Marketing tools are constantly changing and for me working in the project marketing space this is an exciting part of our industry. The internet and email marketing have had a huge impact as we continue to see press advertising shrink and now I’m wondering what impact virtual reality will have, will VR and AR be the next big moves in the digital marketing environment.

Will every project soon have to have a virtual offer as part of the marketing package, will a virtual experience take away the need for a sales and display centre, or will the sales team even need to leave the office?

Let’s Explore the Virtual World

Walking down Sydney’s George Street recently, I passed by a very prominent department store and its prime frontage was taken up with an impressive electronics retailer. Inside I could see a gentleman wearing VR gear, very animated and looking a bit dizzy, but apparently having a great time.

Maybe he was climbing Mount Everest, surfing in Hawaii, or slaying a dragon, who knows but all three are possible. So that got me thinking more about VR and property marketing.

First a few steps back to a definition of terms. Virtual reality (VR) devices are headsets sort of like glasses, inside the headset there are screens displaying 3D images. The very clever VR headset tracks your head movement, and the 3D images moves according. So that it does appear you are ‘inside’ a 3D ‘virtual’ world, be that Mount Everest of in the waves of Hawaii or fighting dragons.

VR first grew out of video games thanks to Sega and Nintendo. VR headsets are now generally available with current sales sitting around a modest 12 million but set to grow to 50 million plus over the next few years. Which looks a conservative figure.

Then we have Augmented reality AR. With AR the glasses are see-through and you still see the world around you, but an image is displayed in front of your eyes, for example a new building sits in an established area. That’s something we’ve seen as an option for some years.

AR became much more familiar thanks Google Glass (which displays 2D images) and more recently with plans from Microsoft for an upcoming product that embeds 3D images in the world around you. There’s also reports that Apple are working in the area.

Facebook is also working on a VR app to make the technology accessible without using a special headset. Facebook is looking to add the VR app focused on 360-degree videos that work by tilting your smart-phone. Locally Ebay and Myer have plans to use VR for on-line shopping.

So with big names like that behind it and with billion of dollars being invested, I think there’s little doubt that VR and AR will become common and everyday tools for marketing all sorts of products and that includes property.

A Big Shift in Marketing

I’ve seen comments that many industry leaders in advertising suggest that VR are key technologies for the next few years. If VR hardware continues to become more user-friendly that looks a sure bet.

We have implemented VR on a few of our recent projects to great success. Whilst some projects used VR in conjunction with a full sales suite, others we used in replacement. How soon it becomes an everyday property marketing tool I’m not sure, but all aspects of VR is really very interesting and I think it’s easy to suggest that like the importance of good web sites VR could be game-changing.

Development cost and the associated software will be a key issue and I think that we will see costs fall as the technology spreads, that’s always been the pattern. Still it’s important to keep in mind the that quality of any virtual marketing will still rely upon quality content and base assets.

If I stop and think about the options, it’s phenomenal and real estate is an obvious application. Projects could be presented anywhere in the world – with the right headset potential buyers would have an unlimited experience of the project, the location and individual apartments.

Software development remains the key and we need to keep in mind the amount of sentient that would have to be in place to create the full VR experience, but it’s an exciting idea for the next few years, that we’ll keep an eye on.