Interest in virtual reality technology is virtually non-existent among the vast majority of Americans, according to consumer research released by Horizon Media. The study, which surveyed 3,000 people online, found that two-thirds of Americans are either unaware of or don’t care about having VR technology.
The research shows that despite extensive media coverage of Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard and other virtual reality devices, fully two thirds of consumers are unaware of the technology.
But the Early Adopters are fully aware! Retailers should target the 14.6% of Americans who consider themselves to be on the cutting edge. AudienceSCAN found 40.5% of Early Adopters are women.
Virtual reality – often referred to as "VR" – has been readily embraced by the mainstream media as the shiny, new, technological advancement. Marketers are also understandably excited about the possibilities unleashed by VR technology. But while there is interest among consumers, the survey findings suggest that companies would be well served to walk before they run when incorporating virtual reality activations into marketing plans, at least until the technology reaches greater awareness and scale.
Consumers are open to a VR enhanced future, but believe it will take several more years to get there. Unaided awareness of the major devices is fairly low at just 33%. However, more than a third (36%) say they are interested in owning some sort of virtual reality device. In addition Horizon's Distillery social intelligence team found that 9% of online discussion around the topic is related to positive purchase interest. In fact, compared to the Apple Watch before its release, VR got much more love from Finger on the Pulse panelists. Twice as many consumers consider VR "an exciting new innovation to own" (82% for VR vs. 44% for Apple Watch), and twice as many say "everyone is going to wish they owned one" (55% for VR vs. 24% for Apple Watch). A strong majority of consumers (81%) also believe that five years from now, anywhere from a quarter to half of the population will own a VR device.
AudienceSCAN reported 55.5% of Early Adopters purchased something online on Cyber Monday (Monday after Thanksgiving), so that's a great vehicle for launching new product campaigns!
When it comes to exactly what people want to use VR for, Finger on the Pulse survey respondents listed travel, viewing infrequent live events (like the Olympics and SXSW), seeing concerts, and playing sports as their top interests. Interestingly, gaming and viewing sporting events rank in the bottom two interests for the general population. However, online conversation tells a different story. In an analysis of VR related posts mentioning one of these same six use interest areas, gaming claimed a 93% share of the discussion, proving that gamers are by far the biggest drivers of online buzz.
"The research helps explain why gaming is the most likely first frontier for virtual reality devices," said Kirk Olson, VP, Trendsights at Horizon Media. "Core gamers aren't a large audience, but they're passionate about new technology. That makes them much more likely to pay for premium devices like Oculus Rift."
AudienceSCAN revealed Early Adopters are 66% more likely than average shoppers to want to buy things that help them feel "current (up with the times)" in the next year.
Horizon's Distillery team found that 10% of negative conversation about virtual reality devices is connected to discussion about price, with many consumers saying the price of VR is prohibitive. The survey found that only one quarter (25%) of consumers are willing to spend more than $250 on a virtual reality device. Currently, Oculus Rift is priced at $599, while Samsung offers its Gear VR for $99 and Google Cardboard viewers are around $20.
"Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard are low-cost alternatives that lower the barrier to entry," continued Olson. "That benefits marketers because the sooner we see more consumers using VR devices, the sooner we'll understand what they're truly good for. Not just what they can do, but what they can do that consumers CARE about. The 'caring' part is the key to creating meaningful and effective consumer connections."
Show them what to care about in TV commercials. 53.7% of Early Adopters think TV gives them the most up-to-date information that's important to them, according to AudienceSCAN data.
Not surprisingly, younger men are the most eager VR consumers: they have higher interest in owning a VR device (47% of men vs. 25% of women; 54% of 18–34 year olds vs. 44% of 35–49, 25% of 50–64), are twice as likely to say they would pay $250+ (31% of men vs. 16% of women; 30% of under 50s vs. 15% of 50–64), and men are 3x as likely to have already tried VR technology (16% of men vs. 6% of women).
Still, there are some who may never be converted: 55% of those who say they don't want to own a VR device say it is because they "don't find it that interesting or exciting," and 34% say "If I want to have experiences, I can just go do them in real life."