Will Virtual Reality Be the Next Battleground For Consumer Marketing?

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One of the biggest shifts in technology this year has come with the release of several major virtual reality platforms. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR are some of the high-end products to recently hit shelves, while lower end rigs like Google’s announced Daydream VR and Samsung Gear VR offer cheap entry points for interested consumers.

With this influx of opportunity, VR has begun to blur the lines between the digital world and the real. Developers aren’t the only ones hard at work discovering the potential of this new technology, so are marketers. Even in its infancy, VR already presents an opportunity that no previous generation in history had the chance to explore; Full immersion.

Think of how consumer products have been marketed to date; Beautiful photography, catchy tag lines and dynamic video all created to draw the attention of the consumer. But what if you could bring the entire experience direct to their own living room?

Virtual reality offers a form of communication and connection that no other medium can express. Imagine a retail brand being able to offer customers to not only shop online but also physically see the way those clothes fit through a virtual reality changing room. Or how about a travel company promoting the newest five-star hotel in Paris with a VR tour of the estate? Consumers could even test drive a new Audi on the famous Monaco circuit all from the comfort of their own couch. The opportunity of VR ushers society to the next generation of brand awareness.

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Creative Ways VR Is Being Implemented

At these early stages, we are only beginning to scratch the surface of possibility for VR experiences. Fortunately, there are some who have taken the risk of early adoption and are trailblazing with new concepts to promote their services. Destination BC became the first destination marketing organization in North America who used VR to launch The Wild Within VR Experience. People from anywhere in the world could experience the beauty of British Columbia in an interactive setting from salmon fishing to viewing the Rocky Mountains in all of their glory. VR continually proves that we can push the boundaries of what we originally thought possible.

An Effective Tool For Discovering Consumer Habits

We’re in the early stages of seeing how consumers react to this new tech. Only time will tell how effective this immersive visual medium will increase conversion rates. Vancouver-based Cognitive VR is a company that understands metrics will be valuable in the coming years in determining effective VR advertising. The company has created software that follows eye movement for capturing interest focal points and A/B testing for virtual ads. This provides significant data into how, if at all, virtual advertisements are being consumed. Knowing what draws people’s attention will help tailor content to increase effectiveness.

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It’s Certainly Not For Everyone, Yet

By now, it may seem like VR is the next wave of consumer engagement but it’s important to understand that with any new technology will come challenges. Like any new platform, VR is relatively untested and a foreign concept not only to consumers but also businesses. It also has yet to reach a market penetration that would be considered substantial, this will surely grow as VR develops but for now, it’s a small audience for an arguably high price tag. App development can be difficult, expensive and hard to implement, and it will take brands with high-risk tolerance or deep pockets to move in  early on. However, there is a prime opportunity right now for brands to establish themselves as innovators and forge into the unknown. These brands will not only benefit from being one of the first to market, but also learn from their own successes and failures, making them far better positioned to engage with a growing audience as VR penetrates households to the extent previous innovations like radio and TV have before.

ryan tessier

Ryan Tessier is the Director of Business Development & PR at Brix Media Co., a Vancouver-based public relations firm with offices in Toronto, Canada. Brix Media Co. specializes in fashion PR and tech PR, online and influencer marketing for startups and socially-innovative companies.