The idea of using a phone to see virtual reality products and images in front of the consumer’s eyes seems fantastical, and years ago this was something that was virtually inconceivable. Tech evolves fast, though. Back in the 90s, virtual reality games were just hitting the arcade, and teens found them to be the coolest.
Virtual reality gaming is now an at-home reality, and the headsets are now….affordable! There are augmented reality apps for phones, and companies are using this tech to their advantage, too. VR marketing lets consumers experience products in a virtual or augmented realm. This tech-savvy marketing creates an immersive and interactive experience, keeping the consumer intrigued and engaged.
During the pandemic, however, augmented and virtual reality gave companies the best tools to reach consumers when they couldn’t visit stores. Augmented and virtual reality experiences helped recreate the in-person experiences like trying on products or even previewing them in the home. Other VR marketing experiences enabled customers to even check out new car models…from home!
The Rise of VR Marketing and AR Marketing Experiences
In January 2021, ReseasrchandMarkets.com released a Covid-19 Impact Analysis for the augmented reality and virtual reality markets. The analysis estimates that the virtual reality market will more than triple by 2025—from $6.1 billion in 2020 to $20.9 billion in 2025. In addition, the augmented reality market will see overwhelming growth over five years, soaring from $15.3 billion in 2020 to more than $70 billion by 2025. While these are projections, the figures represent the changing patterns that reverberated when Covid hit the globe.
While Covid might have accelerated the rise of virtual reality and augmented reality experiences offered by companies, these offerings were becoming more widespread even before a pandemic threatened to shut down the globe. Businesses in different sectors have been experimenting with augmented reality experiences via online platforms; cosmetics brands and stores have introduced virtual try on augmented reality apps or experiences.
Using a phone or tablet camera, the device can be transformed into both a virtual mirror and a virtual makeover studio. For example, Ulta’s GLAMlab lets shoppers click on different hues of eyeshadow, eyeliner and lipstick to try them on. With just a tap of a finger, the makeup magically appears on the user’s lips and eyes.
Looking for a new hair hue? There are augmented reality apps and experiences for that, too! Consumers can even preview different haircuts using augmented reality before they hit the salon! For consumers, these experiences are both fun and a convenience that allows them to see a product before they commit. For businesses, augmented reality marketing experiences like the try-on offerings could help decrease customer returns and increase customer satisfaction. Customers might even make additional purchases if they find a new color or product that they simply can’t resist!
VR Marketing in Tourism
Virtual reality and augmented reality marketing also swept into the tourism industry during Covid. Museums across the globe shutdown, and while some already offered some virtual experiences, others might not have been so prepared. Survival could have required online adjustment and creating experiences that homebound tourists could enjoy via their devices.
Museums provided virtual tours. Sitting at home, anyone could take a peek at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They also could view different exhibits at the Louvre. Some museums even offered more one-on-one experiences. Private virtual tours could have been arranged. Online classes also were offered; kids and adults might have been able to participate in a variety of cultural experiences.
Outdoor exhibits or cultural sites might have been open, but areas that normally experienced heavy crowds might have closed. During Covid—and even still today—UNESCO offers virtual tours of World Heritage Sites. Experience distant lands and cultural sites from the comfort of home that can be accessed through Google Arts & Culture and/or YouTube. Virtual tours include Mudejar Architecture of Aragon, Spain; Pampulha Modern Ensemble in Brazil; Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape in Spain; Kilimanjaro National Park in the United Republic of Tanzania; Le Canal du Midi in France and several more!
The Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History even offers its own augmented reality experience for guests. Download the app Skin and Bones to use within the museum’s “Bone Hall.” The app projects details about the skeletons found within the exhibit. The app also can be used remotely for guests who can’t visit the museum; just print out pictures of the exhibits and the app will do the rest!
Augmented and Virtual Reality to…Relax
After a year and several months of craziness, most Americans are zapped, stressed out and ready for life to go back to normal. Unfortunately, those day spas weren’t always open for business. Or perhaps some consumers just don’t feel comfortable venturing beyond essential errands.
Some tech companies have even offered relaxing augmented reality experiences via apps. Need to chill out from home? Gardzen-AR Meditation is augmented reality meditation. The app projects calming images into the room and gives users wonderful relaxing sounds for calming meditation.
FishingGO AR turns an area into an aquarium. Users can even get info about the fish. But sitting in a virtual aquarium might be soothing for those who need a mini tropical vacation…at home.
Some spas, though, are offering their own augmented or virtual reality experiences to enable guests to immerse into a relaxed state. American Spa reports that several spas use Guided Meditation VR. Guests sit in a massage chair and can escape virtually to the environment of their choice. The spa also includes sensory features to add to the ambiance and experience.
For guests in areas that are far removed from tropical paradise, this virtual escape may be a much needed getaway. For half an hour, guests are transported and soothed by the experience. Now, not only can guests just go to the spa for a massage, facial and mani/pedi, but they also can take a break from their daily reality in the tropics. No need for a plane ticket…just wear goggles!
VR Marketing and Augmented Reality in Car Shopping
The automobile industry probably wasn’t as prepared to pivot to online as the other industries during Covid. However, the industry was forced to spring into the web to offer online buying (in some areas) and other virtual experiences. But even before the pandemic, some companies were already jumping into augmented and virtual reality to heighten the user experience.
Augmented reality has been used to allow customers to virtually interact with cars from their home…or anywhere. While the industry might have offered some virtual reality experiences, too, augmented reality has really been the standout technology because it’s so widely available via phones and other devices.
For marketing purposes, augmented reality is used to allow customers to see vehicles up close…and even virtually interact with the models. This technology also has allowed consumers to gain additional information during the research phase of their buying journey. For example, sites like RelayCars allow customers to drop the vehicle into their environment. Customers can walk around the car, look inside at the interior and even swap out the paint hue.
While pictures can help customers gain some perspective about the design of the car, photos don’t provide context in other ways. However, augmented reality showcases a model of the vehicle that can even be life-sized. The consumer can choose to drop their dream car anywhere; they can even preview the vehicle in the driveway or see it parked in the garage.
VR marketing and augmented reality marketing is a benefit for both consumers and businesses. There isn’t a forced commitment expected from the consumer; swiping on a virtual blush could lead a consumer to a new favorite product. Or they could discover that the hue looks awful. For businesses, technology might help lower returns and dissatisfaction from customers. If they can see a product before they buy it, there is no surprise. They might even stay within the app or experience trying out other products.
Augmented and virtual reality also lets individuals experience the unexpected…and perhaps even the once unattainable. The consumer also could visit faraway lands that introduce them to other sites and culture. Augmented and virtual reality opens doors and possibilities. That virtual tour could lead to a real-life tour years later.
Even car shopping can be simplified thanks to augmented and virtual reality. The old cliché is that a picture is worth 1,000 words. But for cars, how much information can be gathered from a two-dimensional image? Buyers want to interact; they want to see that vehicle. During Covid, virtual or augmented reality experiences might have been a great resource in previewing and researching different cars. With augmented reality, the vehicle appears in the real environment. Users can change the paint color. They can walk around the car…and look inside. The car comes to life; the user is in control.
The augmented reality and virtual reality market is expected to grow dramatically over the next five years. By 2025, the augmented reality experiences that consumers know today might have evolved into something beyond today’s imagination. Will sensory experiences be integrated into augmented reality? Will shopping become a virtual reality experience? Maybe those much anticipated augmented reality glasses will be the norm…and AR will appear before our eyes without an app. The virtual road might be augmented with all types of possibilities for the future!