Developing Virtual Reality Marketing Business in Construction Industry in France. Market Adoption and Lessons Learned

Even though virtual reality is still in it’s infancy, when it comes to the construction industry, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes an established practice. Let me share the experience of developing VR marketing solutions for construction business in France.

In 2014 Facebook announced that they bought Oculus and will be producing mass market solution for users to have VR in everyones home. Google cardboard project was stepping on their feet and developing to have VR on the go and integrating it into Youtube 360 videos. Late 2014 it seemed it was the right time to enter Western Europe market with VR solutions as a tool for marketing. Eastern/Norther Europe examples showed that technology adaption to construction business was very promising.

VR is a technology that could help to refine design down to minute detail, and gain client engagement to product which is built only in 3D and could be fully interactive even before product exists in analog environment. This is a game-changer for construction business marketing and sales.

Virtual reality is a perfect tool for real estate developers to level up their marketing

We were at a point where we could fly a drone around, laser scan an area, design and upload the model into a VR headset, and adapt the 3D model to virtual immersion tool. For clients it meant being able to physically look around and visualise how a building will function. It provided the opportunity to pick up on the smallest of details, like whether a piece of equipment will fit in a space — and this gave the agent the advances for sales. This newfound design experience is able to take potential customers and clients on a virtual tour of homes, buildings, skyscrapers and offices — before a project even breaks ground. This gave a completely new meaning to marketing and sales in general. We were ready to disrupt marketing business of selling spaces in future to be developed areas and to replace cardboard mock-up models of buildings, which did not make any immersion to the object.

Initial market tests showed that VR solutions are positively accepted by general public and creates that wow effect. Even engagement to product was on much deeper level than looking into 2D drawings, mockups or reading prospects of the to be built real estate objects. Prepared with our VR proofs of concepts, demos and equipment we started attacking French construction market.

Here is the company list we approached:

Promogim; Marignan Immobilier; Les Nuveaux Constructeurs; Urbat; Nexity; Icade Immobilier; Bouygues Immobilier; COGEDIM; VINCI Immobilier Promotion; Coffim; Constructa; Sogeprom; Pitchpromotion; Kaufman et Broad; EIFFAGE; European Homes; CIFP; Art Promotion; Arcade; BNP Paribas immobilier; Philia Promotion SAS; Pierre et Vacances Immo; PERL; Oceanis; Akerys; Sedelka Europrom; Groupe Carrere; Histoire Patrimoine; La Refference Pierre; Cerenicimo

These are the market players sharing 95% of all French real estate development market.

The challenges in France

As for most gamers, VR is an easy sell, as they are innovators in their genes, whereas when tackling mass market i.e. construction business is totally different story.

Have you developed any of your projects in French market? This was the most common questions from the CMOs or CCOs of the clients. They meant that if their competitor is doing some action towards VR adopting, they should start thinking about it as well. Also costs were the second important question. As the technology and solutions were at its infancy stage, every solution had to be built & customised from the scratch, this obviously pumped up the budgets of the project. That was one of the reasons clients were delaying to invest into technology and waiting for the innovation to reach plateau where costs of development reduces drastically with new and cheaper platforms opening. On the other hand, construction business teams requested a unique and state of art solution: the best graphics available, the best performance possible, the best experience and immersion accessible on the market.

The market is yet to come

Nevertheless of the obstacles to enter the market we managed to initiate communication with over 80% of the potential client approached. Around 60% of them were aware of VR concept and precisely knew how to adopt it for marketing. And around 20% started initial discussions to develop projects.

Entering 2017 the use of virtual reality in the construction industry continues to grow, providing an extremely immersive experience for users the mass adoption is still waiting. As Mark Zuckerberg said in F8 if not the VR will catch the humanity then AR for sure. This is the future and it is now.