What if you could see how the walls in your new home were insulated and assembled before you bought it, or experience that first surfing lesson before booking a big trip to Hawaii? These are just a few of the opportunities to use augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in creating immersive content that captures the hearts and minds of consumers.
If you’re questioning when’s the right time to consider using AR/VR in your content marketing mix, you’re not alone. And if you spend too much time questioning it instead of actually developing it, well, you may just find yourself standing alone in a one-dimensional world.
Virtually everyone has a smartphone—pun intended—and when you can deliver a new form of engaging content on pervasive technology it creates exciting opportunities for deeper brand immersion. Look at Pokémon Go; it has opened the door to the potential of AR technology in the hands of the consumer, proving that the right mix of entertainment and value can be achieved with usable technologies.
Industry experts are predicting 2017 to be a breakout year for AR in sectors as diverse as retail, consumer products, packaging, healthcare, architecture and events, alongside media and entertainment. Also dubbed “mixed reality,” AR and VR are driving a new era in creative digital discovery and experimentation for marketers and their agency partners. The technology may also be used more widely in automotive, travel and healthcare sectors. Examples could include job training being swapped from reading long text and watching training videos to more engaging VR and AR experiences.
In 2016, VR headsets moved from concept to consumer reality with Sony’s PlayStation VR, HTC’s Vive, Samsung’s Gear, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift all released in market. These global players wouldn’t be investing and developing consumer-facing technologies if they didn’t believe AR and VR were going to be the next big shift in how we interact with content.
Some may say the format is only effective with gamers or entertainment companies. However, consider one of the earliest pioneers: The New York Times. As noted in an online Forbes article, The New York Times distributed over 1 million Google Cardboard viewers/glasses in November 2015 to Sunday home delivery subscribers, and produced a VR film, The Displaced, to be viewed with them. In May 2016, they distributed another 300,000, this time, to their longest-tenured digital subscribers, and released another VR video, Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart. It provided an exhilarating way for viewers to learn about and explore the distant planet, almost as if they were there, and experience the thrill of zooming to Pluto and soaring over it. On June 5th, The New York Times Magazine had a special New York issue that included the VR piece, Climbing Spire of 1 WTC (World Trade Center). Virtual reality is clearly providing The New York Times with a new way of storytelling that keeps the old genre fresh and exciting, and captures the imagination of younger readers who have so many options for where to get their news and lifestyle information.
When it comes to early adoption, reality isn’t always virtual. A recent Nielson survey shows that 24% of early adopters plan to use or purchase a VR headset in 2017. For publishers, agencies and networks, the potential within this early adopter segment can’t be stressed enough. The Nielson survey found that these consumers watch about five more television networks in a given month than the average consumer, they spend 8% more time watching television and they spend 7% more time online. They also outspend the average consumer in most purchase categories, including nearly twice as much on live event tickets (195%), quick-serve restaurants (179%) and alcoholic beverages (175%). These findings support the strong drive to digital and specifically VR for today’s brand leaders.
Like a surfer looking to ride a new wave, you have to be in the water in order to find the next big one. Sure, it’s always safe to stay on shore and see which way the immersive winds are blowing, but to be the big Kahuna you have to commit to jumping in—virtually, of course.