The Effect of Virtual Reality on Online Marketing
Virtual reality may seem, to some, like a game-changer in the realm of technology, which is about to radically alter the way we interact with the world. To others, it’s just a fad that will taper off in a few years, making way for something else. Most analysts feel that VR is about to go “mainstream,” thanks to current levels of consumer interest, the level of technological know-how, and the overall timing, but of course, most analysts tend to be optimistic when it comes to the pace of technological adoption.
As a marketer however, the question is whether VR is going to have any palpable effect on the online marketing world, and if it is, when it’s going to happen. This article takes a deeper look at how, if, and when VR will change the online marketing industry.
Visual transmission. There has been a massive boost in visual marketing in the past few years, and VR is going to take that boost even further. Live-streamed video is starting to become more popular, considering how other social apps jump on the bandwagon, such as Facebook’s recent launch of Facebook Live, and users will start expecting visual experiences in all the media they consume.
Immersion. VR’s immersive factor is one of its biggest selling points, so it’s only natural that it would be one of its biggest influences in the marketing world. With entire idea behind VR being 360-degree surroundings, that’s what users will come to expect. Content formats like interviews, tutorials, and demonstrations will need to evolve accordingly; rather than staging an experience like a play or a film, the user will need to be framed “in” the experience.
Social integration. Facebook, who own Oculus Rift, is already taking measures to provide more forms of content for VR users. Soon, more social apps will try to capitalize on the rising VR trend, and eventually, VR will change how we interact online.
Interactivity. VR offers diverse ways for users to interact with their content, and due to this, users will demand higher levels of interactivity in the content they consume. This ranges from simple interactions, like exploring the visual layout of a 3-D environment, to more complex ones like simulated physical/tactile interactions.
Feedback and user data. More sophisticated forms of VR will easily be able to gather more sophisticated forms of user feedback and data; and perhaps, these devices could even monitor neural activity and involuntary facial responses. This could launch a whole new world of user feedback and data.
Naturally, there are a number of obstacles slowing down the rise and influence of these would-be revolutionary shifts:
Sophistication. Despite the fact that we’ve come a long way from the “virtual reality” devices of generations past, VR is still an early-stage technology. For now, there’s relatively little data on how people use it, how they like it, and what makes for the “best” overall experience—not to mention the fact that graphics, physical setup, and immersion factors are still in their infancy and as yet non-standard.
User adoption. Even the most impressive, useful and relevant technologies always tend to have a slow rate of user adoption. Very few people are rushing to get new VR devices as they come out, and the majority won’t even consider buying one for a couple generations of devices. This limits, by a large factor, the potential audience of VR-oriented marketing campaigns, meaning fewer companies are interested in developing material for VR, in turn slowing down the rate of development in VR altogether.
Data management. At this early stage, there isn’t enough data to fully predict how VR users would react best to advertising campaigns. Some of the ideas and angles listed above sound useful in theory, but for all we know, users may react negatively to some of them. A lot more data will be needed before we can start marketing effectively.
Should You Start Preparing?
Considering the many ways VR could change our current marketing dynamics and the relatively small number of obstacles standing in its way, it might appear we’re on a crash-course for a serious transformation in user experience. The reality, however, is that VR is only just starting to enter the scene and will probably take years before most modern consumers catch on, if eventually they do.
If getting ahead of the competition in a big way is important to you, you can start preparing your strategies for the shift now, you however run the risk of coming to the party too early, much like website optimization for mobile devices back in 2007—useful to the cutting-edge technology crowd, but largely irrelevant to your other and perhaps most important (in terms of number) demographics. Keep a close eye on the development of VR over the next few years, and take steps according to how you think your audience would react.