Not too long ago, virtual and augmented reality seemed like exciting, but far off ideas. Fast forward to today and VR and AR tech is very real, and poised to explode —with 2016 expected to be the "tipping year" toward a $200 billion dollar industry by 2020

Where will your company be when that happens — leading the charge, or scrambling to catch up? 

'VR's For Gaming ...'

Some industries might not see an immediate need to jump on the VR/AR bandwagon. Virtual reality's immersive nature seems tailor-made for gaming and entertainment use cases on the consumer side, while high-risk training scenarios and medical education are great fits on the organization side. 

And though augmented reality's "real world plus" capabilities seem better suited to more everyday tasks — like shopping or mapping out home renovation plans — not enough companies are thinking ahead to how they too can incorporate these technologies into their businesses. 

But they should be, because so many areas are ripe for innovation, according to SAP's Senior Director of Social Business Innovation Kuhan Milroy and innovation leaders Brightidea, "'Especially like in marketing and sales. Those areas are just untapped. Nobody seems to think that finance is a place you should go to get innovative ideas.' But there’s no limit to where innovation can happen." 

VR and AR are two vehicles any organization can drive to the top of their industry — if they make the process of innovating toward these technologies a regular part of their business strategy now. 

Companies With Their Wagons Hitched to the VR Star

Two companies that have clearly made VR applications a priority appeared at last month's Collision Conference in New Orleans: YouVisit and KPMG

New York City-based YouVisit exists purely to serve the newly emerging virtual reality world. In addition to offering "one of the world's largest collections of interactive virtual reality content," its studio allows businesses and institutions to create their own "interactive VR experiences." 

Scroll through the options on its Explore page and take a 360-degree tour of just about anything from Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, to a Carnival Cruise, to Harvard College. If you have an Oculus Rift headset, you can experience the tours in VR — which, if you've never had the opportunity, is pretty mind-blowing. And a marketing dream.

On the less obvious end of the use case spectrum, is financial services firm KPMG — and this is where skeptics should pay attention. 

It might seem like there's no reason to strap on a Samsung Gear VR headset to view your household budget information, but that's where Helsinki-based KPMG brilliantly capitalizes on something not typically associated with financial planning …

The Fun Factor

VR is fun! Turning your head to line up a virtual "sight," opening an account folder as if you have laser vision, is way more fun than balancing your budget the "normal" way. As marketing tactics go, novelty is a solid one — as is making something unappealing suddenly seem like a blast. 

But that's not the only reason companies using VR could stand out over others. There's a correlation to embracing new tech and gaining or retaining business. 

Think about the stats on mobile load times as an example. According to Kissmetrics, "a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7 percent reduction in conversions." Or think about the way you react when you discover a business doesn't have a website at all. It's "onto the next one," wondering how the last is still in business. 

The time will come when VR and AR will be as important as social media is right now.  

Indeed, the marriage of social media and VR is already taking place. Mark Zuckerberg is working on bringing VR to Facebook, which is why the company invested 2 billion dollars in Oculus Rift:

"We are betting on two trends. First that people will always want more immersive ways to express themselves … I think, going forward, a lot of it is going to be videos, getting richer and richer … In the future, I think you are going to want to capture a whole scene, a room, to be able to transport to that. To be able to stream what you are doing live and have people be able to interact in that space." 

Entertainment, education, design, fashion — these industries and many more are already making strides at bringing people into their space to interact. This is smart, because latching onto VR and AR in the early days will give them a head start over businesses shrugging this tech off as "not for them."

Don't let your business be one of them. 

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Title image "Viking" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  lhl