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How Will VR and AR Change Marketing In 2021 (And Beyond)?

Real-world events are impractical, and VR and AR technologies are on the rise. This has obvious implications for marketing — but what consequences will 2021 produce?


The progression of virtual reality and augmented reality technology has been fascinating to chart. On one hand, VR and AR have been around for years without truly cracking mainstream appeal, and there are still plenty of people who’ve never used VR headsets.

On the other hand, awareness of what these options bring to the table has steadily increased, and the cost of entry has gone down significantly.

Consider that the Oculus Quest 2 has made wireless VR accessible, and that the average modern smartphone is perfectly capable of handling complex AR tasks. There’s so much more scope for deployment.

Will VR and AR Become Ubiquitous in 2021?

Now that 2021 is well underway, it’s worth thinking about how VR and AR are going to prove significant in the marketing world as the year progresses.

Will they finally become ubiquitous and catch the eye of every promoter? Will they remain relatively niche? Let’s consider it.

In-Home AR Preview Functions Will Rise in Popularity

Apps designed to allow e-commerce shoppers to preview items of clothing or furniture have been in widespread use for a long time, but we can expect them to earn significantly more focus this year.

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This might sound counterintuitive because the original purpose of those functions (competing with physical stores that offered tangible experiences) is no longer significant, but the new purpose — that of competing with other sellers — is just as potent a motivator. We’ll ultimately need to see a shift in the design of online systems to not just accommodate this but actually cater to it.

There’s already some distinction in the designs of e-commerce platforms, with some systems pointedly being geared towards artistic presentation, but we’ve yet to see a VR/AR-centric platform gain any momentum. In truth, we’re unlikely to see that happen.

Integration — rather than innovation — is the name of the game. For instance, the GoDaddy platform is notable not because it offers anything new but because it’s packaged with domain registration. It doesn’t need anything exceptional because features are increasingly modular.

Building on that, all mainstream platforms will eventually support VR-store capability. Those with massive resources (like Shopify) can invest in VR and AR tech, but most only need to wait for the right service integrations to arrive. Expect to see more VR integrations as 2021 progresses.

Virtual Tours Will Largely Supplant Physical Tours

If you’re looking for an example of an industry that has already had to change its marketing quite significantly, real estate is a perfect choice.

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Demand for property has remained high, yet people have been understandably reluctant to go on conventional trips to see their possible homes. Such things can only be handled so safely, after all.

Due to this, real estate agencies have pivoted to using VR extensively to provide virtual tours. They’re largely 360-degree videos for the moment, but something that will surely become more common soon is the 3D reproduction of property interiors. Imagine a prospective property buyer being able to explore a 3D version of a house they might otherwise have visited in person.

The chance of the world getting back to normal before 2022 is extremely small, so virtual tours will take over. In doing so, they might establish such convenience that regular tours remain relatively infrequent even when COVID-19 is no longer a major barrier. Only time will tell.

Many of the Events to Be Marketed Will Be Online

When thinking about how VR and AR will change marketing, we need to think about more than those technologies being applied to marketing itself. This is because they’re also being applied to the things being marketed in many cases.

Look at the event industry. Whether they’re concerts or art exhibitions, many events that would ordinarily draw crowds can now only be run online.

LG’s technology showcase is a great example. No longer being able to usefully display its products live, it opted to build a virtual showroom: since it couldn’t hold the event, it created a piece of online marketing content that could replace it. Now consider the possibilities for marketing that. If LG had wanted to, it could have sold tickets for access and marketed them.

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As more virtual events are held, organizers will need to think about how they want to govern access to them. They may want to add artificial scarcity to boost value, for instance, or run them live without replays to draw upon fear of missing out.

Digital marketing will be a core part of the design process instead of something brought in when an event is nearly planned, and promoters will need to be ready to step up their efforts.

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About the Guest Author(s)

Rodney Laws
Rodney Laws
Editor | Ecommerce Platforms | + posts

Rodney Laws has more than a decade of experience providing marketing advice to online entrepreneurs and businesses. He’s set up and marketed his own businesses and consulted on crafting campaigns for established companies.