The Promise of Virtual Reality for Marketers

Like all new technologies, virtual reality and its close relative, augmented reality, have marketers licking their lips. “Think of all the possibilities,” they’re saying to each other, imaging branded experiences, product placement, virtual stores and more.

As is often the case, it is important for marketers not to get too far out ahead of the technology. It remains to be seen what consumer adoption of this new technology will look like.

But if it’s anything like what people in the industry expect, marketers are right to start the planning process now.

So what types of things are marketers talking about when it comes to virtual and augmented reality?

  1. Branded experiences – think content marketing in the virtual world. With branded experiences, brands would foot the bill to create games or world’s that consumers would consume free of charge, exposing them to the brand at the same time. Imagine a Red Bull branded virtual experience where we are placed into the role of a daredevil leaping off the side of a mountain.
     
  2. Product placement – this is not a new concept, simply a natural extension of its practice in this new technology. Where virtual and augmented reality experiences exist, brands might find sponsorship opportunities where in exchange for payment, their products are featured in the virtual world.
     
  3. Virtual rewards – taking product placement one step further, brands may further incentivize virtual reality users with real-life rewards. In a pay to play scenario, Pokemon Go can send users to Starbucks or other real-world retail locations. Gamers might collect coins or points to be used on real-world purchases, etc.
     
  4. Virtual shopping – retailers will be able to bring the “in-store” experience into the virtual world and make it accessible to all. A virtual store would take online shopping a step further by making it more hands-on.
     
  5. Test drives – imagine “experiencing” a hotel before booking, or a new home design before paying for the work. In a virtual reality world, we would be able to try before we buy with a lot more types of products and services than we can today. The concept of a test drive will be a reality across a wide variety of different purchases.

These are just five of the many, many possibilities that will exist for marketers in the new, virtual world. I am sure people far smarter and more forward thinking than me have already planned for much more.