Virtual reality (VR), an immersive computing technology that submerges consumers in a virtual world, is predicted to completely transform the shopping experience. Goldman Sachs estimates that investments in VR, along with augmented reality, will reach a staggering $1.6 billion by 2025.
While brands are clambering to become part of the virtual environment, there is very little known about how to enhance the brand experience for all consumers and where to employ VR technology. Thus, marketers may be asking whether this is the right time to invest in VR.
VR applications include automated virtual environments (AVEs) such as head-mounted displays, such as virtual goggles, or CAVES, games, 360 computer simulations, and virtual worlds such as Second Life. For instance, Swarovski, in collaboration with Mastercard, created a virtual atelier, that anyone can access by downloading the app. In addition to learning about the particular collection pieces, consumers can make virtual purchases.
Recent research suggests that marketers’ approaches to each should differ. For instance, more immersive applications are better suited for teaching consumers new skills, such as Lowe’s DIY Holoroom, or creating a connection with the brand, such as liaising with virtual shop advisors in Second Life. Beyond this, both instances also provide marketers with an opportunity to test new product concepts and even co-create new offerings with consumers.