How will virtual reality affect digital marketing in 2017?

To some, virtual reality may seem like a fad, or perhaps a technology limited to the gaming world only. However, some analysts are predicting that VR is on the verge of becoming mainstream, thanks to the popularity of the concept and the current advanced state of the technology.

As marketers will realise, any new mainstream device means a change to digital marketing. They had to adapt when smartphones became ubiquitous, followed by tablets and then smartwatches. How will the rise of virtual reality affect online marketing?

Total immersion and interactivity

This is the key selling point of VR – that it immerses the user into a new world. If the technology becomes widely used, users will come to expect a 360 degree, fully realised world. What will this mean for marketers? Some of their most popular tools, from webinars and tutorials to interviews and demonstrations, will need to change drastically. They will not only need to evolve in line with the technology, but will also need to involve a participatory, immersive element. For example, a demo video will need to incorporate a user within the experience. This is a totally new kind of consumer engagement, and it may take brands some time to adjust.

Experience sells products

The most successful adopters of VR so far in the marketing world have been brands for whom experience, or the promotion of an aspirational lifestyle, sells their products. These include car brands such as Jaguar, which created a VR experience to enable tennis fans to ‘feel’ like British champion Andy Murray as he wins Wimbledon. Volvo created a VR driving experience to launch its CX-90, where users could test drive the new model. Marriott Hotel Group created a ‘teleporter machine’ to virtually transport travel fans to far-flung destinations, where their hotels happened to be based. The smartest online marketers will sell their campaigns as entertainment, when in fact they push a very strong marketing message.

Let’s not forget about augmented reality…

The enormous, unprecedented success of Pokemon Go, a real-world, augmented reality gaming platform, has been a real wake-up call for marketers. There is clearly huge demand for AR and VR, and now that Nintendo has shown how easily and impressively the technology can be utilised, users will be hungry for more. They will expect everything from games to ad campaigns to incorporate this technology. For example, a seasonal competition from a retail brand where users ‘find’ their products in the real world using an AR app. If your competitors are and you delay waiting for the ‘fad’ to blow over, you risk looking behind the times – if your target market are avid technology users, this could be catastrophic.

Have you been looking into virtual reality for your online marketing campaigns, or is it far too soon to tell whether VR is a fad or a permanent fixture? Please feel free to share your thoughts.

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