Blog VR and AR for mobile marketing: A new wo...

VR and AR for mobile marketing: A new world of potential

As virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) become increasingly accessible, the line between the digital and real world continues to blur. The global extended reality (XR) market, which encompasses virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (MR), is expected to exceed $100 billion by 2026 after reaching $29.26 billion in 2022.

Smart marketers have been quick to adopt VR and AR in their campaigns due to the immersive, interactive experiences they can offer users. The mobile augmented reality market was valued at $17 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow to $36 billion by 2026. Virtual and augmented reality can help improve brand awareness, personalization, and user engagement when used effectively.

In this article, we delve into what virtual reality and augmented reality are, explore the benefits and challenges of these technologies, explain how they work, and provide some inspiration on how to incorporate them into your marketing campaigns.

VR & AR defined

Defining virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality

What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality is a three-dimensional computer-generated environment designed to look and feel real, allowing users to immerse in and interact with their surroundings fully. This immersive experience is created using virtual reality headsets or helmets such as Meta Quest 2, PlayStation VR2, and the Valve Index VR Kit.

The emergence of the Metaverse as the next iteration of the internet has fuelled the VR industry, with increased headset shipments and sales of VR apps and games. While gaming is the most popular use for VR headsets, there are many other exciting opportunities available. For instance, VR apps and experiences are being developed for social interactions, fitness, mindfulness, movies, and storytelling.

Fulldive is one standout example of a VR mobile app, boasting over 10 million downloads on Google Play. It is a user-generated social platform that lets users access hundreds of VR apps in one app. With Fulldive, you can do more than just play VR games. You can browse and stream 360-degree videos and connect with friends.

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What is augmented reality?

augmented reality is a technology that creates an immersive experience by seamlessly integrating virtual information such as text, graphics, and audio with real-world objects in real-time. It combines digital and physical worlds, allowing free movement and accurately identifying 3D virtual and real objects. Unlike virtual reality, which replaces your vision, augmented reality enhances it.

One of the most popular examples of augmented reality is Pokemon GO, the location-based augmented reality mobile game, which uses your phone's camera to track your surroundings and overlay additional information. As of January 2022, Pokemon GO has generated over 678 million downloads worldwide. Additionally, smart glasses like the Google HoloLens enable you to place floating app windows and 3D decorations in your surroundings, enhancing your visual experience.

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What is mobile AR?

Mobile augmented reality (MAR) combines the virtual and physical worlds using smartphones and tablets, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities. As mobile devices become more powerful and affordable and recent hardware advancements like mobile projection devices are introduced, the potential of mobile AR continues to grow. The mobile AR market is expected to reach $36 billion by 2026, with the number of mobile AR user devices expected to grow to 1.7 billion by 2024.

Today, many smartphones come with built-in AR apps, such as Samsung mobile phones' AR Zone, which offers exciting features like AR Emoji and AR Doodle. Third-party apps like Snapchat and Google Translate also provide AR capabilities.

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What is the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality?

It’s important to understand that augmented and virtual reality are distinct technologies. While virtual reality immerses users in an entirely digital world, augmented reality overlays the real world with digital enhancements. Unlike virtual reality, which often requires headset devices, augmented reality can be accessed with a smartphone.

Despite all the hype around virtual reality, augmented reality is taking the marketing world by storm. A recent survey shows that 61% of consumers prefer retailers who provide AR experiences. Additionally, 71% of shoppers reported that they would visit stores more frequently if they offered AR technology. With smartphones and cameras now widely available and affordable, augmented reality is set to become increasingly prevalent in the advertising market, with predictions that it will reach $4.3 billion by 2023. Virtual reality is also growing, with its advertising market forecasted to reach $161 million by the end of this year.

Mixed reality: A combination of VR and AR

Virtual and augmented reality were once distinct concepts, but they merged to create a new reality-shifting technology known as mixed reality. By incorporating augmented reality aspects into VR headsets, mixed reality offers users the best of both worlds. From Instagram or Snapchat filters to virtual makeup applications and furniture fitting, mixed reality has become an excellent marketing and information delivery tool.

