NEW YORK: The recent use of virtual reality (VR) in marketing has been largely underwhelming and brands involved need ask themselves if they really need to be using it now, a new study says, while adding that it will be a game changer in the future.

The Forrester Research report, Virtual Reality Isn't Ready For Marketing Yet, detailed the reasons why, so far, VR marketing has been more about hype than substance.

Content costs are high, production is complicated and device penetration remains low: Advertising Age cited Forrester figures indicating that 42% of US online adults have not heard about VR headsets while an additional 46% don't see a use for VR in their lives.

Consumer adoption of high-end VR headsets won't reach critical mass for at least another five years, Forester estimated, and while 360 video content will flourish on low-to-mid-end VR devices this is not a truly immersive VR experience.

"A lot of brands have tried VR in the last year, and in many cases, it left marketers and consumers rather underwhelmed," noted Samantha Merlivat, one of the authors of the report.

Brands in some categories may need to accept that there are currently few, if any, opportunities in VR and resources could be better invested elsewhere.

But for other categories, "it is clear that VR will be a game changer in the future, and that experimenting now will help take advantage of the technology as it gains in maturity".

More specifically, Merlivat suggested that in retail VR "can be disruptive to the point of transforming traditional sales channels", while brands in automotive, hospitality and real estate can gain "added persuasive power, proximity and convenience, beyond what traditional marketing channels can achieve".

A separate report from Yes Lifecycle last month found that just 8% of marketers were currently using VR, with 21% interested in implementing it; but 57% said VR didn't apply to their organization, indicating a degree of skepticism about the technology.

Readers can download a chapter of Warc's Toolkit 2017 devoted to How brands can use VR and AR, which notes research confirming VR's potential for emotional engagement.

Data sourced from Forrester Research, Advertising Age, Yes Lifecyle Marketing; additional content by Warc staff