The past couple years have proven that virtual reality (VR) isn't just a fad. In fact, it's projected that the economic impact of both virtual and augmented reality will reach $29.5 billion by the end of this year. It's forecasted that 82 million headsets will be sold in 2020 as well, meaning consumers are buying in.

Because of this, it shouldn't come as a surprise that more brands are embracing this rapidly growing segment. If you want to remain competitive, you'll likely also need to jump on the VR bandwagon. As consumers' expectations are heightened, you won't want to seem quaint or old-fashioned.

But before launching a VR marketing campaign, you need to understand four of the most important trends so you can make the most of this technology. 

1. AI, AR and VR join forces

If you've ever used a filter on Instagram or Snapchat, you've already experienced the merger of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality. However, as these technologies continue to improve and become more accessible, marketers can -- and should -- go above and beyond placing a dog's nose and ears on a photo. 

AI, AR and VR applications can combine to enhance brands' ability to give customers extra personalization. If you took a picture of a piece of furniture, you could use its image recognition technology to receive shopping options and reviews, thanks to its use of visual analysis via a neural network. It can even pair the furniture with matching pieces. 

2. VR drives emotional engagement

Do you want your customers to take action? Then it's no secret that you should incorporate emotions into your marketing efforts. VR can help you accomplish that. 

Again, as the technology becomes more immersive and tactile, you'll be in a better position to elicit different emotions from your audience. Those emotional hits will not only impact them, but also more securely tie them to your brand.

3. Gamification becomes a reality

Gamification, which simply involves applying game design thinking to things that aren't games, isn't a new concept for marketers. In fact, back in 2012, Social Media Examiner outlined the 26 elements of a gamification-based marketing strategy -- it was becoming apparent that triggering consumers' competitive juices was a good thing.

Gamification was effective almost a decade ago, and it still is today because it creates greater brand awareness and deeper engagement. This type of interactive content can also be successful at converting customers and can help you differentiate your brand from competitors'. 

However, because more visitors are engaging with VR and AR on their smartphones, along with affordable mobile VR headsets like Gear VR, Google Cardboard or Daydream View, gamification has enormous potential for marketers.

"Health and welfare apps are just the starting point for these gamification strategies. Brands and marketers have an opportunity to use gamification to acquire new customers and build sustainable relationships with existing ones by giving users a unique experience that only their brand can offer," explains Tim Bond, head of insight at the DMA. "For example, in personal banking these can be used to reward loyal customers, in fashion they could unlock exclusive offers or early access to new products -- brands could even use gamification metrics to give fans access to exclusive content."

VR has come a long way over the past couple years. It's no longer a piece of futuristic tech unattainable for the masses. Thanks to more affordable headsets, increased ease of usability and cross-platform capabilities, it's become more accessible to both customers and businesses. As such, consumers expect brands to use this technology to create a unique experience -- meaning you need to stay up on the latest trends to meet their demands. 

What trends in VR marketing are you most excited about?