Mixed reality may become the norm in the near future with the launch of Apple's Vision Pro. Unlike traditional augmented reality glasses, this mixed reality headset can display both virtual and augmented reality content. When the user puts on the Vision Pro, the device completely covers their eyes and blocks out the surroundings. The exterior and interior cameras then work together to map the space around the user and project the real world back to them. So, even though the user is not looking at what's around them through see-through glasses, they can still see an accurate picture of their real-world environment.

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Virtual reality in practice

How virtual reality works

Virtual reality technology is constantly evolving, providing users with increasingly immersive experiences. Creating great VR experiences requires expert knowledge of various complex tools and techniques. If you're up for the challenge, here are a few key aspects you need to consider before diving in:

  • Platforms and SDKs: When creating a VR experience, one of the most crucial steps is selecting the right platform and software development kit (SDK). The deployment platform plays a vital role in the development process, so it's essential to choose wisely. Luckily, excellent VR platforms like XboxVR, SteamVR, and Oculus Home work right out of the box. Users don't need extra software, can ensure consistent performance, and provide the best possible VR experience.
  • Game engines: Virtual worlds are supported by game engines and VR engines, which render and store the visual and data components we see. Some powerful engines include Nvidia's Havok, Unity's Game Studio, Unreal Engine, and Gear VR's Unity3D. With the rise of virtual reality, game engines have become more accessible, and many free options are available. These engines can be integrated with platform-specific SDKs, and their functionality can be tailored using various APIs.
  • Frameworks and libraries: To create a VR experience, choose the right frameworks and libraries. One option is WebVR, a JavaScript API that simplifies the creation of 3D experiences. WebVR works with many VR devices, including HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, and Google Daydream. The WebVR API runs in the web browser, creating a smooth VR experience. By using WebGL and WebVR, the application code and hardware communicate in real time for graphics rendering.
  • Design and prototype tools: Design is crucial for creating an excellent VR experience. To achieve this, prototype the VR experience for testing and validation. This allows testing attributes such as 360-degree view, sense of scale and depth, sensor usage, and viewer's position. Create prototypes using software like Google Blocks or Sketch. Prototyping helps developers gain insight into creating VR animations and lay a strong foundation for a successful VR application.
  • Hardware: Developing a VR experience requires hardware considerations. The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are great options with sensor units and minimum requirements. Other VR hardware types include consoles, mobile headsets, and haptic feedback suits.

Three types of virtual reality

Here’s a breakdown of the three primary types of virtual reality that you can use for your campaigns:

  • Non-immersive: Non-immersive virtual reality is a popular VR type that uses a computer or video game console to create an environment. Users can interact with the virtual world and their physical surroundings. It lets users control activities without direct interaction, such as video games where they can engage with the virtual world without touching it.
  • Semi-immersive: Semi-immersive VR provides a unique virtual experience that allows users to explore a digital world with VR glasses. This technology uses high-resolution sensors to create a realistic environment often used for pilot training in flight simulators.
  • Fully immersive: Fully immersive VR is an advanced simulation that engages all the senses to provide a lifelike experience. It completely transports users to virtual worlds where they can experience events firsthand. With body detectors, VR headsets, and gloves, users can interact with digital environments in an immersive way.

Augmented reality in practice

How augmented reality works

At its core, AR simply detects specific markers, such as a user's face, and overlays digital assets onto what the camera is capturing. However, creating impressive AR experiences for iOS and Android audiences can be challenging. Fortunately, tools are available to make the process easier and help you create compelling AR content.

