If you stop to think about all that has occurred within the past few years, your brain is likely inundated with a barrage of flashing images. From social unrest to a global pandemic to technological advancements beyond our wildest expectations, it has been a crazy past few years, to say the least. But one of the most profound things to happen within that timespan has been the growing power of influence.

While some may scoff at this idea, influence is coming on stronger than you might think. With the emergence of technology becoming more profound by the day, the concept of VR influencers can be understandably controversial. When many people think of ‘influencers’ in the generic sense, they likely envision cringe-worthy Tiktok videos or hyped-up millennials promoting a crash diet nutritional product. However, this is a narrow lens into the world of influencers.

Using the digital realm rather than the real world to interact with influencers may sound like science fiction. But the reality is that this is where the influencer marketing industry is heading, and it’s happening at warp speed (no pun intended).

Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) are the future of influencer marketing, and both VR and AR are becoming ‘mainstream’ much faster than most people realize. Don’t believe us? Well, consider this: Global AR & VR revenues will grow from $4.1 billion in 2016 to $79 billion by 2021. Enterprise AR is also growing exponentially, expanding from $829 million in 2016 to $47.7 billion in 2021. It’s the fastest-growing segment of AR & VR revenues and the largest revenue segment in 2021.

Expanding VR and AR Technologies In Digital Marketing

Numerous companies are using these VR and AR technologies as an essential part of their digital marketing strategy in order to create a more modern, successful brand in the market.

One great example of this comes from a heavy hitter: Coca-Cola. The world’s most famous brand has been using VR technology for years to create unique marketing campaigns designed to engage customers and increase its already massive market share.

In 2014, Coca-Cola took advertising to a new level by introducing the first-ever “Drinkable” Advertising campaign. The soft-drink giant collaborated with the music identifying software company Shazam to execute the campaign. By simply “Shazaming” the ad, users could watch as Coke poured in the screen of their phones and filled a glass. The promotion could be redeemed at any retail store in the US.

But how exactly do you “drink” a commercial, you ask? Easy! Users simply had to turn on the Shazam app to record the sound whenever you would see or hear an ad on TV or billboard. Coca-Cola’s slogan for the campaign was, “next time you’re thirsty, drink an ad!”

The first origin of the “video social world” came from a titan in the social media space; Snapchat. The platform is popular for its ability to allow users to add effects and filters to their posts. But in many ways, the origins of the VR/AR revolution in social media can be traced back to the rise of the game “Pokemon Go,” where users were running all over their towns and neighborhoods to “catch” rare virtual creatures.

Pokemon Go was crucial in sparking the new wave of augmented reality explosion. Brands and marketers alike took note of the success and engagement created by games like Pokemon Go. They focused on ways to enable consumers to experience their products (like vacation destinations) before making a purchase.

Incorporating AR and VR into their marketing strategies allowed brands to create an impulse-friendly purchasing experience for the user. The best part? It allowed them to do so on any device or platform. Both AR and VR technologies present unique opportunities for brands to add a more robust customer experience.

Snapchat Is All In On AR

One of the biggest companies in all of social media, Snapchat is a self-proclaimed “camera company” that realized its business takes advantage of the camera’s central role on smartphones. This awareness helped catalyze

World Lenses & Spectacles

Snapchat has been in the AR game for a while now. The company has been developing augmented-reality experiences for some time – though it doesn’t actually refer to them as AR. The original Lenses is the first example, with iconic features like the infamous puppy dog ears or the hilarious but often face swap feature.

Additionally, Snapchat released “Spectacles” back in November of 2016. The high-tech glasses allow users to take photos and share snaps directly to the application. Spectacles are essentially sunglasses that feature a recording camera action that can be enabled with a single touch. The camera shoots circular video similar to a person’s field of vision.

snapchat spectacles

Spectacles first released via bright yellow vending machines referred to as “Snapbots,” and following its initial release, saw great success. In turn, brands started jumping on the Spectacles wagon immediately and developing their own experiences.

Currently, Spectacles don’t technically have any AR or VR features, but Snapchat continues to explore the possibilities of producing products like glasses, watches, visors, and other network-enabled gadgets to accommodate the fast-rising popularity of AR and VR technology.

