VR in marketing – Could this really be the year?


2017 is predicted to be the year of virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR). What, again?

Our more seasoned readers might have heard this prediction made many times before. Anyone remember Lawnmower Man? Made in 1992 (yes, that’s 25 years ago) this film explored a sinister side of VR technology.

But then again, 2016 saw some high-profile new products like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, bringing virtual reality into early adopters’ homes.

Now that smartphones are powering inexpensive VR headsets, the consumer market could finally be ready for new content-driven experiences.

That’s why market intelligence experts IDC are predicting that total revenue for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will rise from $5.2 billion in 2016 to over $162 billion in 2020.


What’s interesting is that it’s AR technology that’s been gaining financial backing from investors, especially for healthcare and product design.

But what does it mean for brands and marketing? Here are a few examples to get excited about:

1. Skip the changing room

Topshop is offering shoppers a virtual dressing room. Shoppers face a large screen which overlays 3D AR clothes on their virtual bodies – without going into a fitting room.

Topshop virtual changing room

2. Bring the store home

Ikea customers can see how new furniture would fit and look in their own homes. Within an app the customer takes a picture of their room and then places virtual Ikea products in it. Seeing the item in place gets the customer excited about buying – and encourages them to choose Ikea in future.

Ikea app

3. Be there now

VR is also taking off in the travel sector. Thomas Cook’s ‘Try before you fly’ campaign involves a range of immersive 360 VR films, where customers experience their potential holidays in-store. The concept earned Thomas Cook a 190% uplift in their New York excursions and a 40% return on investment.VR holiday

4. Take the weather with you

The Marriott Hotels Group is using VR to promote travel destinations and preview their suites.

Stepping into a booth wearing an Oculus Rift headset, travellers get to see a 360-degree live-action video – and even feel the heat at a beach hotel, the breeze of a mountainside view or even the mist of a Scandinavian fjord, enticing them to book their next trip.

marriott virtual experience

5. Gimmick or valid sales tool?

Many brands are testing the water with AR and VR technology, but it’s not enough just to follow the trend. For every success, there will be many expensive trials that fail to deliver results.

Like any new initiative, brands must tread the line between being left behind by new innovations and over-investing and under-achieving.

The key is to focus on the customer: what problem can the technology solve for them?

Marketers will be the driving force in deciding whether 2017 really will be the year of VR… or another false dawn.

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