“Innovation in the spirits category has historically been limited to the liquid, the bottle or the message, never the medium. But as those elements become more commoditized—or copied—the brand experience has become the last battlefield of real differentiation,” Parker says. “VR has become a powerful persuasion tool.”
Both Parker and Raies agree that the technology’s most enthusiastic adopters are millennials, or, as Raies calls them, the “hashtag generation.”
“They’re always looking for a new experience to share,” Raies says. “Millennials normally wouldn’t go for a higher-end pour, but our experience gets them to taste it, and they’re always blown away and they’re like, ‘Wow, I love this!’ It’s attracting a new kind of curious consumer who may not spend money on something they aren’t familiar with, unless there’s an experience to draw them in.”
As exciting and seemingly effective as the technology is, VR has a few hurdles to overcome before it enters the mainstream and makes its way into everyday drinking in bars. First, the cost: The best VR technology comes at an extremely high price-point (Oculus and HTC Vive cost well over $500 for each kit). And lower-priced platforms just haven’t wowed consumers in the same way. TechCrunch predicted that 2016 would yield $3.8 billion in revenue in VR, but the actual figures were closer to $2.7 billion. Worse yet, one of the most promising adopters of the technology, Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones, literally went up in flames last year. When compared to the unexpected success of Augmented Reality (AR) with last year’s Pokémon Go phenomenon, experts are wondering if VR is a passing fad, with many analysts scaling back their forecasts for the industry as a whole.