How AR and VR Will Change Influencer Marketing

Though the technology is developing rapidly, VR and AR technologies are still relatively new to the influencer marketing world. Regardless, marketers embrace this new form of communication with open arms, diving in headfirst to the endless possibilities the realm presents. Both VR and AR are expected to become larger parts of the overall machine that drives influencer marketing.

In the past, AR and VR were viewed more like singular parts in an overarching experiential marketing ecosystem. But over the past few years, the game has changed dramatically. Let’s put it into context; virtual reality replaces the real world, whereas augmented reality adds to the real world. And soon, the way we fraternize on social media will also look and feel much different from today.

VR is going to revolutionize influencer marketing as we know it. How? By catapulting influencer content into a whole new stratosphere, taking it in a completely new direction with live streaming VR and AR sessions.

Think about it; influencers will have the ability to share their 360 degree live videos as a shared experience with their audience.  People simply wearing VR headsets will be able to walk and talk with their favorite social media stars, experiencing their view and vantage point in real-time – all within a social platform. This will be more engaging than influencer content ever been.

justin tse influencer post for sony vr

Just about every marketing or advertising playbook will tell you that experiences that create an emotional response from the user (a current or potential customer) are far more likely to result in a purchase than those that do not elicit the same reaction. In a world where it’s more difficult than ever to capture the attention of consumers, utilizing VR and AR provides brands with seemingly endless possibilities for creating the abovementioned emotional response needed to attract and retain consumers.

We get it. Not every brand is positioned to begin exploring VR or AR, and in many ways, the industry is still somewhat in its infancy. But quite soon, VR and AR promise a more trust-based relationship between influencers and their audience. With that in mind, brands that have already adopted these technologies will have a huge leg up in this ultra-competitive industry.

An Opportunity For Early Adoption

The VR and AR space, as it pertains to influencers, presents vast opportunities in both the short and long term, making it a prime sector for early adoption.  As is the case with nearly all futurism, the expected outcomes are not set in stone. However, the convergence of two growing trends seems all but inevitable: AI and aspirational influence.

Imagine being able to wear an Oculus headset, sweating heavily, and struggling to catch your breath as you reel from another tough loss. It was another wire-to-wire game, but LeBron’s presence proved too much to overcome. You simply couldn’t guard him. The future Hall-Of-Famer points out that you’re fatigued, seeing you sweat and looking like your blood sugar might be low. He suggests you grab an electrolyte drink from the kitchen, and it just so happens to be RFID tagged.

This idea of an amazingly immersive VR experience would hook just about any basketball enthusiast. The game’s construct alone is enough to make a true hooper lose themselves in this alternate reality for hours, if not days at a time.  And as you continue to immerse yourself in this virtual world, growing a stronger connection with your childhood idol (who has now become your biggest competitor), you find yourself akin to modeling your life and performance off of your primary motivator’s insights. So if your virtual basketball buddy recommends, say, a pair of basketball shoes that may potentially elevate your performances, chances are pretty high that you will likely make the purchase.

This level of personal immersion not only creates hyper-realistic gameplay for users, but it also creates incredibly intimate product endorsement opportunities. Imagine a world where celebrities can interact as a peer with consumers. Using the Lebron example above, imagine your daily basketball routine with your friend Lebron. If you guys are going head to head for a few hours a week, and he is casually asking you to buy his sneakers after another grueling matchup, the likelihood of you converting from competitor to customer becomes much greater.

Given the organic connection of VR to eCommerce, that transaction could even occur in real-time within the platform and offline. Throw in same-day shipping, and your shoe shipment could arrive by the next morning. This seamless transaction is a marketer’s dream and is just one of the many reasons why influencers are the real future of VR/AR.

Wrapping Up

Whether we are communicating online or doing so in person, face-to-face communication is always preferred. It may be convenient to have the ability to communicate with anyone at any time on social media platforms; there is simply no replacing a face to face interaction. But all these barriers will eventually be taken down as technology continues to develop. As these technologies continue to mature, influencers will develop a deeper connection with their audience and play a more personal role by creating real-time content that consumers can all but literally reach out and touch. This is the next big step in the influencer marketing revolution.

This fast-growing industry is a potential gold-mine for businesses of all shapes and sizes. But your brand will likely need some guidance if it wants to be successful in entering the space. Agencies like Viral Nation have extensive experience within this industry, which few companies have recently experienced. If you are interested in leveraging VR and AR influencers, reach out to us below, and let’s discuss how you can implement an ROI-driven marketing strategy today!

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