Best Buy Demos Virtual Reality
If you're not a gamer, you probably haven't experienced some of the new virtual reality platforms like Oculus and PlayStation Virtual Reality (VR). It's a big challenge for brands and retailers alike, as they try to find ways to allow consumers to try out the headsets before the holiday shopping season. Andrea Schubert, communications manager with Oculus, says, "virtual reality is incredibly immersive and provides an incredible sense of presence, which can be hard for people to imagine without a demo."
According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, Best Buy is looking to be a "destination" for virtual reality technology. The retailer started offering Oculus Rift demos at 48 stores in May, and today shoppers can try Rift headsets and Touch controllers at hundreds of Best Buy locations. The demos give users a chance to come face-to-face with dinosaurs or share the court with NBA superstars like LeBron James. Previous attempts to launch virtual reality platforms flopped, but with today's improved technology and a wider range of price points, it's now more accessible, according to Ben Arnold, consumer electronics analyst with The NPD Group.
In a review of Market Track's advertising data, we're even starting to see some television ads for virtual reality platforms. The spot below illustrates the experience of the Star Wars Battlefront Rogue game on PlayStation VR. We see how players will find themselves in the cockpit of an X-Wing aircraft, executing a mission for the Rebellion. The commercial launched just before the start of the critical holiday shopping season on Oct. 6, with 467 occurrences so far. The ad also partners PlayStation with "Star Wars," one of the more anticipated movie releases of the year.
Despite a positive outlook for the future, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly remains realistic, saying he doesn't expect virtual reality to influence sales too much this year. Joly sites that the technology is "early in the cycle" and that there are still some limitations around availability. However, the VR demos could do a lot in the way of increasing foot traffic to Best Buy stores this holiday season. According to Market Track’s 2016 Shopper Insight Series Survey, a significant portion of consumers choose to make purchases in-store because they value the ability to see and try the product in person. This was the second-most common response, trailing behind the ability to get the product immediately
Additionally, the survey data shows us that once consumers enter a store, they're very likely to make purchases. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that they make purchases every time or more than half of the time when shopping in-store. As e-commerce becomes easier, more convenient and increasingly trustworthy, it’s getting harder to incentivize shoppers into stores. Many retailers have turned to creating experiences that shoppers can only enjoy if they come into a physical location — experiences like VR demos. The survey tells us that purchases are a natural byproduct of an in-store trip. Finding a formula that gets people there is the challenge.
Beyond driving extra traffic into its stores, Best Buy is also investing in its future success with the VR demos. Forrester Research analysts estimate that U.S. consumer demand for midrange and high-end virtual reality technology will reach 24 million by 2020. Compare that number to just 2.4 million this year, and we see that there's plenty of room to grow in the years to come. The fact that these products are so reliant on experiences creates an opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy.
Dan Muller is a marketing specialist at Market Track, a company that monitors creative advertising across all channels, as well as print and digital promotional data throughout the U.S. and Canada, giving advertisers the ability to track competitive activity.