Why China may be the next big virtual reality market
Virtual reality has already begun to change the way we buy products, consume entertainment and even the way that we educate.
The potential returns in this sector are immense, and I believe one of the biggest business opportunity created by this technology is in the lucrative Chinese market. China’s growing and affluent middle class have already embraced mobile technology and eCommerce.
They are now ready to welcome the VR revolution, creating exciting new opportunities across a range of sectors.
Virtual reality headsets are of course the key to taking this technology to the mass market. While dedicated headsets such as the Oculus Rift are the most obvious examples of ways to enjoy VR, these require input from a PC.
Therefore, what will provide the greatest impetus to the use of VR in China are smartphone-enclosure headsets. Affordable to the mass market, these convert a mobile device into a virtual reality experience.
Google and Samsung already sell these, and the major Chinese producer Xiaomi is preparing to release its own.
With smart phone penetration rate growing rapidly in China (China sold 457 million smartphones in 2015, up 17.7% year on year), smart phone friendly VR technology surely has great potential.
As VR hardware becomes increasingly accessible to the market, content available via this technology will increase exponentially.
Education, education, education
In China in particular, there will be a huge market for education-focused content.
Virtual reality creates a medium that can provide immersive education across China’s expansive geography, reaching regions which otherwise would not benefit from high-level teaching.
VR can provide remote tutorials, in-depth training in mechanical and medical procedures, or teach industrial workers how to operate complicated machinery.
From a commercial perspective, the beauty of this is that the physical teaching can transmit from any corner of the globe, meaning that international education companies and start-ups have access to new markets in China through the simple medium of VR hardware.
With regards to entertainment, VR can introduce consumers to experiences they might never have considered or enjoyed due to their seemingly daunting barriers to entry. Virtual reality does not discriminate on the basis of age, financial ability, ability or geography and this is its most appealing aspect.
In China, it will expand the horizons of consumers to enjoy international entertainment content, live shows, fashion shows and exhibitions. In this way, there is a huge opportunity for businesses seeking to use VR to market brands and create brand awareness via entertainment.
VR will make the Chinese market so much more accessible for UK and other international tech businesses
Another advantage of VR is the ability to enjoy live events at which one cannot be physically present from the comfort of your own home.
This not only benefits the viewer, but also allows organisers and promoters to exponentially increase the size of their audience at concerts, music festivals, and games without having to change the venue or worrying about capacity limitations or financial constraints.
As one of the largest global entertainment markets, China will be hugely important to making live VR entertainment a success across the world.
New eCommerce frontiers.
eCommerce and VR
In terms of eCommerce, virtual reality allows consumers to immerse themselves in shopping experience and examine products more realistically than if they were buying online.
The Chinese eCommerce market was worth over 3.877 trillion yuan (US$589.61bn) in 2015 and this figure is only set to increase as virtual reality improves the online shopping experience.
In this respect, advances in eye tracking technology will allow ultra-targeted advertising: a device could notice a viewer’s longing gaze at an article of clothing, and allow them to purchase it directly or send an email advertising a deal on the item for later perusal.
Virtual reality shopping could be merged with the consumption of entertainment content too.
Imagine sitting at home watching a TV series or movie and seeing something you like – a glamorous dress, a pair of shoes, a watch – and by clicking on the item, just like that, it’s delivered to you.
Wearing augmented reality or VR headsets, a little yellow dot will appear on every item available to buy in any given scene. This is taking the product placement concept to the next level because viewers can see and buy immediately.
Given that the Chinese market is already the largest market for eCommerce, these new methods of targeting will revolutionise the way consumers in this market purchase products.
For these reasons and more, VR will make the Chinese market so much more accessible for UK and other international tech businesses. I really believe in the potential of VR and think that it is a good investment. I have no doubt it is the future.
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