Who doesn't love a buzzy trend? Virtual reality, or "VR," is experiencing just such a meteoric rise and has been for the last several years. But every marketer has been burned before (we're not running ads on Friendster in 2018, after all), so how can you tell when it's time to jump on the trend train and when it's a good one to sit out?
Here are a few of the ways you can tell if a VR marketing push is right for your brand.
So where exactly is VR at in terms of true usage and popularity? Did the promise it showed a few years ago actually pan out? Well, it's still a tough to question to answer. While adoption trends continue to grow, there's no guarantee it's a long-term player or that it won't evolve or morph into something new by 2020. What we do know is that, according to Statista, though a mere 33 percent of U.S. consumers have even tried a VR headset, a majority of Americans own or plan to own a VR headset at some point in the next few years. While this doesn't penetrate the market as widely as you might hope for your own brand, it may be enough for you to consider investing in the technology in your marketing efforts.
A prospective 50 percent usage statistic is all well and good, but what are the demographics of people who use this technology—and does it jive with a given brand enough to make a probably sizable investment in a high-quality, branded VR experience? A vast majority of users are currently casual and gung-ho gamers. Adoption in other sectors hasn't reached peak capacity just yet. So if your brand appeals to tech-savvy, younger audiences, VR might be an option to consider—if not, you maybe be more apt to invest in VR that is experiential in a specific space, versus delivered to those with the technology to enjoy it in their respective possessions.
This brings us to a major stumbling block for most brands looking into the possible of a VR (or Augmented Reality—"AR"—push, for that matter)—do enough people even own the right equipment to experience your painstaking efforts? This is when bringing the VR to the people might be your only realistic option. Whether at tradeshows, college fairs, bank branches or retail shopping locations, you may need to supply the equipment in addition to the content. (Oddly, in this case, brick-and-mortar and face-to-face can become critical to success in this completely virtual world.)
While that usage statistic about gamers ring true, the sentiment around VR experiences expands beyond simply gameplay. That same Statista survey found that nearly half of U.S. consumers are intrigued by VR to "enter another world." It's why tourism campaigns, design-centric retailers and the like are starting to see the value in investing in virtual reality. Another 31 percent of those surveyed cited "trying something new" as of interest—which presents another opportunity for product rollouts, travel-based organizations or other innovators in the marketplace to offer a "hands-on" experience to an end user.
The bottom line is this—while consumers have growing interest in the concept of VR, the technology has not reached peak adoption, presumably. If you appeal to the right audiences and understand that an investment in this channel is likely a long-term play versus one with immediate, measurable results, then it might be an avenue to explore. If your brand is visually inclined, has methods by which to bring VR to people through networks of physical locations or if you benefit from wowing younger audiences, again, it might be up your alley.
But the investment in cost may mean more than simply creating content—it entails adopting the right sets of equipment and building out a strategy to drive consumers to your experiences through media investments and PR. So while VR is currently a game that bigger consumer brands and tech-focused organizations are getting to play by themselves, look for more and more methods of achieving success with the platform to reveal themselves as market penetration increases—it may not be budgetarily sensible at the moment, but your consumer brand might soon be donning those space-age goggles once the price is right.