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The Virtual realities of marketing

Written by - Ron Immink

I am moderating a session at the ARVR Conference. The topic is marketing or “Where augmented and virtual reality gets down to business”. Technologies that are going to disrupt a lot of industries, impact on the way we work, live and buy. Which means that marketing professionals, in particular, need to take note.

Cocktail of disruption

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two of the biggest disruptors to ever hit the marketing and advertising industries. Couple that with the integration of Artificial Intelligence, neuroscience and biology and you have a cocktail of immense opportunity.

This is mainstream

Virtual reality was born in 1987. Augmented reality as a term was born in 1992. Now, these terms have become mainstream and that is before we talk about 360-video, holograms, mixed reality and extended reality. Where XR encompasses everything: 360-degree video, augmented, virtual, and mixed realities, and whatever other realities might be created in the future. Watch out for hyper-reality or alternate reality.

The numbers

Fast Company estimates that VR and AR will generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020.

Digi-Capital predicts that mobile augmented reality might become the primary driver of a $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021. Superdata Research predicts the hardware and software market for VR to reach $28.3 billion in 2020.

IDC forecasts that worldwide revenues for Augmented and Virtual Reality will reach $162 billion in 2020.

Goldman Sachs research expects virtual and augmented reality to become an $80 billion market by 2025, roughly the size of the desktop PC market today.

YuMe researched the emotional engagement of 360-video in a headset versus 360-video on a flat screen versus 2D video. In a headset was 27% more emotionally engaging than 2D, and flat 360-video was 17% higher.

Marketers are concerned with the recall of their brands. Nielsen and Airpush conducted a VR ad effectiveness study and found that ads in VR were more effective by 1.5 to 18x, depending on the content and metric, brand recall was 8x more effective, and 2x more likely to share.

In Snapchat, sponsored lenses increased ad awareness by 19.7 points and brand awareness by 6.4 points.

YuMe also found viewers engaged 34% longer in a headset and 16% longer with flat 360-video than the same content in 2D. AR campaigns have an average dwell time of 75 seconds—this is 2.5 times the average of radio or TV ads.

71% of shoppers would shop at a retailer more often if they were offered AR. 40 percent of shoppers would be more willing to pay more for a product if they could experience it through augmented reality. 61% of shoppers prefer to shop at stores that offer AR, over ones that don’t.

Users have downloaded over 300 million apps for VR, which was 56% of all downloads in 2017.


It is not going to go away. It is a hard trend. GAFA is embracing it (and in particular Facebook). So is BATX. Because the advertising revenue potential for VR and AR is huge.


VR will allow for a full picture of consumer behaviour. And AR will show how consumers interact with and use products. The quality of the story-telling will also allow for a much deeper emotional connection.


I am particularly interested in the storytelling aspect. It will become “story-living”. Despite all this innovation over a century and a half, nothing fundamentally changed about storytelling. Now with VR, there is the introduction of “branching narratives” and the agency of the viewer/user to direct the story. This creates a fundamental shift in the entertainment and storytelling universe.

The possibilities for marketing

The possibilities for marketers are endless. Virtual and augmented events, augmented promotions, multiplayer experiences, virtual economy, bitcoin, augmented shopping, virtual instruction guides, augmented pop-ups (including customers leaving real-time reviews and pointers for fellow shoppers), social VR, augmented market research and product development, VR co-creation. Imagine what it will do for location-based applications. How do you manage SEO in XR?

The future is implants

Technology futurists like Vito di Bari believe that eventually there won’t be a smartphone. Users will begin manipulating items with their own two hands at any given interaction point. The device of the future will rest on your face. When headsets are fashionable, relatively inexpensive (under the “magic” $200 threshold), and tied to aspirational brands or celebrities, then public perception will change.Within the next 10 years, the supercomputers that fit in our pockets could be miniaturised to sit comfortably on our faces all day, while retaining and expanding their current capabilities. When we add quantum computing, machine learning, AI, big data, cloud storage, and wireless speeds combined from 5G/6G+ and super-powered WiFi, the world of Hyper-Reality seems a lot less like fiction and more like prophecy. What begins with smartphones gradually disappears and is ultimately replaced with smart-glasses, later with smart contacts, and more likely than not in the farther future, the option for implants.

Start now

Which means that you need to start on your AR SEO strategy right now before the technology becomes mainstream and you fall behind. This is exponential. If you don’t believe me, watch the development of hardware.

Marketing is marketing

All classic marketing questions still apply.

If your brand were a place, what would it be like?

What would you do there? What would you feel like when you are there?

Would there be a lot of logos or not that many?

Is this experience something my target audience would want to do?

What do I want my customer to feel?

How does it make them feel about my brand?

Will this experience change the way they experience my brand?

Will this experience augment brand loyalty or increase engagement?

Is there something they can share with their friends?

What negative outcomes could arise from this experience?

Could the consumers view this as gimmicky, or is it a genuine expression of the brand vision?

Can users share their experiences socially?

What is going to keep users around longer?

What’s going to keep them coming back?

How does VR/AR alter our customer’s journey?

How is that related to the brand and the overall experience? Triggers (AR only):

What specifically will trigger engagement with AR?

What are the KPIs

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