While businesses continue to operate at reduced capacities, consumers are turning online in droves to get their fill of virtual experiences in lieu of traveling or learning a new skill in person. Savvy brands are paying attention and offering virtual experiences that consumers crave.

Getting online has been just the ticket to get us through the pandemic. We got on Zoom to stay connected to work, downloaded a mobile app to order burgers and added our groceries to a digital cart. As the times have swiftly changed, the breadth of online experiences has continued to grow to keep up with demand.

Check out a few of the stats we uncovered around virtual experiences, specifically, and VR in general that you’ll want to be aware of going forward:

  • Consumers will stay on a website with a virtual tour 5-10 times longer than those without.
  • By 2023, the virtual reality market is predicted to reach $34 billion globally.
  • The global VR gaming market alone is on target to exceed $52 billion by 2025 as content fuels growth.

It really is an exciting area for industry leaders to keep an eye on to see where your brand can find a fit. In that spirit we’ll explore what that looks like, including:

  • How virtual experiences are filling in the gaps in social interactions.
  • Soaring consumer sentiment around virtual travel.
  • Virtual experiences in the automotive industry.

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Virtual Experiences Have Become Everything

To make good use of downtime, consumers are flocking to brands that offer up unique experiences that enrich their lives. Airbnb is a great example of one of those brands that quickly shifted their focus to deliver fresh content to consumers and maintain viability in the process.

Understanding that recreational travel is still off the table for many, Airbnb’s online experiences allow consumers to connect with a multitude of inspiring content creators and learn a little something along the way. All of which can be enjoyed from the comfort of home.

Offerings cover a variety of interests from working out with a pro circus athlete to a Harry Potter virtual London walking tour, and everything in between.

It really is a brilliant marketing shift on their end that resonates with the curious and exploratory nature of their consumer base. And that certainly helps get the social traction moving in the right direction.

Airbnb experiences

Airbnb already had in-person consumer experiences available in addition to its short-term rental platform; but in sync with the times, it’s expanding the idea with its new digital version.

With the short-term rental market on standby for obvious reasons, their online content shift is a masterclass in actionable market intelligence that not only maintains, but strengthens the connection to their consumer base – and it’s a hit!

consumer reaction to airbnb virtual experiences

Here’s a look in the Quid platform at their global net sentiment around their online experiences showing what it looks like to market your brand into the green.

positive sentiment shared by consumers around airbnb virtual experiences

Consumer Sentiment Toward Virtual Travel Soars

Virtual reality (VR) tourism is another area that brands want to pay attention to, as it’s really hit the sweet spot with consumers. And since recreational travel really isn’t happening, it’s easy to see why they can’t get enough of VR.

There’s an explosion of immersive content coming online every day for consumers seeking a cure for their wanderlust. Or even just a salve to tide them over. And people are always quick to share their favorites, which offers brands an amazing consumer awareness boost:

influencer tweeting about virtual experiences

And the content is truly fascinating. You can explore the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City and then check out the Great Wall of China – all while you eat lunch. The sky is the limit regarding content, so it’s definitely a market where brands can lean in and leverage themselves creatively.

Here’s a snapshot of the online conversation around virtual tourism. As you can see, it’s densely packed with museum tours, national park offerings, virtual real estate and travel tours. And yes – even Buckingham Palace has an iron in this virtual tourism fire.

virtual tours available online

It’s truly a tantalizing space for consumers. And here’s where it gets interesting for brands: Check out the same graphic with the superimposed sentiment map below.

consumer sentiment around virtual tours

Sitting at 85% positive sentiment with only 2.1% negative, the virtual tourism space is capturing an incredible amount of positive engagement. And with consumers spending 5-10 times as long on a website hosting a virtual tour, it’s certainly worth getting your brand in on the conversation and collecting those financial incentives for doing so.

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Virtual Experiences in the Auto Industry 

And one area leading the way is the automotive industry. The way some brands in the automotive industry have leveraged the different shades of VR throughout the years has been a testament to immersive marketing and success.

You wouldn’t have been in the minority 10 years ago thinking that buying a car from a vending machine was a far-flung idea. Yet along came Carvana, and here we are.

Car manufacturers like Honda have been showing up in variety of video games for many years, of course:

Hondo as an early adopter for gaming

And brands have continued to push the envelope. For example, Volvo leveraged Google Cardboard’s foldable headset, coupled with a user’s phone to give the world its first immersive test-drive experience.

It was a brilliant marketing strategy that took the dealership to the customer in a new and creative way.

Volvo virtual test drive

That said, it was only a matter of time before the auto industry showcased their wares using the latest VR headset technology for the full immersive experience in car buying. And that’s exactly what RelayCars has done, with the introduction of their virtual showroom.

Relay Cars offering immersive virtual experience of car buying

Virtual Showrooms 

Using their augmented reality app on a user’s VR headset, they can choose from thousands of cars, check out the exterior and then jump in the driver’s seat for a 360-degree view of the interior.

Via their website, they explain their reasoning for expanding in the VR space sharing, “with over 1 billion AR users expected in 2020, RelayCars is staying ahead of the curve by recently launching an AR version of its popular, virtual showroom experience.”

And with the global virtual reality market expected to hit $34 billion by 2023, RelayCars is pushing into a lucrative market. And the timing couldn’t be better.

headsets to keep consumers engaged

As you’re well aware, the global pandemic has pushed brands online in creative ways to maintain both viability and visibility. Top brands are leaving no stone unturned in the VR department – and neither should you.

As a matter of fact, we didn’t even cover the blossoming VR gaming market which alone is expected to surpass $52 billion in 2025. The brand opportunities are immense, to say the least.

With virtual experiences in one form or another capturing such positive net sentiment, it should be on every marketer’s wish list for their next campaign. Where does your brand fit in the VR conversation?

Social listening analytics powered by the next generation artificial intelligence (AI) in NetBase Quid helps leading brands spot their inroads to emerging markets every day. There’s no time like the present to reach out for a personalized demo and see how VR and other emerging trends look for your brand!

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