How AR & VR will transform marketing

When to incorporate these technologies into your marketing.

Marketing products with AR and VR

AR and VR have already been used in marketing products. However, most marketing departments are waiting for those technologies to improve and for the advertising cost to decrease, VR especially. This article emphasizes the importance of closely monitoring advancements in these areas to avoid being left at a competitive disadvantage when they become viable options.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR and VR defined

Augmented Reality (AR) doesn’t change the user’s environment but alters it with interactive superimposed images that give the user more information and clearer context–through a transparent visor (e.g., Pokémon Go; the latest iteration of Google glasses). AR 2D and 3D images are only partially immersive.

By comparison, Virtual Reality (VR) is completely immersive. VR allows the user to interact with and explore a simulated 3D environment via a headset. There are a wide range of VR devices, from cardboard 360 viewers to sophisticated, increasingly realistic $600 + products that transport the user to a completely different world.

When should you incorporate AR and VR technologies into your marketing.

It depends on—

  • Your budget—AR and VR are still costly, as stated before, though costs are coming down so that both technologies are slowly becoming more available to creators and users.
  • How important it is for your brand to embrace the latest tech in your marketing mix? If you are a C-level executive for a large company—especially one in the tech industry, for example, you may lose your competitive edge if you fail to be an early adopter. In time, both AR and VR will be integral to our experience of the world.

VR marketing is already being used by travel, tourism, and related industries. It’s especially appealing to Millennials and the up-and-coming Generation Z. If you’re a leading-edge entrepreneurial brand, consumer brand, in real estate, or automobile marketing, current VR/AR technology may be the best way to immerse your audience, especially younger demographic groups in a visceral experience of your product.

While VR and AR may be integral to daily experience in the future, for now, it’s best to take a wait and see strategy. Carefully monitor the latest developments in these technologies and keep a steady eye on your competition to see if they choose to become early adopters and, if so, whether that investment has resulted in higher ROI.

Assess how your audience would likely react to VR-based marketing campaigns. By this, I’m not suggesting you create a formal survey of customers. Keep in mind that most audiences respond favorably to AR/VR marketing enhancements that are engaging and functional. However, there if your audience is comprised of techies, engineers (e.g., the oil extraction industry), and others who appreciate the newest technology, introducing AR and VR marketing techniques for those audiences is best sooner rather than later. If on the other hand, your products are low-tech and don’t lend themselves to customer interactive apps, e.g., the lumber industry, you may never need AR/VR marketing for that customer base.

Why the caution?

According to Forrester Research, 42% of online respondents have never heard about VR headsets. Last year only 10M Oculus Rift, HTC Hive, and other headsets were delivered, but that’s a drop in the bucket considering the 1.5B smartphones already in circulation. Only 8% of us have tried immersive VR. VR and AR technologies are still in their infancy. We don’t yet know how exactly how people will use VR in the future or what the best overall experience will be. The picture is somewhat clearer for AR.

Virtual Reality Marketing



Is VR marketing a good fit for your company now?

Most users, even those with lots of expendable income, are likely to wait through several more product iterations before purchasing a VR headset. This translates into significantly lower motivation for marketers to use VR tech in their marketing campaigns. So, for most companies, ‘wait and see’ is the best approach. The opposite is true of low-end cardboard 360-degree VR products. This is a ‘here and now,’ inexpensive option.

Why you can’t afford to ignore VR tech developments

People are intrigued by both VR and AR. In a recent survey, it was found that 71% of consumers commented favorably on brands that create VR experiences. The same survey also showed that over 50% of respondents were more likely to purchase from a brand that utilizes VR in its marketing.

  • Many analysts believe that VR is about to go “mainstream” because of the current levels of consumer interest and other factors. Digi-Capital predicts that VR will be a $30 billion market by 2020. On the other hand, analysts have a long history of being overly optimistic about the pace of tech development.

There’s a world of difference between high and low-tech VR

  • Headset VR. This experience typically involves a headset, sensors, and a VR-enabled PC. Though it is the most immersive, it is also the most expensive, making widespread adoption challenging. Some examples are the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
  • Lo-fi VR. An example of this rudimentary form of VR is Google Cardboard and similar headsets that use a smartphone as part of the system. This usually includes 360-degree video, which allows users to see things from different perspectives within a video. Some don’t think that 360 videos should be considered VR at all, but for most, it is their first VR-like experience.

VR’s marketing potential
VR (and AR) marketing messages are more likely to go viral because they give viewers a compelling experience, a better feel for products, and immerse users in complex, rich environments, e.g., a music festival and, eventually, even being ‘within’ movies. These technologies are already proving effective when they help viewers solve problems and tell stories to create stronger brand affinity.
Some high-end brands are providing VR experiences in-store or at special events through higher quality gear to higher income audiences. Most, however, are choosing to let broader audiences experience VR on their cell phones and computers with Google Cardboard and similar products.

The easiest, least expensive option is Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is the most popular and affordable VR headset. You can buy it online or download free templates and create it yourself. Prices for branded Google Cardboards vary but range anywhere between $1 and $10 per 1,000 pieces. Some companies have produced their own cardboard viewers, incorporating their logo and brand identity logo. To learn more, search for “branded google cardboards” to find manufacturers.

