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Guest Blogger

I read an interesting feature in Forbes magazine recently about habituation and how people are adopting new technologies faster and faster. In short, humans are taking on board new ideas faster than ever and habituating them – they become normal behaviour. This then frees up more space in our minds to keep exploring and to find something new.

Anyone working in customer engagement has seen this first hand in the past few years. Since 2007 brands have had to deal with much more mobile customers as the iPhone, and rivals, became common. Since about 2008, customers started trying to contact brands using social networks. Now if you talk to any brand about their customer engagement strategy it will include mobile and social – both customers and brands have habituated these technologies so that their use is just seen as normal today.

But I think there is a bombshell waiting for many brands in 2017 – Virtual Reality (VR). VR has been around for a long time and it is fair to say that most customer service executive teams have ignored it. It’s easy to ignore because there are not many customers using the technology and demanding that brands support it.

That is about to change. In a couple of weeks Sony will release their new Playstation VR gaming console. Early in the new year Microsoft will release their new Xbox. Both gaming consoles are VR-ready and will introduce VR capabilities into millions of homes. Analysts predict that almost 2m Playstation VR units will be sold before Christmas and if we look at past sales data for both the PS4 and Xbox then as we enter 2017 it is likely that the number of VR-ready homes will be increasing by over one million per week.

Brands need to be thinking ahead. By the end of 2017 there could easily be 50m households with VR at home and normalised. It won’t be a futuristic technology any longer, it will be right there in the living room next to the TV. People might start out using VR for games, but you can bet that they will soon be demanding a VR experience when choosing a new home, or car, or holiday. Are you going to be ready to meet that demand?

Sometimes new technologies emerge without warning and it’s impossible for executives to see change coming. With Virtual Reality we have been aware of the possibilities for years. Major companies like Facebook have invested heavily in the technology. But the real change is going to come when millions of ordinary customers have VR systems at home and that is about to happen this month. Is VR already on your customer experience agenda or do you still think it’s just science fiction?

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