Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two game-changers that are together making waves across industries, including the retail sector. The interactive shopping experience facilitated by AR, VR eCommerce tools has brought about a new era of V-Commerce (where ‘V’ denotes virtual reality)
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A Brief Introduction of VR and AR
Before elucidating how these two revolutionizing technologies are rejuvenating the global retail industry, let’s simplify the meaning of VR and AR for our readers.
- VR refers to a computer-generated setting that users can interact with, whereas AR refers to superimposed images generated by computers for presenting an enhanced environment to users.
- AR is implemented via your smartphone’s camera, whereas you need a VR headset to experience VR.
Currently, a lot of forward-thinking retailers are taking advantage of both AR and VR tools to streamline retail merchandising procedures.
Role of VR and AR in Transforming the Modern Shopping Experience
With more and more customers preferring to shop from retailers offering virtual reality eCommerce stores, the popularity of VR-enabled eCommerce platforms is increasing by leaps and bounds across the globe.
A study conducted by the global research and advisory firm Gartner in 2019 revealed that approximately 100 million customers will prefer shopping in AR-enabled in-stores as well as online stores by the year 2020.
The study further revealed that 46% of retailers will leverage AR and VR-enabled tools in 2020 for meeting customers’ expectations. (Source)
The huge craze for virtual reality and augmented reality apps are driving a lot of retail giants, such as Zara, Shopify, Amazon, Ikea, etc., to invest in AR VR eCommerce to boost the shopping experience of the new-age buyers. What’s more, even retail startups are banking on AR and VR-powered retail experience to gain a competitive edge in the market.
Benefits of AR and VR Technologies
Both AR and VR technologies are taking the retail world by storm and benefiting retailers and consumers alike. These emerging technologies are taking customer experience to a whole new level by:
- Facilitating tech-enabled shopping
- Helping virtual retailers transcend geographic barriers
- Providing a real 3-D environment for an immersive and fun shopping experience
- Allowing customers to try on and assess different products virtually so that they can decide how a dress, necklace, or lipstick shade would look on them, or if a piece of furniture would look good in their bedroom.
- Keeping customers engaged
- Educating customers about your products
- Saving customers’ time.
Virtual Reality eCommerce tools are also helping retailers by:
- Enhancing customer satisfaction;
- Increasing online retail sales; and
- Boosting conversion rates.
Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality E-commerce Is Transforming the Retail Sector
1. Virtual Reality eCommerce Stores Facilitate an Immersive Experience
AR VR eCommerce has succeeded in introducing a unique shopping experience for the tech-savvy Millennial customers. Since Millennials love immersive online shopping experience, more and more Virtual Reality eCommerce brands are offering a seamless virtual experience to users via virtual showrooms to enhance their shopping experience. Thus, customers can now derive the real experience of walking through a physical store in the comfort of their homes.
2. Elevates In-store and Online Shopping Experience
Besides providing customers with an immersive experience, the virtual reality eCommerce tool also enables them to browse and visualize a much larger assortment of products than a physical store. Online eCommerce stores are no-doubt well-organized, but they terribly fail when it comes to emulating the immersive experience of moving through a brick and mortar store.
A VR-enabled e-commerce store allows customers to browse the store virtually anytime, anywhere. Additionally, it replicates and provides the real shopping experience of moving freely through physical stores.
3. Saves Time
Virtual Reality eCommerce stores save customers’ precious time. With the advent of VA, traditional trial rooms have been replaced by virtual fitting rooms where customers can try on different dresses virtually.
4. Visualize Products in a Better Way
When customers visualize a product in a virtual store, it helps them visualize the product in a better way, thus, enabling them to make the right purchase decision. Thus, to add to the convenience of customers, many retailers are launching their own AR VR eCommerce applications, to enable their customers to try different products before they buy the same. Moreover, AR/VR technology allows users to view a product from all angles, and ascertain its dimensions, colors, texture, shape, and other features, thus, providing users with a much better perspective about their chosen product.
For example, a virtual trial room introduced by Indian eyewear retail chain Lenskart allows its prospective customers to try on different spectacle frames before making the final purchase decision. All the users need to do is visit Lenskart’s website, pick a spectacle frame of their choice, and click a selfie through their smartphone or webcam to ensure if the spectacle frame suits them perfectly.
Similarly, numerous fashion apparel giants like GAP, Nike, Converse, Uniqlo, etc. are embracing virtual reality eCommerce to provide their customers with the option of a 3D virtual trial room. At the same time, apparel and fashion accessory brands are embracing AR-enabled smart mirrors for providing customers with an enhanced in-store shopping experience. What’s more, cosmetic brands such as MAC have also started utilizing Augmented Reality both on their apps and in-store to enable customers to try on the products of their choice virtually using any handheld device.
5. Cost-Effective Alternative for Retailers
Physical expansion of a retail brand can be an expensive affair for retailers. Moreover, setting up physical stores in Tier 3 cities with a low customer base may not be a prudent decision for a retailer. Therefore, before luxury apparel or jewelry brand decides to expand its physical retail footprint, it is more likely to invest in virtual reality eCommerce stores.
Since a virtual store does not have a physical location, it saves energy and eliminates the need for hiring permanent employees, thus saving a lot of money. Last but not least, building multiple AR VR eCommerce stores of the same chain is not as expensive as setting up the first one. It will only increase your overall development expenses. Thus VR-enabled stores offer a cost-effective alternative for retailers.
6. Keep Customers Coming Back
Virtual Reality eCommerce is a great way to lure customers and keep them engaged. The convenience offered by AR VR eCommerce is enticing more and more Millennial customers to shop from Virtual Reality eCommerce stores. Thus, AR VR eCommerce technologies demonstrate great possibilities of transforming the retail sector.
These revolutionizing technologies and the fun factor associated with them not only allow customers to immerse themselves in a visual and physical experience but also compels them to visit your physical as well as online stores, time and again.
7. Enhances Customer Engagement
With the advent of VR technology, you can now easily use a VR headset or smartphone to check out how a particular piece of furniture would look like in your office. Similarly, if you are looking for a suitable gift for your friend’s birthday party but you don’t know what to buy, you can easily visit a virtual showroom and take the assistance of a virtual assistant (either a chatbot or a human) in choosing the perfect gift.
Thus, virtual reality eCommerce is redefining customer engagement by creating personalized experiences. For example, to enhance customer engagement, Starbucks collaborated with Alibaba in 2017 to set up an AR-enabled store. The AR store, powered by Alibaba, was launched to enlighten coffee lovers and Starbucks fans about coffee making and other Starbucks products.
V-Commerce Is Here to Stay!
Considering the trends highlighted in this post, we can conclude that though virtual reality eCommerce is in a nascent stage, it is all set to witness exciting times ahead. Currently, big retail players, as well as small brands, are gearing up to seize the AR VR eCommerce opportunity to get the best of both worlds.
Though nothing can replicate the experience of physical shopping, the competitive retail landscape is driving retailers across the globe to capitalize on AR/VR and other inventive technologies for retaining Gen Y customers and earning impressive returns.
Therefore, if you want your retail brand to stay relevant in fast-changing times, there should be no sitting on the fence. Without further ado, you need to adapt the trend of AR VR eCommerce with open arms. At the same time, you should prepare your teams to leverage the endless possibilities of virtual reality eCommerce technology to the fullest for providing your existing as well as potential customers with a unique virtual buying experience.