VR isn’t taking off in the way tech companies had predicted just a few years ago. The technology is seeing sales barely increase between 2017 and 2018. Most people don’t own their own VR headset, and suburban movie theater complexes have opted for more comfortable seating over the use of VR in their theaters. Companies are beginning to shift to AR marketing over testing how they can use VR to their advantage.
We saw an increase in the popularity of AR with the release of the 2016 game Pokémon Go. The game was available on all major mobile devices and allowed users to catch virtual Pokémon in real life using the camera feature on their phone. During that time Snapchat also began using AR in their app with a facial recognition software that allows users to add things like animal ears, designs and other filters to their photos and videos in real-time. Soon after, Snapchat began to take advantage of the software as an opportunity for advertising. Users began to notice that AR features were often sponsored by things like beauty companies or upcoming blockbuster movies.
These features are nothing new, as companies have been testing the use of augmented reality as an interactive advertising tool for quite some time. Brands are seeing benefits to AR marketing that VR could never allow, such as the ability for users to test out products on themselves virtually before they buy. For example, IKEA allows its customers to visualize a new couch in their living room using their phone, while Sephora allows customers to try on different shades of lipstick before buying online. The benefits of AR are huge for the world of online retail, and as the technology advances so do its opportunities, allowing us to live out the life we’ve been dreaming of since the release of Clueless.
While AR marketing has been popular recently, companies don’t feel the need to abandon VR completely. The projected market size for both AR and VR is expected to increase exponentially in the next couple of years, and experts have estimated that the market will grow from the current value of around US $27 billion to over US $200 billion by 2022. This could mean we’re either going to see a huge increase in the use of AR marketing or that VR will finally catch up to the growth that it was projected to have between 2016 and 2020.
While there are a few challenges facing the VR industry that need to be addressed before the platform is going to see major growth, such as health concerns, internet speeds and cost-efficiency for consumers, marketers still have hope that VR will one day become a useful marketing tool. The forecasted arrival of 5G in 2020 is projected to create a dramatic change in the way we consume content online, as the higher bandwidth will allow for increased speeds in VR and AR content. For now, though, augmented reality is the new frontier in digital marketing.