because modern humans crave convenience. In fact, we crave convenience at every turn.

We choose convenience because we’re an impatient species. We are looking for the fastest route towards satisfaction. So why go to the grocery store when you can just put on your headset, select your products, and receive a drone delivery within the hour. It’s just so convenient.

For the more romantic types, there’s another consideration. Wouldn’t it be cool to walk the streets of Venice and go shopping? Of course it would. Once the VR technology is in full swing, people will be shopping the streets of Tokyo and Manhattan within the hour. If you wanna stick around at night, you can attend any event in the city because tickets are unlimited with VR.

Quick side note, the VR business is going to create a lot of couch potatoes.

With the advancement in virtual reality software development, the immersive shopping experience will become even more realistic and engaging, revolutionizing the way consumers interact with products and making the virtual shopping experience truly extraordinary.

Accountability will be paramount for service based business:

Let’s just put this out there… It has never been more important to be a good person - or to do business with care and diligence.

If you treated a customer poorly 30 years ago, you might not feel the impact of that behavior on your business. It was harder for word of mouth to catch on because there was no societal mechanism to compound that sentiment. But then social media changed the game...

Social media has proven to be the modern form of PR where companies are expected to respond to consumer complaints 24/7. The onus has been put on the business to defend itself in the public eye. It’s a form of assumed guilt until the issue is addressed and rectified by the business itself. This is what happens when consumers have a platform to deploy complaints across the globe in real time.

So what happens when VR comes into the mix? Everything will be amplified.

As it stands, reviews are extremely important for all service based companies. Contractors rely on Homestar reviews. Tourist destinations rely on third party review websites. Local businesses rely on Google and Yelp reviews. Can you imagine virtual reviews? This would add a new twist to the review process.

Rather than words on a website, you’d be able to see and hear the angst and/or frustration of any customer - and you could see how the business reacts. This would provide a lot more context for consumer decisions.

How soon will VR change the world?

Let’s be honest, I’m sitting here gabbing away about the monumental impact of virtual reality on marketing.

But can you keep a secret? Good.

It’s going to take a long time for virtual reality to hit a cultural tipping point.

In the world of business and marketing, many technology pundits claim that the world is evolving at a breakneck pace. Given the impact of digital in our everyday lives, it’s a narrative that’s easily believed and accepted. But I’m telling you it’s false. The technology evolves at a breakneck pace, but its adoption takes time.

Cell phones have been around since “Saved By The Bell” was a popular show in the early 90s. Yet as of October 2015, only two thirds of Canadians own a smartphone. It’s hard to imagine, but 33% of Canadians haven’t joined the dance.

So, is it a worthwhile endeavor to forget about SEO, PPC, and social media now that virtual reality is on the scene? No, definitely not.

I’ll let best-selling author and marketing genius Seth Goden explain why...

“If you are waiting for something beyond a billion people being connected online, with mobile being the driving force, with the fight for our attention - if you’re waiting for something else you’re going to miss out on a big opportunity. This is our revolution. There was the industrial revolution, the mass media revolution, and there’s this. And it will keep changing it’s flavour, but please don’t wait for the next big thing. This has been the next big thing since 1991.”

Seth Godin delivered that quote while participating in the “Ask Gary Vee Show” with another marketing genius, Gary Vaynerchuk. Here’s Gary’s take on VR...

“In 1998, I thought by the year 2000 everyone would come into my wine shop and know the price of everything. And so what I’ve learned is there’s a long way away before VR is truly (the application of) contact lenses, sitting in our homes, being in places - we’re talking about 15-25 years away from being at scale.

Let’s not forget, 15-17% of all commerce is done online - that’s nothing!! If you told me in 1998 that only 15% of all things bought would be online by the year 2016 I would’ve thought…”Shit, do I even want to do this? That’s forever from now. This stuff doesn’t go as fast as we think it’s going to.”

From a historical perspective, Seth and Gary are absolutely right - and the past is the best predictor of the future.

It took 15-20 years for most homes to have internet.

It’s currently taking 10-15 years for smartphone technology to permeate throughout the world.

Virtual reality is going to take time. Here’s a rough timeline of my personal projections:

In the first 2-3 years virtual reality headsets will be purchased by gamers and technology lovers. This will only reinforce the widely held notion that gamers and techies are “not social” and “awkward.”

Your mom will complain that, “technology is going too far. Staring at your phone is bad enough - we don’t need headsets.”

It’s like cultural clockwork! It’s akin to your great grandparents complaining about television, or your grandparents complaining about video games and the internet. Virtual reality will be the natural evolution of this narrative. After all, people are scared of what they don’t understand.

  • In 2-5 years, big brands will see VR as a new opportunity and they will work through influencer marketing, and they will create custom VR experiences to get involved.
  • In 7 - 10 years, virtual reality will be a tool used by most businesses in their marketing mix. However, it will only be impactful to people living in major urban centres.
  • In 10-15 years, virtual reality will start to trickle outside major urban centres to become a tool that reaches a relatively large scale.

So what do you think, am I overestimating the impact of virtual reality on our culture? Or am I grossly underestimating this new emerging technology?

Leave your comments below!


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1 Comment

  • avatar

    Virtual Reality is the next big thing and in the future everyone will have an Oculus Rift or something along those lines, it’s going to be amazing to play video games in VR.
    I wish VR headsets were more popular now, I would love to buy a pair to go with the Oculus Rift I just bought.

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