On Friday, Forbes published an article concerning emerging opportunities in digital marketing for virtual reality and augmented reality. Specifically, it listed ten industries in which those technologies have easily foreseeable applications. And it seems to me that the article only corroborates observations I’ve made in the past, including at the end of July when I reported on the simulated walk-throughs that had been adopted by certain schools and companies as alternatives to in-person designer showcases.
As I said in that post, the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 appear to have incited a significant leap forward in the use of VR and AR. The Forbes article seems to agree with me on this point, in that it cites social distancing as a reason why these technologies are needed for digital marketing in higher education, for instance. It notes that campus tours are effectively off-limits to many aspiring college students, and that virtual reality tours are poised to step in as a digital marketing alternative to in-person sales pitches from faculty and RAs.
Forbes only said explicitly that this type of digital marketing would proceed “in the meantime” while standard operations are closed down. But it’s easy to imagine these same techniques having long-term applications in non-pandemic times. And it is easy to see students embracing the alternative both for the sake of convenience and because it may be the only viable option for some of them. As a digital marketing strategy, VR tours will allow colleges and universities to reach out to more students who may be a good fit for the institution despite lacking the wealth or freedom of movement to make in-person visits to each prospect.
In this sense, VR and AR represent a principle of expanded access, which is sure to be an asset to many other digital marketing strategies. There are countless companies and industries that would find it extremely worthwhile to provide prospective clients or customers with a hands-on experience of what they’re trying to sell, but would find it far too difficult to facilitate that experience for every promising lead. VR and AR solve that, but they depend upon advertisers and digital marketing firms to invest in technologies that have yet to be widely embraced or demanded by the public.
The question is whether such investment is worthwhile if it’s not entirely clear whether customers and clients will see the potential. Advertisers and digital marketing companies will have to consider the answer on their own. But for many, the prospect of effectively using this strategy may require them to personally demonstrate its value to skeptical or barely interested audiences.