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Tech Chats: Amber Mace from EY on why women aren’t using VR

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In this Tech Chats interview, we speak with Amber Mace from EY about women and virtual reality. Mace explains why fewer women than men are adopting VR and what can be done to encourage more women to use this type of technology.

Can you tell us a little about the survey that EY conducted into virtual reality?

Sure, so it was commissioned by the TMT Women’s Network, which is a network that supports women in the technology media and telecoms industry, there’s a lot of press at the moment around supporting and trying to get more women into tech, and there’s also a lot of press around disruptive technologies, of which VR is one. So what we wanted to do was really combine those two themes and take a look at whether the virtual reality industry was equally appealing or as appealing to men as it is to women.

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So, the survey found three main themes, the first is that far less women had actually tried VR to date, and actually less women were likely to try VR in the future, so of the women in the survey, only 14% of them had actually used VR, versus 20% of the men and actually over two thirds – 65% – of the women in the survey said they were unlikely to use virtual reality in the future.

So secondly, the survey found that those that had used VR, women tended to be less impressed with virtual reality as an experience so the key words describing their virtual reality experience was ‘futuristic’ and ‘underwhelming’, versus the male experience, which tended to be realistic and positive. So if you put that into a buying preferences, you can see why perhaps there is a difference for the male and the female population.

And thirdly, the survey found that women tended to have less affinity with, or knowledge of the key virtual reality brands in the market so over 63% of the women had not heard of the top five brands in the market and actually men were found to be more than twice as likely to have heard of the brands across each of the brands listed.

So why do you think more men than women are adopting virtual reality?

Well I think what was interesting in the survey is it was clear that women were less likely than men to be early adopters of technology, so they’re less likely to be the first people to run in and buy a new technology when it’s released and the indication was that, actually, they’d rather wait until the use case around that technology was more clearly established.

If we look at the most high-profile marketing and use cases for virtual reality, they’ve tended to resonate more with men than with women and actually it’s perhaps not surprising, because both men and women had as the top use case in their view for virtual reality being gaming, which is perhaps historically more of a male past time, and resonated less with women.

I think there are a lot of potential other exciting use cases for virtual reality, whether it’s tourism, communications, movies and entertainment, but perhaps the message around those hasn’t got out in quite the same way as gaming has to date.

What can be done to encourage more women to start using this kind of technology?

Well at the back of our survey, we included three questions for businesses to consider when they’re looking at marketing VR. So the first is around how do you make sure that you’re appealing to a broad audience, so if we think about the survey at the moment there does seem to be a bit of a disconnect between where women see the highest use case for virtual reality being in gaming, but also where they see themselves most likely to use virtual reality, being in movies and entertainment. So I think something needs to be done around that disconnect, going forward.

In addition whether businesses are actually targeting a broad enough audience mix, when they’re commissioning VR content, so I think if we look at movies and entertainment, women were very keen and saw that as a high-potential area for virtual reality. But actually at the moment, the content is pretty limited around movies and entertainment. I think that’s changing in the industry, we are seeing a lot of TV companies partnering with tech startups around VR, so as long as the content that gets produced is very diverse in nature, then that could be a real turning point for virtual reality.

And then finally, we asked people to think about how do you balance the investment and marketing around the technology and the innovation versus the use case? I mentioned that women are more interested in the use case, than actually in the technology itself, so perhaps we need a more diverse investment into the use case for virtual reality so women saw lots of opportunity – I’ve mentioned movies and entertainment before, but also tourism and travel and communications – perhaps we could see more investment in those areas.

It seems to me that if the industry could just find some form of killer app with a clear entertainment or everyday use, that brought with it a whole load of additional users, then actually virtual reality could become more of a mainstream than it is today.

The next issue of Tech City News magazine is to focus on virtual reality. To be notified when the issue is published, subscribe to our newsletter.

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