Ready Player One: A Lesson in Virtual Reality and Digital Commerce

Caitie Gonzalez
Caitie Gonzalez
March 28th, 2018
Estimated read time: 4 minutes, 39 seconds

The line between the “real” world and the digital one is becoming more blurred by the day. Virtual reality and augmented reality (also known as mixed reality) are changing the way we experience the world.

These emerging technologies are so cutting-edge that they are making the upcoming blockbuster film, Ready Player One, seem less like science fiction and more like an attainable reality.

We might not be living in the universe of Ready Player One, however, businesses need to start adapting to the tech-savvy consumer. And the competition for the consumer’s attention is fierce.

So what can a business do to stand out in the noise of the digital OASIS?

You don’t need the Anorak’s Almanac to unlock the secrets to ecommerce in the digital age. It may come as a surprise, but the answer lies in the enhanced customer experience and SEO.

Businesses are rethinking digital.

While we are still a short time away from the full-blown OASIS experience, many brands have focused on shifting the way consumers engage with them.

Businesses are looking beyond streaming video. This year the winter Olympics decided to take the viewing experience to the next level by offering 50 hours of live virtual reality coverage. Anyone with a Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard, Google Daydream, or mobile phone could enjoy the Olympics in a way no one has ever experienced before.

Not to be outdone, the NBA partnered with Magic Leap, an augmented reality startup, to change the way basketball fans experience games.

“Human experience is not just about data but it’s emotion and it’s experience which brings us to the idea of an experienced economy.”

– Rony Abovitz, Founder, Magic Leap



The Olympics and the NBA are doing what many businesses are—turning to virtual or augmented reality to create new interactive experiences out of what was previously a passive activity. And this is only the beginning.

The shopping experience is changing.

In a world dominated by emerging technologies like VR and artificial intelligence (AI), consumers are becoming more focused on experiences. Shoppers don’t want to be constantly bombarded with intrusive ads at every turn while they explore in the digital space.

Most consumers are spending the majority of their time online which means that brands have to adapt to keep up with this new digitally-focused shopping society. Every experience a customer has with a brand extends across the vast digital landscape in the form of social media mentions, reviews, and other forms of experience sharing. And the lines between them all are becoming increasingly blurred.

For instance, you can shop directly from an Instagram photo, read countless reviews from a plethora of review sites, and even have a full conversation with sophisticated chatbots—similar to the Non-player Character (NPC) interactions in the OASIS of Ready Player One. Which means marketers have to connect with these consumers across a wide range of channels while maintaining an unobtrusive profile.

“…I believe if we would jump into the year 2035 today we would get a heart attack. People will be always monitored (Face ID plus Facial recognition through all these Social Networks etc) and shopping becomes less proactive, more reactive. […] And with the growing trend of sharing, less owning, I can imagine that we will even reach a peak of the “shopping society”. Which makes techniques like targeting, personal content, same day delivery, smart assistants etc more important.”

Marcus Tober, CTO, Searchmetrics

Businesses need to focus on context.

As virtual and mixed reality becomes more common, brands will dramatically evolve in a variety of ways. They will need to deliver a digital experience that is more immersive by fully encompassing the auditory and visual senses of consumers in real-time.

In the future, businesses will have to adapt to contextual commerce.

In Ready Player One, when Wade plugs into the OASIS he is completely removed from his real-world surroundings of poverty and energy crisis. He is transformed into his avatar, Parzival and existing in the endless opportunity of the OASIS. In the not-too-distant future, marketers will be able to tap into the visual and auditory cues from consumers experiences in virtual reality—gaming, shopping, etc.—and turn them into ways of measuring the intent and interest of consumers.

Everything the consumer shares across their digital journey can be used by the marketer to design a seamless digital experience that alters consumer behaviors. Take, for example, the reviews that consumers share their experience with a product or service. Marketers can use these reviews as a gold mine of SEO research. Again, like the NPC in the vast OASIS, marketers can gather information based on social signals and search queries to generate experiences that positively engage with their audience.

So what does this mean for your company now? The first step is to find out what people are saying about your brand and your product. Find out what their interests and pain points are, and turning that information into actions. By this greater understanding of your consumer and their habits, marketers can build stronger relationships with their customers and nurture positive experiences.

Brands will become a seamless part of the consumer’s everyday experience. And all the information the consumer provides in visual, auditory, and other forms of digital intent, will give businesses everything they need to market a contextual commerce experience across the digital landscape.

This is only the beginning of a new era in digital commerce… we’ll see you in the OASIS!

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