One of the largest failures in corporate history was the launch of New Coke in 1985. Your VR app or product might have the same destiny. So what happened?

Coca-Cola was losing market share to Pepsi and believed it was time to make a change to the formula of their flagship product. Taste testing showed that people preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi compared to Coke, so they made the move to sweeten their product.

Within days of the launch of New Coke, the public backlash was all over the media. Angry customers protested, started petitions, and called the company to demand that they change the formula back. After three months, Coca-Cola relented and released Coca-Cola Classic to give customers the option to buy the old formula.

New Coke was available but didn’t sell well. It was officially discontinued in 2002.

What happened? Why didn’t the new formulation win? Blind taste tests continued to show that people preferred Pepsi to Coke so the new product should have been a big hit.

It turns out that “sip tests” didn’t accurately show what people would want to drink a full can of. The sweeter taste was preferred for a few sips, but was too sweet after drinking the full amount at home. Customers wanted the less sweet taste of Coca-Cola for regular consumption.

How does this apply to VR Fitness?

Right now, high-end virtual reality is brand new to most consumers. No matter what experience you demo for a friend, they will be in awe. It’s simply astounding how immersive and fun it is to go into VR for your first few times! The responses are always the same:

“Woah, this is amazing!”

“OMG, I forgot I was actually in a house and not underwater in the ocean!”

“That dinosaur is coming right for me!” <ducks, screams and removes headset>

As a developer of hardware or software, if you give a demo to almost anybody, they will have a similar reaction to your product, giving you the satisfactory feeling of creating something that will definitely be a big financial winner.

But is that actually true or is a “sip” of your product fun but using it for hours and hours wouldn’t be a good experience?

We’ve all tried VR games or apps and enjoyed it for a few minutes. The new world or mechanics are interesting and you are immersed in the experience. But after the initial trial, the experience gets boring, annoying, or worse, nausea-inducing.

How many VR experiences do you actually go back to over and over again?

Longevity is even more important for VR Fitness apps and products.

Every game or hardware peripheral maker wants their users to continue using the product for weeks, months, and even years. With VR Fitness, it’s actually a requirement. A customer has to continue to come back to your product three to five times per week for months to get the health and fitness results that they desire. If the experience is fun for a few minutes, it won’t be a success.

This applies to almost any fitness product, not just VR ones. That dance class or new spin bike is great the first time and maybe even the second or third. But what about the 50th time? Most people move on to something else, hoping to finally find something that they can enjoy over and over.

Design an experience that can be interesting for years. Find analogues in real life like sports, card games, hobbies, and other activities that people become passionate about and consistently participate in for a lifetime. Study video games that get people to play for years and years. Test your experience over an extended period of time to see what sticks and what doesn’t. Watch your analytics to find out where and when people drop off.

VR Fitness has the opportunity to revolutionize the fitness industry with all new capabilities that can make a big difference for customers around the world! Don’t get too excited when a potential customer tells you that your product is amazing after using it for only a few minutes. Let them have more than a “sip” and see what happens. The future of your product depends on it.

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Ryan DeLuca
Ryan DeLuca founded Bodybuilding.com in 1999 in his garage in Idaho at the age of 20. Under Ryan’s leadership, the company skyrocketed to nearly $500,000,000 in annual revenue before he stepped down as CEO in 2015. Ryan was temporarily retired for only six months before the startup bug bit him again and Black Box VR was born, merging his continued passions for technology and fitness and the way they can intersect to help people transform their lives.