With every huge technological shift in society, there are early adopters who are a step ahead of the masses. These are the people who figure out how to use new technological trends as a part of their business. Think social media. Or mobile applications. Or viral videos. Or the internet in general. These all became indispensable and relatively inexpensive tools to marketing teams who were savvy enough to make them work. And then there are the people who jump on the train too late. They hire someone to manage their social media accounts well after their competitors did. They constantly try to catch up instead of trying new approaches. Don’t let this happen to you with the next trend, which may very well be virtual reality. If you still think of VR as the pipe dream of gamers, it’s time to catch up quickly or be left behind. In the next four years, this skyrocketing industry is expected to be worth an estimated $30 billion in revenue. (Image by Rutgers University) This isn’t just good news for potential investors, but to anybody who owns a business. With a seemingly ever-growing population of developers, virtual reality boasts an endless number of uses both recreational and practical. We’re changing up the way buyers experience NZ F&B with #virtualreality via @StopPressNZ | https://t.co/yE1aMjO9zb pic.twitter.com/BbTGV7bNy6 — NZTE (@NZTEnews) May 9, 2016 Marketing, in particular, is an industry that has been hit by this VR wave. By conducting new research on how consumers choose products as well as providing an opportunity for people to interact with products without leaving their house, VR is revolutionizing how marketing works. Market Research A product’s design is one of the most important factors in how people perceive it. An eye-catching logo, for instance, will draw attention away from comparable products. Exactly what “eye-catching” means has been hard to pin down, but eye-tracking technology in VR changes that. Thanks to VR, For the first time researchers can observe a consumer’s eye movement to determine exactly what they are looking at. This provides insight into the psychology of shopping that not even the consumers themselves are aware of. What parts of the product do people tend to notice first? What information should go there? How long do they spend looking at one product versus another? What details do they pay the most attention to? Knowing the answers to these questions is essential to designing a product people will want to buy, and eye-tracking VR technology is the most comprehensive way to find those answers. This can also be helpful to retailers, especially when it comes to display setup and placement of products. AXE body wash received a product redesign after eye-tracking research found the bottle to be unappealing. Behavioral studies experts, Informed Decisions Group, have a video demo-ing similar research in a Safeway: In it, you can see how rapidly a given shopper’s focus shifts from product to product. (Image by Rutgers University) Virtual Shopping You might be wondering, “In the age of online shopping, does making attractive products even matter?” If people are simply looking at a list of products, what they look like wouldn’t matter, right? Wrong. As virtual reality becomes more accessible to consumers, online shopping will be changed forever. Products like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Cardboard allow you to place your smartphone into a headset and experience virtual reality at little extra cost. Shared from @mattscanna: Three days with #gearvr and I’m already a believer #virtualreality #vr #oculus #goodbyerealworld A photo posted by @oculus on Mar 25, 2016 at 10:41am PDT Shopping apps, like Retale, are exploring the possibilities of virtual marketplaces where customers can look at shelves, pick up products, inspect them, put them in the cart, or put them away, all without needing to wait in lines or even leave their house at all. .@Retale turning heads with this application of #VR tech. Read more about virtual commerce here: https://t.co/If6KP8HZbv — Manatt Digital Media (@ManattDM) December 22, 2015 This could be a key tool in marketing to that ever-confusing, tech-savvy demographic marketers theorize so much about: millennials. With the convenience and money-saving opportunities of shopping online meeting the visual and interactive aspects of going to a store, young people’s interest is bound to be piqued. Of course, if your product or service isn’t available in a typical retail store there are still ways to get in on the VR game. 360 degree cameras allow you to film a virtual walkthrough of your shop or other work space giving potential customers a preview of what to expect on their first time in. Our friend @photosofafrica demoing his #360heros gear at @photokina in #Germany! A great reception for Chris and our gear with exciting adventures to come! #photokina #photokina2014 #GoPro #GoPro360 A photo posted by 360Heros (@360heros) on Sep 30, 2014 at 11:25am PDT Like any other new technology, virtual reality will continue to grow and be used in new, unexpected ways. Becoming an early adopter lets you stay ahead of the competition and gain attention from people who may have overlooked your business. How do you feel about virtual reality? Do you plan to incorporate it into your marketing strategy? Written by Dylan Ellison Dylan Ellison is a freelance writer from Boise, ID with a focus on business, technology, and music.