360 Videos

A 360 video is a real-life scene taken with multiple cameras pointed in all directions. So, when the viewer turns in any direction, the action is seen from that perspective. On a smart phone, as you move your device the picture in the video also moves. If using a VR headset, the image moves as you turn your head. Finally, when watching from a laptop or PC, the video moves as you drag it via your touchpad or mouse. –Standard business uses for this technology include branding, test drives, tours and immersive interviews.

You can easily make your own 360-degree video with one of the special 360-degree cameras, available for purchase beginning at $250. If you don’t want to shoot or edit it yourself, you can hire a company to do it for you. These videos, when in synch with the ‘zeitgeist’ can go viral, some getting 15 million + views.

Cardboard VR applications also include turning packaging into VR glasses (e.g., McDonald’s Happy Goggles); VR games (Disney has launched games related to their movies, cartoons, etc.). IKEA VR lets you ‘walk into’ their kitchen where you can walk around and explore, even open doors. VR apps are already being used to promote automobile sales, including the virtual experience of taking a test drive.

Early success stories

  • Tommy Hilfiger’s virtual fashion runway, Marriott Hotel’s VR app that ‘teleports’ guests to different locations, Hugo Boss’s success in drawing people to real-world events in an online environment are among early successes in low-cost VR marketing.
  • VR marketing has also been used successfully to demonstrate product attributes and functionality (e.g., Samsung Gear VR); communicate a brand’s mission while in a store (e.g., Tom’s in Venice, CA); immerse users in a branded entertainment environment (e.g., Game of Thrones); help consumers make better-informed decisions (e.g., Lowe’s); add exciting new dimensions to print (e.g., The New York Times); and target high-end buyers with images of aspirational lifestyles (e.g., Mercedes).

Why FB bought Oculus Rift in 2014

When Mark Zuckerberg spent $3B to buy Oculus Rift, he cited its tremendous potential for enhancing social interactions. Imagine communicating with loved ones in a completely immersive VR environment that would replace FaceTime and Skype.

Unfortunately, this technology is still limited to solitary experiences like watching games and short films. Solitary immersive VR experiences may be entertaining, but we all look forward to a time when it will allow for immersive personal and business communications.

A future of enhanced and enlarged user data will materialize when/if VR devices are ‘trained’ to monitor facial expressions and even neural activity. When that happens, a floodgate of big data information will be generated, allowing marketers to tailor their messages to niche groups more effectively than ever before.

Augmented virtual reality revenue forecast

Augmented reality (AR) marketing

Effective AR software requires not only a sophisticated sense of design but deep insight into the user experience. Exciting AR applications are already in use.

Increased customer engagement and brand recognition

One recently launched AR app reports an amazing average dwell time of 75 highly engaged seconds—as opposed to the 2.5 passive engagement elicited by radio and TV ads. This correlates directly with higher sales/online conversion rates from a more engaged consumer base. Also, related to my last OWDT Insights article on mobile device marketing, AR applications are expected to boost currently low mobile device marketing conversion rates.

Wal-Mart and Target have already introduced AR apps to help customers with in-store navigation. –BTW, Target’s recent upsurge in profits is attributed to their introducing new, better-quality product lines, including, e.g., much touted Casper mattresses.

AR is boosting e-commerce

Augmented reality allows brands and businesses to send information to their customers in real time. New research confirms that AR creates a captivating, immersive experience for customers that improve sales.

Augmented reality has also been used extensively in the furniture industry. IKEA, for example, began experimenting with AR technology as early as 2013. This mega-distributor has created a to-scale app that allows shoppers to see how a furniture item would look in their home.

Converse, Lego, Nike, and IKEA are also using smartphone apps to deliver AR experiences to their customers. Also, social networks like Snapchat are partnering with brands to facilitate shareable experiences between brands and platform users.

AR is a powerful sales tool that can deliver a hands-on experience and trigger engagement for big purchases like cars or furniture. It enables consumers to explore in-depth a comprehensive virtual 3D model to get a realistic though not completely immersive feel of the product.

AR is as effective in promoting smaller purchases like clothing and small-scale items. One of the original augmented reality-based online applications for e-commerce is virtual fitting programs. With the help of a camera, users can see how products look when superimposed over their own bodies. Online opticians provide a good example of how augmented reality can be successfully applied when selecting among glasses frames.

AR apps for retail stores

Research also confirms that consumers are more likely to buy items in brick and mortar establishments when they can use devices like an AR mirror to help them make purchase decisions. More importantly, when AR apps are integrated into a familiar retail setting as part of the shopping experience, consumers respond more positively to products and are more likely to follow through with purchases.

When AR is well integrated into an environment or a process, it can positively impact purchase activities and have a far-reaching influence. One effective strategy for upscale retailers is to offer customers headsets they can wear as they move through the store, with various pop-up animations or even a virtual assistant offering advice. Special deal incentives can be delivered via the headset, further motivating customers to make purchases. Unfortunately, each headset runs as high as $3K. –In time, RayBan and other tech device manufacturers are expected to offer less expensive products to make them more accessible for retailers.

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