As Virtual Reality (VR) expands and contracts, it’s starting to overlap with local commerce in a sort of Venn diagram. That’s even truer of augmented reality (AR), but that’s a separate topic. One small signal is the ink VR has received here on Street Fight from columnists like Tom Grubisich and myself.
To follow up recent coverage of how VR will find success in local, it’s important to step back and look at the reality of consumer adoption. VR is pretty nascent and future looking but to what degree? That question can partly be answered by original data on consumer VR behavior and sentiments.
In partnership with Thrive Analytics, ARtillry Intelligence recently did just that. It authored questions to be fielded through Thrive’s established survey engine, and then built a report around the results. It’s available by subscription but we’ve assembled “local edition” highlights for Street Fight readers.
First, from the overall sample of about 2000 U.S. adults, 8 percent of U.S. households with internet access own a VR headset. 67 percent of those households have incomes greater than $50,000. 80 percent of headset owners are under the age of 44, and 60 percent are male.
Drilling down from there, the survey examined both VR headset owners (what do they like/dislike?) and non-owners (are they interested?). For the former, the most prevalent sentiment was that more content (55 percent) and better content (45 percent) is desired (see chart below).
This validates that content is king in VR, just like other mediums. But it’s currently a gap in VR’s value chain. For local, this means news and content providers can get an early lead. Though the impressions are still low, they’re valued high. And there’s an education and early mover advantage to be gained.
VR headset owners also showed high satisfaction compared to other categories of consumer tech products. However many non-owners (38 percent) reported disinterest in VR; and the top reason (53 percent) was “just not interested.” This disparity in ownership/non-ownership sentiment is telling.
Mostly, this finding validates VR’s double-edged sword: It produces highly visceral and satisfactory user responses… but you have to see it to believe it. This means lower-barrier and temporal VR experiences will be gateway drugs, such as retail installations or VR trucks (like a food truck).
This means local media companies have an opportunity to bring VR to their audiences, in tandem with local events or community outreach. The benefits include sponsoring or producing the content, and to attach one’s media brand (possibly not known for tech innovation) to tech-forward experiences.
Further down the road, the VR opportunities around local commerce will involve native advertising. Like other media formats, lots of VR content will be ad supported. And there will be opportunities for local media companies to be part of those experiences in native ways (think: virtual car shopping).
That day clearly isn’t here yet, but it’s important to monitor consumer sentiment to triangulate when it will arrive. And in the meantime, there’s lots of ways to start to gain perspective of VR’s opportunity by experimenting. A big part of the VR opportunity will be local, and it might come faster than you think.
Mike Boland is Street Fight’s analyst-in-residence and author of the Road Map column. He covers AR & VR as chief analyst of ARtillry, and SF President of the VR/AR Association. He has been an analyst in the local space since 2005, covering mobile, social and emerging tech.