Virtually Unstoppable: How VR Can Help Us Better Market to Consumers

For many creatives, there’s a constant search for new ways in which to communicate on a deeper level with consumers. We have watched newer technologies—like Instagram and Snapchat—dramatically change the way we socially connect, shape public opinion and connect with each other on a global level.

Social media has not only changed the advertising landscape over the last decade, we’re also seeing a significant shift from user-generated content to more immersive video content—namely content as it applies to virtual reality.

Here’s how we as creatives, marketers and advertising professionals should use VR to enhance the consumer experience in the coming years.

Quantity vs. Quality

The increasing popularity of native advertising, combined with a growing need for more immersive brand experiences from consumers, means the content is going to have to shine brighter than ever before. A 2016 study showed that nearly 40% of media professionals, including CMOs, feel that “quality of content” is still a major concern, followed by lack of “adequate resources” and “adequate ROI”.

Since high-quality content within the VR space has become such a concern for many publishers, there needs to be efforts put towards the reprioritization of the ways in which brands approach VR content.

This could mean everything from building a dedicated VR development team in-house, or through a trusted vendor/third party, to getting a firmer grasp on how to better convey the efficacy of VR-based advertising via data visualization, for example.

The trick that still remains is being able to bridge the gap between the technical applications of VR, and the evidence needed to prove that VR does, in fact, work when trying to connect with consumers on a real human level.

Consumer Accessibility

With a projected 28 million people slated purchase some sort of VR hardware by 2018, there will be a need for more accessible, easily digestible ways to consume VR-based content. Companies like Snap, Inc. have already seen notable success with their “Spectacles” video sunglasses, so there’s definitely potential for both augmented and virtual reality-based content to reach more eyes as time goes on. So, where’s the current disconnect? There are three important factors to consider when addressing base consumer accessibility and mainstream adoption:

  • Overall cost and practicality of VR hardware – Not every household or lifestyle can accommodate bulky, cumbersome VR hardware. Most still don’t see the value in VR integration.
  • Usefulness beyond the gaming realm – Even the most avid gamers are reticent about upgrading their computing rigs to handle VR. Less than 20% plan to buy a new computer for VR games.
  • Industry sustainability – There are nearly 700 U.S.-based VR startups that have been founded, but investors are not blindly flocking to fund the industry.

These industry concerns not only make it more difficult to gauge VR’s economic shelf life, but also makes it even more challenging to convey its importance within the content production realm.

Future Projections

As content quality, accessibility and applicability continue to grow; we’ll start to see VR and VR-based marketing become something of the “new norm” for consumers beyond those who consider themselves early adopters.

Chris Milk, famed video director and VR enthusiast, said that “Virtual reality is a technology that could actually allow you to connect on a real human level, soul-to-soul, regardless of where you are in the world,” which means now is as good a time as any for publishers, media professionals and advertisers to do what we can to unlock as much of VR’s potential as possible.

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