Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Gear VR, Hololens. Virtual Reality is bubbling up around us in all shapes and sizes. And while they are already cool gadgets for games and immersive experiences, we haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what it will do to our everyday life and business.
Why should this interest you?
Oculus and Samsung reached 1 million monthly active users in April 2016. If you look at the forecast of where the VR market is going to be, by 2020 there will be around 42 million mobile VR headsets globally. This alone shows the potential there is in this industry. VR is not just another new medium, it will be a whole new way to experience and relate to the environment – it will require innovation and disruption, rather than adaptation.
As official Facebook Marketing Partners, we have attended multiple Oculus Rift-focused events where we got the chance to experience first-hand the latest developments in the VR industry. Delighted by the results, we went on to build a complete VR room with HTC Vive in the basement of our Copenhagen headquarters. The reason is simple: we believe that, eventually, virtual reality will disrupt everything we think we know about our business, and we want to stay ahead of the curve by knowing what’s headed towards us.
Here are three trends I’ve spotted as a result of our experiments with VR:
1. Hardware becomes obsolete
You know that curved Ultra HD 60” 3D TV you’ve been eyeing to fill the bare spot on your living room wall...if only you had $3.000 to spare? Well, within the next decade that will be transformed into a $1 app in the app store.
How? Form factor is decreasing and resolution is improving in VR headsets. Before 2030, VR headsets will be the same shape and size as regular glasses and will include augmented reality (AR) technology, where virtual elements are layered on top of your actual reality. At that point, you can put a 60” tv on your wall with just a blink of the eye.
Eventually, VR glasses will also communicate with each other. So, for example, if I install a virtual TV on my wall, your VR glasses will also know that it is there when you stop by for a visit.
This will basically render 80 per cent of all hardware useless. Most of the physical objects we buy today can be replaced by VR apps, even fashion items like jewellery and apparel. Sure, diamonds are beautiful, but they don’t beat holograms!
2. New breed of entertainment
How will you watch the Euro 2016 final? On TV at home? Or perhaps on a stadium seat 30 meters from pitch? How about sitting on your sofa next to the player booth on the sideline?
Facebook recently launched 360 videos. Anyone who’s watched any of those with a VR headset knows how it completely revolutionises the concept of video consumption. Imagine what will then happen once 360 is combined with live video streaming technology.
Tickets will be sold for experiencing the biggest sport and entertainment events at the best seat of the venue, straight from your couch. And what’s even more interesting is that the supply is literally unlimited. There are no physical constraints to how many people can buy those seats.
When virtual reality and augmented reality have merged into the perfect wearable with the form factor of regular glasses or even contact lenses that we can use all day long, the human species will in many ways no longer be bound by time and space. Do you want to have dinner with your cousin who lives halfway across the globe? No problem! How about watching the first moon landing from ground perspective? You got it! Try on that dress you saw in the mall yesterday? Right away!
Brands need to think about how this changes consumer expectations towards their shopping experiences.
The perhaps most clear-cut example of how time and space imposes constraints on shopping experiences today is supermarkets. We are all used to the fact that milk and eggs are placed furthest away from the entrance and candy is placed right next to the register where we all wait in long lines. Supermarkets do this to ensure as many temptations as possible during your everyday grocery shopping round, and consumers accept it because, well… it’s the same everywhere. Even if the line is long, it probably takes longer time for me to travel to another supermarket.
In a not-so-distant VR future, consumers can jump between virtual places in no time, and if we don’t like the experience in one supermarket, we’ll just “teleport” to another one. To counter this, supermarkets and other retailers will need to rethink their physical store layouts with the consumer experience in mind, and utilise augmentations to present the most popular products right at the entrance. If you don’t, customers will choose a competitor with a better VR/AR experience.
How do you prepare for this?
Virtual reality is coming and it will inevitably turn many industries and companies completely upside down. It could go two ways, your brand will become obsolete or it will get multiple new opportunities. You need to start preparing for both of these scenarios, and the best way of doing that is by getting a deeper understanding of your customers and the technology that is coming.
Social media is the number one source of consumer data today. The total amount of data humankind generated last week is 3x the equivalent of all data generated throughout history, from the birth of mankind until Mark Zuckerberg started thinking about Facebook in 2003. So, if you want to understand what your customers think about your brand and what desires they express for the future of your industry, the first thing you need to do is start listening to public updates on social media. You also need to make sure that this data is stored in an accessible way, so you can analyse it and use it at later stages for personalised experiences.
Speaking of personalised experiences, my second piece of advice to you would be to invest in a customer experience (CX) platform for your future business infrastructure. And I’m not talking one of those old-fashioned cookie-based adaptive content management systems. What you will need is a platform that recognises that your customers’ most important experiences with your brand happen outside of your own media platforms in conversations with friends, other consumers, and sometimes you. When searching for a CX platform, ask yourself which of the potential vendors are most likely to help you provide personalised brand experiences in VR, once the technology is mature enough.
My final advice would be to do what we’ve done here at Falcon.io: buy a VR setup and play around with it. Whether your budget allows for a fully-fledged VR room with state-of-the art tech, or you need to start with the more modest Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR, just do something to let everyone in your company experience what VR is. This will no doubt unleash a whole slew of ideas that will, at some point,go from far-out to very realistic and will give you the headstart over your competitors.
Mikael Lemberg is director of product management at Falcon IO. He tweets @Lemberg