Let’s face facts, Facebook plays a role in almost every aspect of our lives—personal and business. Plenty of businesses use private Facebook groups to communicate, for example, and some people prefer Messenger to texting.
These days, you can even order a pizza or an Uber ride through the messenger app with just a few clicks. Even if you don’t like Facebook, it’s almost impossible to not have an account. It’s immersive, it’s nearly a social necessity and it’s not going anywhere.
Facebook has typically been a social media platform to break new ground in the industry and Facebook Spaces is no exception. Facebook Spaces, the first big venture of social media into virtual reality, is a big deal, and we’re going to take a closer look at what it means for the future of marketing.
What is Facebook Spaces?
Facebook Spaces is Facebook’s virtual reality app. Within the app, the user will create an avatar based on an actual photo of themselves. You can visit friends and interact with certain types of immersive Facebook content.
In Facebook Spaces, for example, 360 videos take on a new meaning. It feels like you’re really, actually there. Facebook Spaces prioritizes experiences, emphasizing the ability to have a virtual but almost-like-you’re-really-here meeting with friends and to relive Facebook memories from your feed.
Currently, the app is available for users with Oculus virtual reality devices.
What Does This Mean for Marketing?
With Facebook Spaces, Facebook has given us a great example of what an immersive virtual reality app looks like for social media. Unlike some other virtual reality apps, Facebook Spaces emphasizes the kinds of experiences—both past and present—that Millennials love to share.
The actual Facebook-centered features, on the other hand, seem to only exist to enhance the users’ experience, with features like abilities to share past memories and an integration with the messenger app.
Virtual reality and augmented reality (which use small slivers of virtual reality) are rapidly growing fields and Facebook Spaces is a powerful reminder of that. Users are demanding that both social sites and marketing become more personalized and this is just another step in that direction.
With Facebook Spaces, hotels, theme parks like Disney, or even a conference like Social Media Marketing World can readily use virtual reality to take users through their properties and events. Instead of just seeing a 3-picture carousel ad with a few snapshots of the Bahamas, users can feel like they’re really there.
Similarly, stores like Home Depot could use virtual reality tools to help users see what that kitchen remodel would actually look like. Realtors can show houses in a whole new way and a landscaping company could show you the true beauty of their most recent projects.
Limited Accessibility: A Potential Drawback of VR
Right now, there is a limited accessibility to virtual reality, both for users and businesses. The Oculus Rift + Touch (the headset and handsets) cost $598 USD. This is a big price tag for what—right now—is a luxury and nonessential item.
Eventually, as the technology advances, the price may drop slightly. However, as apps like Facebook Spaces expand the uses and potential of virtual reality, devices like Oculus Rift will become more “necessary” and commonplace. iPhones, after all, easily cost upwards of $600 and people line up to buy the new version every year.
With virtual reality, we’re at the beginning of a familiar technology cycle.
At first, TVs were a luxury, and then everyone had one. The same happened with computers, and then cell phones, and then—yes—smart phones.
For now, Facebook Spaces has to work around this limitation. Within the app, users can click on Messenger to video chat with users on their mobile devices. This allows them to interact with other users, even if the people they’re interacting with don’t have VR. It’s not quite the same, but it’s a smart move.
It’s also worth noting that it will definitely be more expensive to create and maintain virtual reality apps than mobile apps. You’re creating a world—not just a site design—and you’ll need developers and designers that are trained in virtual reality. Right now, many businesses would benefit more from focusing on augmented reality, which is more accessible to users and often doesn’t require an actual virtual reality device.
Marketing in the World of Virtual Reality
Virtual reality will almost certainly become increasingly accessible to both users and the businesses marketing to them. In the meantime, many B2C businesses can—and should—be focusing on augmented reality.
A huge advantage of augmented reality is that it doesn’t require the user to purchase anything they don’t already have. Plenty of smart phones already have the ability to use apps that utilize augmented reality.
For example, Audi has an AR-enabled car manual, which can give instant trouble-shooting help. Similarly, IKEA’s AR app lets users see what furniture would look like in their own home and Converse’s Shoe Sampler app lets users see how different shoes will look on their feet. You can purchase right through the app for added convenience.
Altogether, if you’re thinking about marketing in the virtual reality space, it’s a good idea to start with augmented reality. The audiences are quite a bit larger and it’s a good way to test out the viability of your ideas as we make the shift to full VR.
Virtual reality and augmented reality can offer the kind of immersive experiences that users—especially Millennial users—love. Facebook Spaces gives us a look into how VR can center and prioritize the user experience while still keeping a product relevant.
While augmented reality will likely stay more prevalent and beneficial in marketing for the time being, it will be interesting to see how more businesses use full-on virtual reality in the next decade to revolutionize marketing.
What do you think? Have you tried Facebook Spaces? Do you have a virtual reality device? If not, are you thinking about getting one? Let us know in the comments below!
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