The first thing that comes to a consumer’s mind when asked about virtual reality (VR) often involves gaming.
Why? Because virtual reality is used to describe a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment that can be explored by a person. That person is immersed in a space where they are able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.
The virtual reality technology buzz, whether in content or hardware, is projected to be worth $80 billion by 2025 globally, while gaming unsurprisingly will make up the largest share of an estimated value of $11.6 billion.
But the application of virtual reality is not limited to only video games. According to Jirayod Theppipit, CEO and Founder of Infofed, a VR content development startup, virtual reality can be used as a marketing strategy in almost every area.
“Dare we say that virtual reality is the future of content? The experience VR offers can solve the pain points of businesses in almost every industry.”
“People often associate virtual reality with gaming and we can’t blame them. Consumers in the gaming segment have the ability to afford new technology and gadgets,” continues Jirayod. “This is why they’ve adopted virtual reality before others.”
Instead of scrambling to compete in an already crowded gaming market overtaken by virtual reality gaming content creators like VRX, Infofed sees a blue ocean in real estate for virtual reality content in Thailand.
“I know this technology is going to take off because big players like Facebook and Google have already jumped into it.”
Two years ago, Facebook invested $2 billion into VR technology to promote its own VR headset Oculus and only earlier this year, Apple launched ‘ARKit’ to turn its iPhones and iPads into AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) devices.
IKEA has already jumped on board with its new app, IKEA Place.
The highly affluential Chinese shoppers have also taken a liking to VR based on a survey by Worldpay, which has been a strong indicator of how content will be consumed in the future.
Phil Pomford, General Manager for Asia Pacific at Worldpay, says,
“China is blazing a trail for VR/AR adoption and showing other Asia Pacific markets what the future could look like…with China leading the way, Asian businesses should start investigating the future of VR/AR technology now, so that they’re ready to meet consumer demands as and when they arise.”
84% of 16,000 consumers surveyed across Asia Pacific believe that AR/VR is the future of shopping, 92% say they’d like to see more retail apps make use of AR/VR – Worldpay.
But for a nascent market like Thailand, can virtual reality successfully take off?
Infofed believes it already has.
ecommerceIQ speaks with Jirayod to understand how the two-year old startup has utilized VR in industries like tourism and education and what it has learned from its latest project, real estate.
Giving a slow-moving industry an upgrade
The current real estate industry in Thailand is experiencing slowing growth but the number of new condominium units are set to rise 15% from 2016.
To sell units, typical marketing tools often include flashy brochures with heavily photoshopped photos and miniature models in an attempt to give homebuyers a glimpse of the expensive home they should buy.
Higher-end real-estate developers will also set up a physical showroom for visitors to experience the ambience of the unit, but this requires travel and more effort than today’s digitalized world is used to.
“Because my background is in architecture, I can understand the blueprints and engineering language that the marketing material contains but there are many people who are confused by it. The current content in brochures and on websites aren’t extremely helpful for consumers who want to properly ‘experience’ the product.”
Through VR content, Infofed believes that its content can help developers market its products to consumers. What better way for someone to experience their new home than to actually walk through it?
The company has already worked together with Nirvana Property, one of the leading developers in Thailand, to showcase its showroom through virtual reality content.
Consumers are able to view the showroom in 360 degrees, simply through their electronic devices without the need of a virtual reality headset.
According to Jirayod, consumers on average spend up to five minutes viewing a VR showroom whereas they spend no more than two minutes flipping through a brochure.
“The longer consumers spend on our content, the more interest they develop in the product and reflects on a higher rate of purchase.”
The appeal of VR can also save real estate companies money to build and dismantle their showrooms – especially in trade shows and exhibitions. From Jirayod’s past architectural experience, building a showroom has an average cost of $60K for condominiums and $200K for houses.
Creating VR content, on the other hand, can start as low as $1,500 at Infofed according to Jirayod.
New age but in demand
Despite North America being the current leader in VR content market with a share of 73.4% in 2016, Asia Pacific is forecasted to exhibit higher growth.
Transparency Market Research has forecasted that this region will see an exponential CAGR of 116.1% between 2016 and 2024.
But in order to capture the opportunity VR presents, Infofed is committed to educating Thai consumers about new technology and training the people necessary to create VR content. One way it has done so is by creating content for influential industry players like the Tourism Authority of Thailand and leading real estate companies.
“It’s important that we help create build an ecosystem for virtual reality content. I have never viewed other virtual reality players as competitors but instead as partners to together push this technology out.”
Infofed has also brought in experts from the US through partnerships to equip its local staff with sufficient virtual reality knowledge to produce content. It’s also sharing its own experiences at top universities to educate the incoming digital-savvy workforce.
All of the company’s efforts come down to one goal – to make Thailand a virtual reality society, even if it’s not fully ready now.