The Virtual World of Communications is Here
Meta and Apple recently announced the release of their new virtual reality headsets, and they are not here to mess around. The new technology can be used to attend marketing events anytime, anywhere. Developers are targeting the B2B comms sector to find new practical uses for virtual reality with huge potential for capturing the imagination of future campaigns in a whole new way.
While the first ever headset was developed in 1991, the idea of virtual reality in our everyday lives has historically flopped. For the past few years, these headsets were popular with kids and teens for gaming purposes, but they never made a notable impact.
Apple and Meta’s new releases are unlike anything the world has seen before. In fact, VR developers took a whole new marketing approach. When Meta released their first ever VR headset in 2019, they advertised it simply as a gaming device, “the Oculus Guardian system is designed to help you play without tripping over furniture.” Their most recent headset, the Meta Quest Pro, takes on a whole new narrative, advertising things like, “work in the virtual world, stay in the real world,” and “even if you’re across the world, it will feel like you’re across the table.” The word “game” or “play” is not mentioned at all. Developers have made it clear that these devices will undoubtedly change the communications industry.
In the past few years, conferences and in-person events as a vehicle for marketing and PR have been more and more digitized. Webinars continue to become substantially more popular and video conferencing a lower-cost, logistically easier option. The best thing you can do without being at an event in person.
Enter VR. With these new devices, virtual conferencing is more flexible than ever. Rather than sitting in a conference room, event space or lecture hall, VR allows you to have that same experience from anywhere in the world. Meta stated, “you can collaborate in mixed reality together, apart.”
According to a study by PWC, participants who use virtual reality conferencing as opposed to a regular video call, like zoom, are more productive and engaged in the conversation. The Meta Quest Pro and Apple Vision Pro both feature technology that mimics the body movement and facial expression of users on a conference call, enhancing the experience for everyone. Meta stated, “authentic avatar expressions mimic your natural facial expressions, so you can be fully present in meetings and gatherings with friends and bring more of your true personality to life in VR.”
Seminars, Events, and More
Aside from conference calls, this technology will be beneficial in many other ways. The devices allow you to create your own “space” to collaborate with others. This means users can design and attend lectures, seminars, meet and greet, and other virtual events from anywhere in the world. From a marketing standpoint, it will be easier than ever to reach a large audience for these types of events.
For example, a popular PR tactic for experts and influencers is a roundtable discussion. With the introduction of new VR technology, there’s no need to worry about time and place because these events will be accessible to anyone. Meta noted, “a streamlined profile and counterbalanced design combine for more comfort so you can work, create and collaborate longer in VR.”
Although it’s possible to attend panels and webinars on platforms like zoom, virtual reality is more engaging. Users will be able to interact with panelists as if they were in the same room, rather than watching from a small computer screen.
In virtual reality, product advertising is leveling up. Rather than just viewing an advertisement on your phone or computer, you can now interact with products in the virtual world to try them out. This technology is called “virtual try-on.”
According to the National Retail Association, consumers returned $816 billion worth of merchandise that they bought online in 2022. 80% of those returns were due to false impressions of the product since it was bought online. Virtual reality “try-on” is the solution to this problem. Users can try out products without even leaving their bed. This is a huge marketing opportunity that will completely change the way consumers shop, and how products are advertised.
There’s only so much an influencer can do to engage their audience on social media. However, the new VR devices will provide new hands-on opportunities for influencer marketing. Instead of viewing videos from a phone or computer, users can now experience them in a new way, as if they were physically there. The new technology allows for a more personal experience, for example, a virtual tour of your favorite celebrity’s house or a meet-and-greet with an influencer that lives across the world. Imagine a “live” being shot where followers felt like they were interacting directly and able to wave at their favorite Insta-star, or taking part of the newest TikTok dance trend with the TikTokers themselves.
Social media users are always looking for the “next best thing,” as we saw with the downfall of YouTube and rise of TikTok. It is certain that these virtual experiences will attract a wider audience and keep users engaged – and with higher influencer engagement comes an increase of campaign ROI for the brands with whom they collaborate.
The Future of Communication?
Although the price of VR headsets seems currently to be somewhat prohibitive for the majority of consumers and other stakeholder whom marketers and comms professionals would be reaching out to, it’s not a huge leap to imagine these devices becoming an everyday household appliance. Telephones, flat screen televisions and computers were similarly seen as luxury items when they first appeared.
There is a lot of speculation about how virtual reality will have exciting implications for the future of marketing and communications. From strategy to implementation, creative opportunities have the potential to make a huge leap forward to attract stakeholders in yet unknown ways.
New technology allows users to create unique experiences like roundtable discussions, panels, and interviews that anyone can attend. Virtual try-on will bring new opportunities to retail advertising and influencers can engage and attract their audience in creative ways.
Whether VR is used to invite consumers to attend a concert they can’t make in person or to trial a tourist location they’ve been dreaming of before they put down a deposit on their next vacation, the possibilities are endless.
Say goodbye to the old world of communications, the virtual world is here and ready to provide countless opportunities.