After years of anticipation, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are finally having their moment. The research firm Gartner picked VR and AR their top strategic digital technology trends of 2017, and they were dubbed by communications giant Edelman as the most important technological breakthroughs of the past year.
Despite all the attention and praise, however, more than half of marketers say they still don’t fully understand how the technologies apply to their business. Why? In large part because many brands are still unsure about what VR and AR are, how they can be used to engage consumers, and what the future size of audiences will be.
To help better understand these technologies and the scale of the opportunity, check out MDG’s new infographic, Virtual and Augmented Reality: What Brands Need to Know.
Here’s a quick primer on the essentials of virtual and augmented reality for brands:
What Are Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality? Are They Different?
Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, virtual reality and augmented reality aren’t the same thing. The two technologies are similar in that they provide highly engaging digital experiences, but they differ in both experience and delivery.
What it is: The goal of virtual reality is to simulate a real-world, or imagined-world, experience in digital form. VR aims to transport the user into another realm.
What it feels like: The virtual reality experience is immersive. It takes over the senses, via 360-degree video, surround sound, etc., and makes the digital feel real.
How it’s delivered: Most VR experiences are via headsets, though not all are. These can range from pricier hardware like the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR to Google’s $15 Cardboard.
What it is: Augmented reality seeks to enhance experiences by using digital methods to overlay information/content over the real world. The goal is to add to, not replace, what’s happening.
What it feels like: The AR experience is reality, but better. The user is not taken away from their world, but rather has their world supplemented with additional text and visuals.
How it’s delivered: AR can be presented in a number of ways, from kiosks to enhanced glasses. A mobile device/app — with its GPS, camera, etc. — is currently the most common method.
How Can Businesses Use Virtual and Augmented Reality?
Virtual and augmented reality sound exciting from the standpoint of technology, but do they have business applications beyond entertainment and gaming? Absolutely.
Here are just a few ways they can help brands of all types deliver better products/services and marketing campaigns.
- Present intangible experiences: Make the unreal real, from tours of planned real estate developments to trade show visualizations of products in development.
- Make the inaccessible accessible: Give consumers a sense of what they can’t get to, whether it’s faraway travel experiences or hard-to-attend in-person events.
- Simulate existing situations: Help both staff and customers understand/master hard-to-replicate experiences, from complex surgeries to flying first class.
- Show how things look in context: Allow consumers to visualize almost any situation, from how a hair color will look on their head to whether a couch will fit in a real room.
- Deliver geographically relevant information: Engage consumers with the right content for their location, from restaurant recommendations to where the nearest dentist is.
- Educate and explain: Demonstrate anything in context, from the best way to assemble products to how your services are delivered in real-world situations.
Examples of How Brands Are Using VR and AR
While both virtual reality and augmented reality are still in their infancies, marketers are already finding creative ways to utilize the technologies.
Here are some recent examples of how brands have been using VR and AR:
- Coca-Cola created an Oculus Rift experience that takes consumers on an immersive sleigh ride with Santa Claus through different towns.
- Marriott presents VR experiences of hotels around the world, which allows potential travelers to experience properties from afar.
- Tom’s, which gives away a free pair shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased, takes people on a VR trip to Peru to see one of the villages that’s helped by its charity.
- Ford delivers a virtual reality gaming experience to showcase the cutting-edge technologies in its Edge vehicle.
- Ray-Ban’s virtual mirror allows a user to see what glasses will look like on their face by using their phone’s camera.
- Walgreens’ Aisle411 app guides customers around a store, helping them find where products are located and presenting promotions.
- Northern Lighting’s app lets consumers see what its lighting products will look like in the context of their own homes.
- Lacoste’s LCST app lets users scan trigger images available in stores to try on products and interact with company content.
Are VR and AR Now Mainstream?
The best way to describe the current state of both virtual and augmented reality is as “emerging,” since marketers and consumers are just starting to embrace them.
- Only 8% of brands are currently using virtual reality
- Only 7% are using augmented reality as part of their marketing efforts
- However, 21% of brands are interested in implementing virtual reality
- And, 25% are interested in implementing augmented reality as part of their marketing efforts in the near future
Why aren’t AR and VR being adopted more widely right now? According to technology executives, the biggest challenges are:
- Inadequate content offerings
- Reluctance about new tech
- Technological limitations
As more content is created, as consumers get comfortable, and as the technologies improve, the VR and AR markets are predicted to jump in size.
VR Headset Users Worldwide
- 2015: 6.5 million
- 2016: 22.5 million
- 2020: 154 million (projected)
By 2020, the combined virtual and augmented reality market will reach $120 billion in revenue, according to Goldman Sachs’s predictions.
Wondering what all that means for marketers? Ultimately, that VR and AR are much more than just fads. While still evolving, the technologies, are set to have a transformational impact on how people experience the world and how brands interact with consumers.
To find out more about VR and AR, check out MDG’s full infographic, Virtual and Augmented Reality: What Brands Need to Know.
MDG Advertising, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, is one of Florida’s top branding firms. MDG’s capabilities include print advertising, direct mail marketing, branding, logo design, creative, media buying and planning, radio and TV advertising, outdoor, newspaper, digital marketing, website design and development, online video advertising, infographic development, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, paid search marketing, and SEO. To learn about the latest trends in advertising and branding, contact MDG Advertising today at 561-338-7797 or visit mdgadvertising.com.
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Written by Michael Del Gigante