Brands rely on their marketers to develop creative ways to engage customers. Leading-edge technology—programmatic marketing, IoT, and machine learning, among then—has enabled marketers to modernize their strategies and leverage their creativity in new ways.
Another technology with great potential: virtual reality (VR).
By 2018, it’s projected that 171 million people will be active VR users. Compared with the 3.2 billion global internet users, though, this is not a huge pool. According to the Data & Marketing Association, VR makes up only 7% of leading-edge technology used in marketing efforts. This statistic was surprising considering how much attention VR is receiving. The survey found that VR fell behind wearable technology (8%), machine-learning intelligence (11%), and advanced attribution (13%).
In recent years, it has been widely touted that VR would upend the digital marketing world, so why is it seemingly falling short of expectations?
No doubt about it, VR is perfect for a product that delivers a sensory experience. It’s no wonder resorts like Marriott and high-performance auto manufacturers including Jaguar have embraced the technology. Just see Volvo’s augmented reality driving campaign, as well as the example by Etihad Airways and others in mbryonic’s compilation of the 10 best uses of virtual reality in marketing. They all deliver immersive and inspiring examples of VR content strategies.
But they’re outliers for now. The critical determination for marketing investment in a channel or platform is return on investment. With a high cost for investment and development in the VR platform, there appears to be a significant amount of reluctance to bet big on this growing technology.
Additionally, marketers are concerned about easy integration of advertising into VR. Much of the technology is currently used for video games, with headsets such as the Sony PlayStation VR and HTV Vive designed in partnership with game developers. The last thing a brand wants to do is interrupt a consumer with an ad at the wrong place and time; an ad placement within an immersive game will require more of a product placement approach than a traditional mobile advertisement.
Tipping Point Time?
It’s no secret that VR requires a certain level of budgetary risk. While examples of VR marketing strategy success exist, the adoption numbers seem to make it tricky to justify an investment at the moment. Marketers will continue to delay investing in VR tech and development until forecasts show increased consumer adoption of VR tech, potentially through the release of lower-cost VR products.
CMOs and other digital leaders will also need to see concrete examples of high ROI from a strong pool of brands implementing a VR content strategy. Look at recent app redesigns for lower-cost products, such as cosmetics and Sephora Virtual Artist. Couple that with a possible AR/VR component in the new iPhones, and all of a sudden accessibility and affordability are within reach.
According to a recent report, 30% of marketers were going to start experimenting with VR efforts in 2017. These marketers can set the stage for other digital leaders looking for success cases—and they just might end up paving the way into the aforementioned projected market of 171 million active VR users. Marketers will need to seek out strong training and development resources to expand their expertise and remain relevant alongside the competition.
There is no silver bullet with any new channel. Integrating marketing and advertising into VR will take experimentation and learning from those who have come before you. As a friend and colleague once said: The tools are out there; it is the marketer who holds the key to unlocking their potential—simply by logging on and participating.