  • Apple ​​ARKit: Apple's ARKit is an SDK for iOS devices that lets developers integrate AR experiences into their apps using the device's camera, processors, and motion sensors. It tracks the iPhone's or iPad’s movement using Visual Inertial Odometry, which detects horizontal planes like floors and tables and analyzes the room's layout. ARKit comes with various tools from Apple, such as RealityKit, RoomPlan, Reality Composer, and Reality Converter.
  • Google ARCore: Google has also developed ARCore, which uses APIs to enable a user’s mobile sensors to detect its environment and interact with information. This includes motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. To allow shared AR experiences, some of the APIs used are available across Android and iOS.
  • Vuforia: Vuforia is a leading augmented reality SDK that offers an extensive range of features. These include text recognition, 2D and 3D object recognition, 3D geometric map construction, conversion of static augmented photos into motion films, cloud and on-device storage, and much more. It also offers a barcode functionality called VuMarks.

Two types of augmented reality.

Here’s a breakdown of the main types of augmented reality available to mobile marketers:

  • Marker-based: This type of AR uses a device's camera to identify visual markers like barcodes or QR codes to provide information about the object on the screen. For marker-based AR to work, the image captured by the camera must have distinct points that can be marked.
  • Markerless: Markerless AR utilizes a camera to recognize environmental patterns and motion sensors to detect surfaces and place 3D objects. This involves various technologies, including GPS and other location tools, digital compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, and depth sensors. The latest devices are equipped with depth-sensing hardware such as LiDAR and ToF to enhance precision. In addition to this positioning data, markerless AR is also powered by machine learning algorithms. This results in a more accurate rendering of 3D content and creates the illusion that digital objects are part of the real world. Markerless AR is one of the most widely used types of augmented reality and has been used for try-on solutions like the IKEA Place app.

VR & AR marketing

Six examples of VR and AR in marketing campaigns

If you need some inspiration on how to use VR and AR for your marketing campaigns, here are some of the latest examples:


Nike partnered with Roblox Metaverse to create a virtual world called Nikeland. This virtual world features Nike buildings, fields, and arenas where players can compete in various mini-games, such as tag and dodgeball. The virtual space is modeled after the company's real-life headquarters. Players with accelerometers in their mobile devices can use real-world movements to power their online play, enhancing the experience. Additionally, the virtual space includes a showroom where players can purchase Nike's latest digital products for their avatars.

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Samsung’s 837X

Samsung has created its virtual world called 837X, which takes inspiration from its flagship store in New York City. Since its inception, this virtual world has transformed, featuring a custom-made quest called "You Make It," allowing you to craft your own path. The adventure consists of intricately designed and colorful landscapes. Additionally, three characters accompany the users on their journey.

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Gucci Town

Luxury fashion house Gucci recently entered the Roblox Metaverse with the launch of Gucci Town. This virtual world serves as a hub for fashion enthusiasts, offering a variety of experiences, such as exploring the town, learning about the brand's rich history, and connecting with like-minded people. Gucci Town stands out for its interactive elements, including mini-games to entertain visitors, art exhibitions that can be browsed at leisure, and a Gucci store offering bespoke clothing for avatars. Once purchased, avatars can wear these clothes, sparking conversations and generating interest in the unique items on display.

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L'Oréal’s Makeup Genius

L'Oreal launched Makeup Genius, one of the first-ever virtual mirror apps to enhance the customer experience. The app accurately tracks each user's unique facial features using VR and AR technology to apply virtual makeup flawlessly in real time. With Makeup Genius, users can virtually experiment with various makeup looks, explore pre-selected styles, and receive personalized recommendations and alerts for new L'Oreal products.

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IKEA’s Place app

In 2018, IKEA launched an innovative AR app called IKEA Place. This app allows customers to visualize IKEA's products in their spaces before purchasing. Utilizing advanced object recognition technology and lidar sensors, IKEA Place can detect physical objects in a room, such as faucets, windows, hallways, and furniture, and superimpose digital images of IKEA products onto them. Additionally, customers can snap pictures of any furniture they come across, and the app will suggest similar IKEA products. With IKEA Place, customers can see how IKEA's products look in their homes and easily make better purchasing decisions.

