According to the Gartner Hype Cycle for the evaluation of technology trends, virtual reality has reached the so-called “Path of Enlightenment” phase. It might sound esoteric, but it just means that the media hype is dying down, now it’s about the practical implementation with a realistic view of the benefits and disadvantages. In short: technology is on the verge of a breakthrough, just shy of mass suitability and commercial relevance, even for marketing. We will show you a few cases of virtual reality in marketing.
There is hardly any large technology provider today who is not spending time on the topic of virtual reality and is not developing relevant hardware and /or software. Virtual reality glasses have become available to the masses. Even a few smartphone models can be adapted with simple headsets so that they offer a sufficient degree of immersivity to allow virtual reality applications. In the wake of the virtual reality trend, the topic of augmented reality is also coming back into focus. In contrast to virtual reality, augmented reality only expands reality through digital information and users do not immerse themselves in another digital world. The user looks e.g., through his smartphone camera onto a shop and the picture is covered by a layer providing information on current promotions.
We have identified 5 cases for virtual reality in marketing.

Make Experience Products Perceptible Prior to Purchase

Experience products are goods whose quality the user can only determine after the purchase. They include all immaterial experiences, such as trips, events or outdoor activities. A pair of shoes (search good) can be thoroughly checked and tried on by the user prior to his purchase, but with an air balloon ride, e.g., the user would only know if the purchase was worth it once he is up in the air. This type of purchase always goes hand in hand with a degree of uncertainty. Virtual reality can help to at least partially decrease this uncertainty as events can be experienced virtually prior to the purchase. The travel sector has been experimenting with virtual reality for a while and enables users virtual tours through hotels, resorts or cruise ships. A virtual climb of the Eiffel Tower or a virtual canal trip in Venice enable the user to test different destinations prior to purchasing a ticket. These virtual tours can provide the decisive impulse when making a decision prior to booking a trip. The same applies in principle to other immaterial experiences, whether hot air balloon trips, boat rides or the visit of a music festival. Here, it would be conceivable to have the user walk across the virtual festival grounds prior to booking his ticket and to view recorded concerts from the last few years in front of the stage.
Virtual Reality Case, source:

Virtual Shopping

Stationary trade still has the invaluable advantage that a user can look at products in the real world and can be inspired by the presentation of the range as well as the interior of the shop. Online shops try to compensate for this experience by providing very detailed product descriptions, many photos from different perspectives, 360° views as well as product videos. Some already work with augmented reality technologies, e.g., virtual fittings where clothing is laid over pictures of the user. Virtual reality offers the potential to transfer even more advantages of stationary trade into e-commerce. Instead of rotating products 360° in a window on the screen, users can look at them in a virtual environment from all sides and place them in different settings. Furniture, e.g., can be placed in different virtual rooms where the user can move around. Car dealers can allow users to test sit and test drive different virtual models and try different accessories, the colour of the seats, etc.
Instead of making only a few products virtually available, entire shops can be constructed virtually in order to replicate the stationary shopping experience. Users can walk through virtual shops, take the individual products out of the shelves and display all relevant information directly in the virtual world: price, availability, sizes, additional benefits, cross and up-sells, etc. However, the virtual shop should be integrated as an additional option in the normal online shop in order to allow a cross-channel shopping experience. This means, e.g., that products which have been placed in the shopping trolley during the virtual shopping tour, will also appear in the shopping trolley of the normal online shop and/or shopping app.

Product Training

Product Training in B2B creates high expenditures even when these are usually invoiced as part of the service. The customer consultant or technician goes to the customer and shows him on site how to operate a machine. With some products, training can be virtual in the future. You can even use an avatar, i.e., a virtual image of the technician who demonstrates the machine in the virtual production hall.


Surely nothing can beat the experience of a live concert. But what if the concert is sold out and you can’t get any tickets any more? If you can’t make it on your desired date? If the venues are all too far away? Or if you have always dreamed of seeing a concert in a specific venue in another country, but the expenses would be too high? If you generally don’t feel like standing around a concert venue for hours with loads of people in the evening after work. Why not offer a virtual concert experience for uses who can’t be there live? In the concert venue, in different places 360° cameras are placed and the user can watch the concert live with his virtual reality glasses thus creating an “in the middle” experience without physical presence. And if he can’t be at the live show for reasons of time, the concert experience can be taken in a virtual environment on another day. Concert organisers could therefore sell a theoretically unlimited number of tickets for a concert and open up new target groups. What applies for concerts, can also be transferred to other events which have so far required physical presence: musicals, theatre performances and sporting events. Larger football stadiums can accommodate tenth of thousands of people, but in front of the TV at home some of the games are watched by millions and these spectators would be the target group for virtual reality stadium visits.

Location-based Augmented Reality

Marketing and service communication which includes the mobile context of the user, in particular its location, are among the important trends in digital dialogue marketing. Example: A user is walking along the high street. As soon as he approaches a certain shop by 100m, he will automatically receive a push message on his smartphone informing him about current fashion offers in the shop (link to the push article). Location-based communication like this can be effectively linked with augmented reality applications. Here another example: As soon as the user enters a shopping centre, he will receive an SMS asking him to open the augmented reality app of the shopping centre operator. When the user now looks through his smartphone camera, all shops will be shown with layers displaying the current promotions.


Virtual reality is at the verge of breaking through into the mass market and will therefore also become relevant as a marketing channel. Which types of virtual applications will actually be implemented by users will soon become apparent. In any case, it is recommended to look into this topic on a conceptual level and check which deployment scenarios could be relevant for your own business model. Among the early adopters is the travel sector. Marriott Hotels e.g., has been offering virtual tours through their hotels for a number of years.

Virtual Reality at Marriot, source: technewsworld

Virtual Reality at Marriot

If you wish to experiment with virtual reality now, you should bear in mind the following: Perhaps the most important point is: Virtual worlds and products must offer a truly valuable and immersive experience i.e., they must look realistic. What is relatively simple in little interactive live transmissions of events, can become very complex when you have to virtually reconstruct an entire shop and integrate interaction possibilities. No one wants to travel through an interactive Venice that looks like it’s from a video game of the 90s. Professional 3-D graphic designers are required for this task who model objects, design textures (object surfaces) or create effects. Furthermore, you will need to create interfaces between the virtual reality application and the shop system and check whether it would be sensible for the relevant deployment scenarios to track the user behaviour in the virtual worlds and whether this can be done legally compliant and technically. Digital dialogue marketing also poses the question how it is possible to include virtual reality applications without creating harsh media or even terminal device interruptions. Virtual reality glasses are an additional terminal device which will probably initially only be used for specific applications. For example, if someone receives an email with a virtual reality application, he can retrieve this application via a corresponding interface on his virtual reality glasses or via his smartphone app, but this change of terminal device or conversion of the smartphone will create a harsh interruption. What is still conceivable at home on the sofa is a rather unrealistic scenario for a mobile user.