How Virtual and Augmented Reality are changing digital marketing

We know that digital marketing is about getting to know your audience’s needs so that you can provide them with a great user experience. But as the digital landscape continues to evolve, so too does the way we interact with our customer base.

The rising trend of Virtual and Augmented Reality

Consumers have seen it all before.

They’re constantly inundated with content through ads, emails, social media – they’re surrounded by so much noise that they become numb to most of it.

In digital marketing, engaging consumers and raising brand awareness are both crucial. Using new technology to achieve this has become the rising trend.

As far as marketing strategies go, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) remain relatively untapped resources in comparison to more traditional platforms. The technology is curious and promising, as well as steadily on the rise.

At the moment, VR is used by 43 million people, with the amount looking to increase in 2018 to 171 million.

If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, by 2020 both VR and AR are expected to draw in $150 billion in revenue.

What is the difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?

For the uninitiated, the line between VR and AR may be blurred.

Virtual Reality is a computer-generated, entirely immersive experience in which an artificial, three-dimensional environment is simulated and can be interacted with as though it were real.

From piloting an aircraft to setting foot on Mars, VR creates the illusion of the impossible from the comfort of your home.

Augmented Reality is a view of our current world with computer-generated graphics superimposed over it, creating an interaction between the real-world and virtual information.

The most popular example of AR so far has been Pokémon Go, a pop culture phenomenon that took advantage of blending nostalgia with new and novel technologies.

VR/AR technology is being snapped up by tech giants

As the shiny new toy in the digital playground, these new technologies have caught the attention of consumers and sparked their interest. While still in the infant stage, the popularity of VR and AR is expected to skyrocket as more and more brands look to them as a new outlet in their marketing plans.

In a survey by Greenlight Insights, 53% of people said that they would lean towards purchasing from brands that use VR over brands that do not. Similarly, 71% believe that brands that use VR are forward-thinking.

Not only is VR technology being embraced by consumers, but they are being snatched up by tech giants.

In 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus Rift – a virtual reality headset created by a then-22-year-old named Palmer Luckey – for a hefty $2 billion. Meanwhile, Jaunt VR has seen millions of dollars come in from heavyweights like Google and Disney.

Similarly, AR technology like Magic Leap has pulled in a huge $592 million from Google, while Metaio was bought by Apple for $32 million.

New technology makes your brand look good

Gone are the days when people would furrow their brow and ask, “What is VR?” Not to mention the relative obscurity of AR, often assumed to be one in the same.

As mentioned earlier, consumers now look for VR and AR presence as a telling sign of a brand’s strength and innovation. With this new enthusiasm, brands and marketers are recognising VR and AR technology as being vital in setting themselves apart from other businesses.

The experience of this new reality also sets it apart from traditional forms of marketing and advertising, as customers are attracted to the excitement of VR and AR and remain open to it, seeking it out rather than blocking it out.

As the technology is still relatively new, digital marketers employing VR and AR currently are at an advantage as competition has yet to skyrocket. By the time the technology becomes ubiquitous, these marketers and their brands will be ahead of most others.

Not only do they make a brand look good, but they can also make consumers feel good. With the two slowly permeating the fabric of giant tech companies, consumers can now get even closer to a brand.

The technology allows for marketers to build their consumers’ trust by showing them the backend of things; showing consumers the journey behind getting their product into their hands.

This move not only allows consumers to experience products closer than ever before, but also provides digital marketers will valuable information about the customer experience. As VR and AR continue to grow in popularity, marketing will become even more consumer-focused.

VR/AR technology meets new consumer needs

The rise of VR and AR has of course responded to the new needs of our digital age. As a mobile-centric society, new technologies must always be accessible from the palm of a hand to ensure their longevity.

With the impressive abilities of smartphones, VR and AR can be experienced by almost everyone – as the monstrous success of Niantic’s Pokémon Go clearly showed. With their portability, GPS, and cameras, smartphones – as UCSB professor Tobias Höllerer says – work as the perfect platform for AR technology as its mobility makes it attractive to the current market.

With companies like Niantic making use of these advancements in mobile technology, both VR and AR (though mostly the latter) edge closer to greater popularity thanks to convenience.

This convenience (or laziness) helps to establish VR and AR technology’s permanent position in our tech world. When experiencing a new brand, consumers want to be fully immersed in the experience, but without having to put in much effort.

With this space in the market, the new technology can settle into a niche – catering to the desire for experience without much action. From online shopping to meetings, the growing popularity of VR and AR removes the need for physical action, favouring time and efficiency other traditional means.

New reality brings a new era of storytelling

As Dominic Collins of Jaunt VR describes it, “VR allows consumers to ‘be there and be them’ – it’s the ultimate storytelling tool.” The same applies even if you swap the ‘VR’ for an ‘AR’ – the immersive experience they both provide leads to great storytelling.

The beauty of these technologies is that they allow for brands to take their consumers on a journey, drawing them into a more personal relationship with the brand.

When using VR and AR in digital marketing to tell a story, brands should remember that they are only the storyteller while the consumer is in control of how they interact with the product.

Marketers should be sure to make the best use of audio and visual cues to get their consumers to interact with the product the way they’re meant to.

These new technologies can turn the simplicity of traditional storytelling into an exciting, multi-dimensional experience. Rather than having your audience lose interest in text, they can experience your brand within an all-encompassing virtual world and actually remember your message later on.

Embracing the future of digital marketing

Digital marketers with their ear to the ground know all too well the benefits of embracing this new technology. Where consumers once asked, “what is this?” the question is now, “where can I buy this?” with the demand for Virtual and Augmented Reality will continuing to grow.

From Oculus Rift to the Samsung Gear VR, the market is being filled up by tech giants. Though smaller businesses shouldn’t be discouraged; VR and AR technology can be powerful for all levels of businesses.

If you have the resources, welcome the change in marketing with open arms before your competitors. In time, you’ll be leaving them in the dust.