For many marketers, Fall is conference season. It's a time when some of the largest conferences in the industry occur and businesses everywhere scramble to show off their brands with elaborate booths, sponsored events, and networking opportunities. If you have been among the myriad attendees to one of these conferences recently, you probably noticed that the use of virtual reality at exhibit booths has nearly tripled in just one year. Virtual reality is the new popular kid in class and everyone wants to be his friend.

There's one large problem though: while everyone is rushing to reveal their VR experience, few are developing solid strategies that will ensure a good return on investment. And because VR is so prevalent throughout expo halls, it's beginning to feel like a gimmick versus a sustainable content solution. Rather than just creating VR for the sake of proving that you too can be friends with Mr. Popular, it's important to take a step back to determine if your visual content strategy truly needs VR in the first place.

Virtual Reality and The General Consumer

According to Marketing Week, 60 percent of consumers feel that virtual reality is just for gamers. This misconception suggests that we still have an uphill battle before the Everyman will hop on this new bandwagon. At the same time, Nielson suggests that 50 percent of consumers will change their opinion of virtual reality after just 2 minutes of use. This is the true battle that VR faces: it requires use in a physical space to fully understand its power and purpose.

Because VR is not yet something that the average person seeks out, the best applications for virtual content will continue to be in arenas where a user can interact directly with the content provider. At least if you are targeting the average Joe. Markets that are most likely to gain from providing VR content over the next year include real estate, healthcare, engineering, live events, retail, the military, and education.

If you are working to attract a large consumer base with your content marketing strategy and don't have the opportunity to connect with them in a physical space (or connect about a physical space), then take your time before jumping into the world of virtual reality. It will become more of a distraction than it's worth in 2018 and you have the opportunity to learn from others who are too fast out of the gate. 

Virtual Reality and The Niche Consumer

If your goal is to connect with a niche, tech-savvy consumer base, then virtual reality might be your best untapped solution. Nielsen suggests that there are two types of VR users: PaVRs and ConVRts. PaVRs are early adopters with great spending power. They are made up mostly of millennials, but make up 24 percent of the population aged 18-24 and are known to outspend in specific industries like ticket sales, alcohol, and quick-serve food. ConVRts are more likely to enter the world of VR after their friends or colleagues encourage them to do so and it's currently not as easy to connect with them through a virtual experience.

Advertisers are extremely excited about PaVRs as they focus on connecting with a niche group of early adopters. If you are marketing a new technology or any of the previously mentioned high-spend arenas for this audience type, then developing a content strategy around VR sooner than later is a must.

Virtual Reality is Here to Stay

While some conference halls can feel exhausting with the sheer number of virtual reality experiences developed to entice attendees, this is not a medium that will burn out from over use. Virtual reality is not a fad for today, it's the future that we've been imagining over decades of technical innovation. It is only bound to get smarter, more immersive, and more expected as the years go by.

VR isn't for every brand just yet, but it's here to stay and will eventually be a required piece of content for any successful marketer. While some content creators can take their time learning from early trials, brands that have a millennial and tech-savvy audience will see great success executing VR content immediately. 

Published on: Oct 24, 2017