Virtual Reality (VR) is fast emerging as the hottest digital business trend of 2016. Easy to dismiss as the stuff of the Hollywood movie magic, VR is now officially big business. Across retail, manufacturing, media, and entertainment industries – executives will need to answer this virtually surreal question: “What’s your VR strategy?“.
While consumer electronics and video games are the usual suspected industries to embrace virtual reality – adult entertainment is a very enthusiastic early adopter as well. The SimilarWeb digital insights team ran a study to see just how much virtual reality is changing business.
Over the course of 2015, consumers have been flocking to big online retailers in search of VR headsets, often with intent to purchase. Tracking keyword searches related to VR, a rise is evident in virtual reality related searches across all 5 sites online retailers we analyzed.
In the search arena, Amazon.com is killing it on VR terms and experienced huge growth over the course of 2015. From January to November Amazon’s VR search traffic rose 72.5% and accounted for over 300,000 visits in November. The biggest growth in terms of percent change was measured in Newegg.com, a smaller player in the industry who grew their VR search traffic by 101.3%.
Amazon was by the far the most popular retailer for VR product, and of Amazon’s search terms, most searches were for Google Cardboard, the cheapest VR set available on the market. Google Cardboards, depending on the retailer, usually sell for between $5 and $25. Cardboard was also the top searched for VR headset on Aliexpress, Ebay, and Newegg, but did not appear in Best Buy’s top 3 searches.
Google Cardboard works in tandem with the Cardboard app which has also shown tremendous growth over the end 2015. SimilarWeb data shows that Cardboard is now installed on 0.37% of Android devices in the US, way up from 0.15% in June. If this trend holds, Cardboard could be on a full 1% of Android devices by April 2016.
The VR Headset Space
When Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift for a reported $2 billion, he envisioned it as “A new communication platform.” In his post, published in March of 2014, Facebook’s chief executive went on to say “By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.” For Facebook, Oculus is not just an investment in a new tech product, Facebook sees Oculus, and VR technology in general, as an essential business strategy play.
Among VR headset makers, Microsoft’s Hololense is the big winner in traffic, accounting for a massive 16,000,000 visits in January 2015 alone. Since then, traffic levels dropped to 753,000 in November, but still outranked the competition on traffic. Hololense may not be released until 2017 but consumers are clearly excited to see what Microsoft can do with this new technology.
On January 6th, in another Facebook post, Zuckerberg announced that the Oculus Rift was ready for pre-order and would ship at the end of March 2016. As a result, Oculus.com received a huge surge in traffic, receiving 1,903,000 visits on Janury 6th – a 224% increase from January 5th traffic, and a 1363% increase from December 30th 2015, the previous Wednesday.
This traffic to Oculus.com shows that visitors are intending to purchase or are actually fulfilling their purchase online. The site’s content analysis indicates over a million visits to the shop folder of Oculus, many of which went all the way through to the checkout and shipping page. Consumer trust is there, it now remains to be seen how people will actually use virtual reality.
Which VR Headsets Will Win? Porn May Decide.
As with other new technologies, adult entertainment has often influenced and been a driving factor in new technology adoption and the same holds true for VR. In this case, Facebook’s Oculus emerges as the big winner. The company begrudgingly admitted that the device will feature pornographic content in May 2015, when Palmer Luckey, the original founder of Oculus VR told an audience panel that, “The Rift is an open platform. We don’t control what software can run on it.”
SimilarWeb data shows that from January to November 2015, Oculus received 16.7% of its traffic from referrals, 2.7% of which were from various VR porn sites. This traffic accounted for approximately 126,000 total referral visits from pornography sites. The same trend emerges for Oculus competitor Homido. Of Homidos’s 27.6% referral traffic, 51.4% came from virtualrealporn.com alone, accouting for about 82,000 visits.
The VR Adult Industry
As a whole, the emerging VR adult industry saw huge growth over 2015. Combining desktop and mobile traffic of 10 VR pornography sites from January to November 2015, the industry saw a 202% growth in traffic and accounted for 3.2 million worldwide visits in October 2015 alone.
Alongside VR pornography, the desire for immersive experience has spawned the dubious industry of ‘teledildonics’, sex toys that work seamlessly with the VR headset. This industry peaked in July when pornhub’s twerking butt received 910,000 visits, a quarter of which came via referral traffic from pornhub.com. The data below combines desktop and mobile traffic to twerkingbutt as well as four other VR teledildonics sites.
Other VR Industries
Though adult entertainment seems to have the upper hand in virtual reality, it is certainly not the only industry that is utilizing VR technologies. On October 27th 2015 the NBA teamed up with NextVR to deliver a Warriors vs. Pelicans game on VR through the Samsung Gear VR headset using the Oculus app. As a result of this partnership, NextVR saw a 5700% one day increase in worldwide desktop traffic. The NBA was the first league to offer VR experiences. In 2016 we will likely continue to see other sports leagues follow suit.
Another area that VR is penetrating in a big way is the video gaming market, and the Razer VR headset is targeting the gaming market. The company states that Razer’s OSVR is focusing on “providing the best possible game experience in the Virtual Reality space”. In fact, from January to November 2015, 25.5% of Razer’s worldwide referral traffic came from various video game sites. These gaming sites are sending traffic to Razer primarily because they don’t want to miss out on VR gaming, a trend which should continue to rise in 2016.
In the news and media industry as well, major publications such as the NY Times have joined the VR world by creating their own VR app: NYT VR. The app was released in early November and by December 31st was already installed on 0.05% of all US Android devices. ABC also released a VR app: Inside Syria VR, and although the app has a smaller audience, it represents a growing trend among media outlets and could change how we consume news.
If 2015 was the year VR burst onto the scene, expect 2016 to be the year it appears in households across the globe. With giant tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and HTC investing in VR, and releasing their VR devices, it is definitely not dismissable as a passing fad.
These companies see VR as an essential part of their business and are spending billions of dollars to claim their stake in the game. Consumers are showing demand VR and are visiting both e-retailers and VR manufacturers. This growing VR market is a force to be reckoned with, so if you are a tech journalist, publisher, developer, retailer, reseller, or just love new tech- take notice.