Virtual Reality: A Whole New World

Published by | Allyson Boe

  • Consumer Life

Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a complete submersion into a different reality. By using stereoscopic, displaying of two visuals at slightly different angles, users can alter depth perceptions and adjust angles to create a 360-viewing platform of an alternate reality. While virtual reality is not a new concept, the virtual reality market has seen remarkable growth in consumer usage over the past several years. Though there has been positive linear growth, the stability of growth has yet to be tested or exceed its niche market. Below is a deep dive into the world of virtual reality and how to be effective in this space:

The Growing Prediction

In 2014 Deutsche Bank conduced a virtual reality consumer usage poll measuring the number of consumers using virtual reality headsets over two years. The first year of research revealed that only 6.6 million people were using virtual reality daily; by the end of study in 2016, there were over 22.5 million people using virtual reality daily. Through brand awareness alone, the virtual reality platform could increase consumer usage by 30% in just two years, which proves that there is a true consumer market. Deutsche predicts that by 2020, there will be more than 154 million people using mobile virtual reality daily.

Resisting Change

Although change is usually for the best, most consumer markets have been resistant to adopting VR technology. When the virtual reality platform was released, consumers deemed it unnecessary and useless, and many resisted to accept. Lifecycle Marketing Research surveyed a large pool of marketers and developers. Of those surveyed, 35% said “they either have no intentions or have reservations about using the tech,” and 57% admitted, “it does not apply to them.” Samantha Merlivat, an analyst at Forrester Research, was quoted saying “a lot of brands have tried VR in the last year, and in many cases, it left marketers and consumers rather underwhelmed.” 

Beyond (Traditional) Advertising

In 2016, Nielsen Research conducted a study on the usefulness of virtual reality ads compared to traditional digital advertisements. Results showed that respondents were 8 times more likely to recall brands and 2 times more likely to share videos and links on a virtual reality platform than on any other. It was also found that 83% of the respondents felt more interested and more engaged during a virtual reality video than a traditional video. Nielsen Research concluded that advertising on a virtual reality platform can be 15 to 18 times more effective to viewers than traditional advertising.

Case in Point: Häagen-Dazs

Häagen-Dazs revealed a three-minute, virtual-reality-based mini-movie that shrunk the audiences to the size of a bee and took them on a journey that ultimately focused on saving the depleting Honey Bee population. After its lauch at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, the campaign generated 125 million PR impressions and raised brand awareness from 29% to 56% in the first week. The brand spent $250,000 on Honey Bee research alone, over half a million on the digital platforms, and eight years of time creating this campaign. They stepped out of their marketing comfort zone by doing what no other brand had done by using the virtual reality platform to create a narrative that grabbed audience attention. The campaign went on to win the Gold Cannes Lion for Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Issue and the HTC Vive’s VR for Impact Award. Winning the HTC award granted Häagen-Dazs $10 million to fund future virtual reality projects.

Virtual Surgery Is Helping Save Lives

The medical world too has seen the true value of the immersive quality and has used it to save lives. Shafi Ahmed, a neurosurgeon working out of Royal London Hospital, performed open brain surgery with the help of a virtual reality headset. The headset projected the patient’s brain while recording Shafi’s movements in real time. Shafi’s headset allowed for the surgery to be totally immersive where outside distractions were eliminated. The procedure was streamed onto the headsets of other surgeons in the viewing room and allowed them to adopt Shafi’s vantage point. Royal London Hospital believes that the medical field is still in the early stages of incorporating technology into the everyday operating rooms but says the technology will have a large impact.

What to Expect

Despite hesitation to leverage in brand marketing, major companies like Google, Facebook and Samsung are heavily invested in the virtual reality market. Google is launching its new platform Daydream later this year. Daydream will be a mobile, high-quality experience with a headset that’s comfortable and at an accessible price. Facebook also saw the potential initial growth in the market a few years ago when they bought Oculus Rift, a young virtual reality company for $2 billion. Facebook is working toward engineering a new viewing platform that focuses more on the social aspect. Facebook believes the virtual reality market has enormous potential but they still need to solidify their identity. Operators at Facebook say “[that by] 2020, over 20% of commercial media on Facebook will be 360-degree video and photo content.”

The virtual reality market has seen exponential growth in consumer usage over the years. It will be interesting to see its life span and more proven success stories. Though Häagen-Dazs and the Virtual Surgeon have already paved the road for success, it is now up to the marketers to see the value margin for opportunity in this untouched market before it is too late.