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Google x Disney x Lucasfilm

Google partnered with Disney and Lucasfilm to develop "The Mandalorian" AR experience, an Android app allowing users to view famous scenes from the show in augmented reality. With this app, viewers can follow in the Mandalorian's footsteps, interact with characters, and share their own scenes with friends. Google utilized the ARCore platform to create more immersive scenes that interact with the user's surroundings, making the experience even more engaging. The ARCore Depth API also enabled occlusion, allowing the AR scenes to blend more naturally with the environment seen through the smartphone's camera.

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VR & AR for mobile marketers

Why mobile marketers should leverage VR and AR

By leveraging virtual and augmented reality, you can set your brand apart from competitors and provide your target audience with a remarkable experience that will leave a lasting impression. Here are some of the top advantages of implementing VR and AR in your next marketing campaign:

  • Enhance customer experience: Integrating virtual and augmented reality into your mobile marketing strategy can provide a unique and highly engaging user experience. For example, the IKEA Place app simplifies the user experience by saving users the trouble of calculating whether their desired product will fit in their space and giving them a realistic idea of how it will look in their home. By leveraging AR technology, mobile marketers can empower their customers to make purchase decisions more quickly, fostering brand loyalty in the long run.
  • Increase engagement: Including virtual and augmented reality in your mobile marketing strategy can significantly boost user engagement. The interactive nature of VR and AR marketing keeps users returning for more. You can also improve engagement by allowing users to try before they buy. For example, L'Oréal’s Makeup Genius app enables customers to visualize makeup products on their faces and select the best product for themselves.
  • Boost retention and sales: Offering an interactive experience can boost user engagement with your brand, resulting in higher retention rates and new monetization opportunities. According to a study, 44% of shoppers are more likely to add a product to their cart after interacting with it in AR, and 65% are more likely to place an order.
  • Personalization opportunities: Virtual and augmented reality present exciting opportunities for personalization in marketing campaigns. Campaign performance can be significantly enhanced by tailoring the experience to the individual. According to McKinsey research, 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions from companies.
  • Increase brand awareness and loyalty: Mobile marketers can establish a stronger connection with their target audience by providing immersive experiences. For example, Nikeland and Gucci Town are virtual spaces where users can learn more about the brand, express their individuality through avatars, and connect with like-minded individuals. By designing interactive and multi-sensory experiences that enable consumers to engage with a brand's products or services, businesses can stand out from the competition, increase brand awareness, and foster customer loyalty and advocacy.

Challenges & solutions

Challenges of implementing VR and AR

Integrating VR and AR into your marketing strategy can offer many benefits, but considering the challenges is also essential.

  • High implementation cost: Despite the increasing accessibility of VR and AR technology, implementation costs remain high. This is especially true for VR experiences, as they require special equipment and software, which can be expensive. Maintaining and scaling VR and AR marketing efforts can also be costly. The high implementation costs of VR and AR marketing campaigns may limit their practicality for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Skilled talent and training required: To create a successful VR and AR marketing campaign, you need skilled talent with a deep understanding of AR and VR concepts. This ensures that your digital products and strategies for the campaign function seamlessly. To prepare your team for this challenge, you may need to provide them with the necessary training and resources.
  • Privacy concerns Privacy is a major concern for VR and AR marketing because these technologies handle large amounts of customer data. Depending on your brand and marketing campaign, this data may include information about the user's identity and activities and biometric data such as iris or retina scans, fingerprints and handprints, face geometry, and voiceprints. It is crucial to have measures in place to store and secure this data and ensure that customers know the data they are providing and how it will be used.

Technology for the future

Future of VR and AR in mobile marketing

The future is bound to see an increase in the adoption of mixed reality. This technology combines the best features of virtual reality and augmented reality to enhance user experience and increase engagement. The release of impressive new headsets from Meta, HTC, and Apple is fueling the adoption of mixed reality. Software tools from Magic Leap, Snap, Microsoft, Google, Lenovo, Unreal, and many other major players are also playing a significant role in its rising prominence. As developers and marketers continue to push the limits of creativity and artistry in mixed reality, the possibilities for mobile marketing campaigns are endless.

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