Virtual Reality: The Next Big Thing in Marketing Research

Using Virtual Reality to Enhance Market Research

Using Virtual Reality to Enhance Market Research

While our grandparents were entertained by Stereopticons and we enjoyed ViewMasters, the multi-dimensional entertainment landscape has come a long way, and is progressing at an increasing rate. In fact, hardly a week goes by without another major announcement.

Consider these milestones:

  • Atari launches VR Lab in 1982
  • Sega launches VR headset in 1991
  • Virtual I/O launches I-Glasses in 1995
  • SAS Cube Room launched in 2001
  • Facebook acquires Oculus for $2B in March 2014
  • Google Launches Cardboard VR in May 2014
  • Samsung announces Gear VR in September 2014
  • Sony Project Morpheus is launched as PlayStation VR in 1Q2016
  • Oculus launches as Rift in 1Q2016

VR 101

There are three types of virtual reality:

  1. VR = Virtual Reality. Immersive experience in stereoscopic 360 degree video, animation, or a combination of the world. The viewer “leaves the world.”
  2. AR = Augmented Reality. Virtual elements and information are overlaid onto your normal field of vision. This can include VR experiences. The leaders in this space are Microsoft Hololens, MetaVision, and
  3. MR = Mixed Reality. A combination of the two. Magic Leap is one of the leading companies in this space, and because they have been extremely secretive in terms of their plans, the industry is eagerly awaiting their launch. Some rumors suggest that they may use contact lenses that actual project the image onto the user’s retina!

Generally, VR approaches are divided into:

  • Mobile experiences. Powered by a smartphone using stereoscopic lenses. Usually lower end resolution and less expensive. Google Cardboard ($10 per device) and Samsung Gear ($99) are examples. Even at the lowest end, the experience is impressive.
  • Desktop experiences. Powered by a high end PC or – more often – gaming system, these experiences are high resolution and more expensive. Oculus Rift ($600 headset, $1200 total system), HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR. These experience are usually more immersive games.

Market Growth and Adoption

Globally this year, 6 to 7 million VR devices will be in consumers’ hands. Of these, 55% will be mobile and 45% desktop. By the end of 2017, 9 to 10 million VR devices will be in consumers’ hands, and of those 5 – 6 million will be in the US alone. (Source: Deutsche Bank Virtual Reality Report, 9/10/15) And 8% of all US smartphone users say they already regularly consume VR content. (Source: Frank N. Magid Associates, 2016.)

While Gaming is the low-hanging fruit for VR, Marketing is perhaps the next large user of VR, to create immersive experiences between consumers and brands. VR is being used in tourism, for marketing cruise ships and hotels. Architects, engineers and homebuilders are using VR to help design commercial and residential spaces. Virtual shopping, virtual dressing rooms, and virtual showrooms facilitate online shopping experiences. Sponsored content, advertorials and experiential VR applications are also being used. There has already been extensive use of branded Cardboards; for example, McDonalds and Coke’s Cardboard Happy Meals that can be turned into VR viewers with smartphone content. And of course, whatever can be experienced through VR can be tested with marketing research as well.


For marketers, VR is a reality. If you’re not working in it now, you will be soon. Keep tabs on the VR market to evaluate when you need to play. Samsung, Google, and Facebook are not making these investments because it’s fun and cool (well, maybe just a little); their end game is to make money by meeting consumer demand for enhanced experiences. You should too!

Learn more about CLEAR[vr], marketing research using virtual reality.

3 Comments on “Virtual Reality: The Next Big Thing in Marketing Research”

    1. Hi Mike! Great question! It is always so hard to predict the timeline of new technology roll-outs. Full Oculus VR adoption will likely be a combination of pricing, ease of installation, and facebook integration. That last part is entirely up to when facebook wants to start allowing person-to-person interaction in a VR setting, and will likely be the final “tippping point” to full adoption. Of course, this is a hypothesized prediction and part of the fun as we explore this new technology moving forward. Thank you Mike!

  1. I can see why this would be something marketing researchers would want to investigate. Virtual Reality seems like it will be the ‘next big thing’ if it isn’t already. I can already envision VR dressing rooms and product demonstrations. The future is exciting, thank you for sharing!

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