Apple will need to double down on marketing if it’s to convince CMOs on its VR vision
Apple’s new mixed-reality headset is turning heads with its high-end tech – and $3499 price tag. But what does it offer to marketers?
The headset has been positively received by tech press - but what does it mean for marketers? / Apple
Apple finally unveiled its long-awaited mixed-reality (XR) headset the Apple Vision Pro at the 2023 WWDC. The headset itself has received rave early responses, with commentators and reviewers praising its functionality and quality compared to other AR headsets.
It has, however, come in for criticism from commentators who note that the price point limits it to enterprise use – which to date has not been the key selling-point for AR headsets – and doesn’t solve some of the more fundamental issues with AR in a workplace setting. More importantly for marketers, however, in announcing some key partnerships Apple is signifying the Vision Pro is built with privacy and advertising in mind.
Will marketers buy into the hype this time?
Despite the positive reception for the hardware, Apple faces a challenge in selling its new kit to the public. Emma Ridderstad, chief executive and co-founder of Warpin Reality, says that marketers may be an easier cohort to convince on its merits.
“Apple’s market entry with the Vision Pro is likely to be the straw that broke the VR camel’s back," she suggests. "Narratives that have particularly associated VR and the metaverse with gaming, judging the industry as a novelty, will begin to change when the technology starts to be applied more clearly beyond the field of entertainment”.
For marketers, the key takeaway is likely to be the new opportunity for high-end AR e-commerce. Shares in Unity rose sharply on the back of the news as it is a key partner for the Vision Pro. Unity is the engine behind much AR-powered advertising across a number of platforms. Snapchat's AR studio, for instance, implements Unity as the tech behind some of its most technically impressive executions.
Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of worldwide developer relations, specifically cited Unity as the tech behind similar tools within the headset's built-in VisionOS.
Angelica Ortiz, senior creative technologist at Media.Monks, says: “Many of the features of the Apple Vision Pro announced were practical, an expansion of their existing system of apps. The biggest takeaway for marketers is that when creating apps and activations using the Vision Pro, it will need to be deeply rooted in practicality for a selected audience until it expands to more immersive and general audience use cases.”
That all suggests that Apple is paying close attention to the rapid rise of 3D modelling and twinning tech, with an eye on making the most of the increasing interest in AR-based shopping. While it has traditionally been the preserve of FMCGs, high-end products are a growth market for AR, with luxury goods taking advantage of advances in ray-tracing and other tech.
Apple will have to double down on marketing
However, Apple's success in this regard is predicated on convincing consumers to purchase, which James Draper, founder and chief exectuvie of Bidstack, believes will be a challenge.
"The price is ridiculous and the use-cases shown beyond home entertainment seem limited at best and creepy at worst," Draper says.
"It looks 'cool' in isolation in an Apple commercial, but even the actors look ridiculous wearing it. I can see why the techies behind this in Silicon Valley love the fantasy of 'disappearing' into an alternate world or mixed universe, but this is a misjudgement - or at least I hope it is."
The move from Apple comes days after Meta announced an update to its Quest headset. The Quest 3 furthers Meta's desire to be the dominant force in the AR and VR-powered metaverse – though to date its range of headsets has yet to catch on to the extent desired by the company. That lack of overall consumer interest in the market, compared with the relatively small number of units shifted, means that Apple may struggle to convince app developers to spend significant resource on developing for the product.
PP Foresight’s Paolo Pescatore suggests that while Apple has an uphill struggle to differentiate the product from competition from Meta in the mind of the public, it is possible given its history of creating new markets with products like the original iPhone.
“No comparisons should be made with previous devices, nor pricing or sales volumes," Pescatore says. "This product is unlikely to repeat the volumes seen with other Apple devices in their first years post-launch. Having said this, Apple excels in marketing, is a trusted brand and will eloquently articulate the merits of the platform and new device to all users”.
Beyond the headset, however, Apple’s entry into the market with such a strong debut product is buoying interest in AR again after the hype cycle moved on at the tail end of 2022.
Insider Intelligence principal analyst Yory Wurmser suggests that the weight of the Apple brand itself is what will help it overcome many of the challenges faced by competitors like Meta: “Apple clearly brought along its UX and hardware design chops when designing Vision Pro, at least judging by its presentation today… Apple has a put a lot of work into design and wearability, again relying on its years of experience building consumer electronics”.
So while the early signs for the product look positive, there are still big challenges ahead for Apple as it attempts to reshape the nascent AR space.