Since the foundation of civilisation, the sale of goods has transpired through physical, tangible, retail storefronts where we can go to buy clothes, furniture, gadgets, tools, anything we want really. The rise of virtual and augmented reality signals the possibility that we may be nearing the end of the necessity for businesses to have a physical retail shopfront. With over 43 million headsets in active circulation right now across the world, retailers are at a point where it may finally be possible to create, or even convert, to virtual reality ecommerce experiences.
Although the retail sector within VR is extremely early stage, there have been a few instances of implemented projects. One significant instance of this is the recently implemented Audi Virtual Showroom within their UK branch. The compact showroom allows potential customers to view Audi’s cars in a virtual space while in the centre of London.
Philippe Loeb, from Dassault Systèmes developed a virtual reality shelving system that can help manufacturers see the products that they are developing on a virtual shelf. Loeb said that car manufacturers like Audi are ahead of the curve compared to supermarkets and other large retail entities when it comes to implementing smart technologies – in part due to the wide acceptance of technology in cars along with the purchasing rationale being experiential in nature. He said: “The companies which are the most advanced are the automobile companies where more and more a part of the driving experience are devices, screens all kinds of interaction with something that is smart, and there is no way today to image a car without thinking of the internet of things part of the car.”
VR in retail is both at an early stage as well as a prominently rising point of interest among companies such as Ebay, Myer, Zara, etc. One of VR retail’s earliest adopters, Myer, an Australian department store partnered with eBay to launch the first ever VR department store. Using a cardboard VR viewer, customers are shown to a personalized VR retail experience that brings the concept of a physical shopfront experience to anyone, wherever they are. When customers shop in this VR ecommerce platform, they are given the opportunity to experience the products from every angle with the freedom to move, rotate, and zoom in on them however they choose.
By allowing customers to interact with a range of products in a VR space, whether they be cars, clothes, or anything physical, a person will feel that they are able to see something much more realistically than a photo on an online shop. This could be a game changer in the retail space by removing any barriers of doubt that may exist in a customer’s purchasing decisions.
Generally speaking while there are many indicators of success and a favorable probability on VR retail being a worthwhile investment, significant statistical studies are hard to come by. That being said, data is out there. For instance, it has been found that more than a third of consumers (35%) say they would shop more online if they were able to interact with a product virtually and 63% said they expect it to impact their shopping experience in the future in some form or another. Combining these facts with the reality the cardboard viewers are as low as a few dollars on Alibaba and Ebay, as well as the release of Google Daydream being only $79, along with so many other headsets out there or being developed, VR is finally at a point where the average consumer is at the very least, aware and able to access VR, while millions are already adopting the technology, waiting for more experiences to be released.
Written by Ryan Beckmand; a passionate advocate behind VR/AR and AI disruption, and founder of Sciosity creating VR simulations and analytics platforms for schools, universities, and high risk industries with clients / partners across both Western Australia and Singapore.
An award-winning tech entrepreneur, Ryan’s awards include Australian Championship & Global Finals of the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, the 2016 GYES Singapore Business Innovation Competition, the top five startups in the Asia Pacific Region at the Talent Unleashed Awards, including other awards in Australia such as Spacecubed Intensify, Ignition Growth, Curtin Accelerate, Australia SMART 100, and more.
Burgess, Matt. 2016. “RETAIL FUTURE: VIRTUAL REALITY SET TO DOMINATE TOMORROW’S SHOPS”. Factor. http://factor-tech.com/future-cities/4451-retail-future-virtual-reality-set-to-dominate-tomorrows-shops/
Cardrew, Holly. 2016. How virtual reality will change the face of ecommerce. Startup Smart. http://www.startupsmart.com.au/technology/what-will-the-rise-of-virtual-reality-mean-for-commerce/
Statistics and facts about Virtual Reality (VR). Statista. 2016. https://www.statista.com/topics/2532/virtual-reality-vr/
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