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Virtual And Augmented Reality — Marketing Gold, Or Illusion?

For a while now, we marketers have been hearing a lot of hype about virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and immersive video. Some predict that there will be 171 million active users of virtual reality alone by 2018.

Then again, some predicted these formats would already be ubiquitous by now. So let's take an honest look at the situation.

What's The Hold-Up?

There are a few main reasons these types of content aren't part of our everyday lives — yet.

  1. 1. They're seen as a gamer thing

    Most non-gaming consumers still don't think about how these technologies could apply to them, especially VR. As many as 60% of consumers think VR is just for gamers.

  2. 2. Money, honey

    The hardware for VR is far from cheap, and non-gamers haven't found strong enough reasons to pay that much. Meanwhile, marketers still shy away from the production costs of VR, and even immersive videos and AR experiences.

  3. 3. Geeky, clunky gear

    This issue is specific to VR. Those big ol' headsets aren't exactly flattering, or convenient to use. A sleeker, more compact version might have a broader appeal.

  4. 4. There's still a lot to figure out

    For one thing, the technology is still improving. And with few brands using it so far, there's no clear blueprint yet. We're talking about a whole other level of best practices that are still being developed as user experience meets experience design.

What's The Potential?

VR, AR and immersive video may not be widely adopted so far, and they may never be right for all marketers. But before you write them off, consider what they could do for your brand.

  1. 1. Demonstrate your products

    Large products? Too many to transport or display at once? Virtual, 360-degree demonstrations could not only sell the benefits to consumers but also help train your sales team and channel customers.

  2. 2. Help guide customer decisions

    Think visualizer tools and in-store wayfinding. Use VR or AR to let your customers see how your products will look before they buy. Then use AR to point them to the right shelf.

  3. 3. Make your brand story more powerful

    The added emotional impact and/or entertainment value can help you increase brand engagement.

  4. 4. Actually facilitate sales

    Yep. Your customers could even shop for your product in a 3D, virtual store.

And there are probably plenty more possibilities just waiting for a clever marketer to think of them.

VR, AR and immersive video may not be everywhere yet — but that's what makes them opportunities. Marketers who find relevant, creative ways to use these formats will get instant differentiation, not to mention innovator status; just being among the first can earn you added buzz.

Now is the time to lead the way. Will your brand be bold enough to blaze that trail?