Virtual reality has entered the lifestyle magazine market with InStyle launching what it calls its first virtual reality (VR) cover, featuring Drew Barrymore. Readers with a smartphone and VR headset will be able to access behind the scenes footage of the cover photoshoot, including taking a closer look at brands worn by Barrymore, as well as additional content like tutorials on makeup.
InStyle editorial director Ariel Foxman says the magazine is in all systems go mode, with plans to take the experience inside celebrity homes and to the red carpet. But it won't be all about the reader experience, as it also presents the magazine with a new revenue source from sponsorship opportunities and native advertisements.
While experts note that VR has been slow to adopt en masse, they believe this will change, especially in retail. The new generation of Apple and Android smartphones all have VR capabilities, and headsets like Google Cardboard are inexpensive. They point to a 2015 Walker Sands study, which shows 63 percent of consumers believe VR will have an impact on their shopping experience in the future.
For its VR cover, InStyle teamed up with cinematic VR studio Jaunt, whose Vice President, Scott Broock, says the partnership will explore and introduce new ways to give readers "immersive experiences made possible by virtual reality". He says they will “layer in interactivity,” including retail capabilities.
“The interactivity will be spurred by the gaze, how long someone is looking at an object,” Broock says. “If you stare at an object, it will trigger a reaction that will be a floating icon — here’s where you can order that sweater, for example. That’s very organic to the scene.”
As well as contextual experiences, like footage of a red carpet event or photo shoot, Broock says VR can be used to tell the story of a brand, while not "overtly selling" a product, it will “give you a feeling” of the brand.
Brooke says VR offered an opportunity to reach a wide range of potential customers.
“With cinematic virtual reality, we can show that this experience can be applied to many different places, and it’s united by the fact that everyone has a smartphone. There is no demographic.”
Chief creative officer at SapientNitro North America, Gary Koepke, says retailers should gear their thinking to outside the store revenue sources through experiences.
“Creativity is going to be huge for virtual reality,” he says adding "opportunity for brands to sell products is going to rise within experiences outside of a straightforward retail setting".
His advice for retailers, when it comes to VR is, “Get in early, so you’re not catching up later.”