In the current climate, Virtual Reality (VR) is a buzzword, but does it make business sense for online retailers?
In this article, we will discuss how virtual reality and augmented reality are shaping eCommerce’s future and, more importantly, how you can provide an immersive experience for shoppers.
A growing number of companies are discovering that virtual reality (VR) is an effective marketing tool. Virtual reality may seem futuristic, but in fact, it has made quite an impact and has proven to be a valuable tool, particularly for customer service and live events in marketing.
Virtual reality is becoming more mainstream, with 24 million devices sold in 2018, mostly involving augmented reality.
Now, there are more budget-friendly options like Google Cardboard on the market, unlike the more powerful devices like Oculus Rift.
As a result, VR is becoming a more accessible technology to the masses – making it something that shouldn’t be dismissed as a fad. Online sellers should seriously consider it for their businesses.
What are the benefits of VR for online sellers?
Virtual reality and eCommerce make sense together because both are essentially the same thing as a real-world experience that is digitally simulated. You could see major advantages in using VR as a marketing tool as an eCommerce retailer since there is a good match between the two.
In many online businesses, VR is already an important aspect of their marketing and sales strategies. Creating memorable customer experiences through VR is a sure-fire way of creating lasting impressions in an era where content has become the driving force behind lead generation.
A brand that stands out to customers and gets people talking about it goes a long way to cementing your reputation.
If you have to choose between reading product descriptions or virtually trying on dresses in a variety of colours and accessories, what would you choose? The choice is obvious.
You should take note: VR could redefine the shopping experience for eCommerce retailers by allowing them to re-create the physical shopping journey from the comfort of their own homes. We are about to see a shift in the way we shop, so online sellers should start preparing for this revolution now.
Why is VR beneficial to businesses?
Customer experiences can be rich, immersive, and – most importantly – memorable using virtual reality. Virtual reality can improve conversion rates significantly.
There’s no better way to increase brand awareness on social media than by using this platform. Customers will talk about you and share their VR experiences on social media if you provide a virtual reality experience.
A 360-degree view of the product. VR allows consumers to experience a product as if they were holding it in their hands. A user can see what they’re buying from all angles, which gives them a better perspective of what they’re buying.
Language barriers are being broken down. The VR experience is worth at least one million words as a picture is worth a thousand words. When you show a product’s value rather than tell what it does, you’re much more likely to convince people, and this can be especially useful when demonstrating complex products, especially when the demoed product is in a different language.
VR applications for e-commerce
Keeping the “shiny toy” syndrome in mind is always a good idea before diving into this topic. A lot of people are still pretty amazed by virtual reality, which is still relatively new. But just because VR is available does not mean it should be used.
Whatever you develop, you must make sure it maps back to your goals and improves customer experience or advances your customers’ conversion.
Virtual reality is starting to be considered by eCommerce stores in these ways.
1. The virtual store.
A virtual storefront, where customers can visit your store from the comfort of their homes, is one application of this technology. Similarly, to that of being in a store, customers could browse clothing racks. Additionally, they were able to shop together in real-time and meet with friends in the virtual world.
According to an article published by Marketwatch in October of 2020, online shopping is made easier thanks to technologies. Wormhole – a platform that simulates group shopping in a real-world setting through the use of avatars – is one of these technologies.
Though, technologies like this have been evolving for a long time. As part of the eBay-Myer partnership, the online retailer opened the world’s first virtual reality department store in 2016.
2. A virtual trial before buying.
You can use a VR headset in your brick-and-mortar store to improve customer experience in several ways. A virtual reality headset could allow shoppers to explore the possibilities of your products without having to store them all in your showroom; in this case, you wouldn’t be storing them all.
Audi provided buyers with the Oculus Rift headset in 2017 so they could see their dream car in 3D, and then customize every aspect of it – from the paint colour to the body kit and engine – more interactively than with computer screens.
In-store commerce experiences can be enhanced by immersive visualizations and interactions. A better understanding of what shoppers evaluate and what they want can pay dividends for companies’ in-store commerce.
3. A delightful in-store experience.
Virtual reality is an excellent tool to use in-store to give customers a memorable shopping experience – even though it might seem counter-intuitive since COVID-19 is spreading so widely. A VR experience immersing consumers in Yosemite National Park was offered by The North Face in 2015.
In this Digiday article, Digital Marketing Director Eric Oliver said, “We wanted to use technology to enhance the stories we tell and transport people to the outdoors.” The North Face aims to inspire a life of adventure through its brand mission.
4. Live events.
We have been largely limited in our capacity to hold in-person events since the beginning of COVID-19. But we all learned from this experience that virtual events can provide similar opportunities for people to be together and experience the same thing simultaneously.
For shops that work hard to build community among their customers, live events and pop-up shops are often part of the mix. A virtual reality experience could help you connect with those communities even if you can’t meet them in person.
5. Interactive learning.
Virtual reality offers a way to immerse your customers in an immersive learning experience, especially if you have a product that is hard to use, or customers are not confident using it. A VR application called Lowe’s Holoroom lets users experience how to use a tool or perform a task from start to finish with virtual reality.
Online stores can benefit from adopting VR
If you want to create the kind of experience you want, you will have to decide what kind of business you have, which will be determined by your specific type of eCommerce.
1. Provide memorable customer service.
Even as virtual reality is still a relatively new technology, the immersive nature of VR will put people in ever-expanding virtual worlds and place them at the centre, according to a McKinsey report on augmented and virtual reality.
2. Generate word-of-mouth.
The Linnworks company says that VR experiences are also sharable, allowing users to share their experiences on social media and talk about themselves. It’s still important to use word-of-mouth marketing, especially when it’s exciting and genuine.
3. Establish a stronger bond with your consumers.
A VR application that immerses consumers in a different world is the ultimate example of “show, don’t tell.” McKinsey says that immersive technology can enable “a form of telepresence that fosters empathy as if the viewer were present.”
4. Give people more confidence in their purchases.
Virtual reality technology has the potential to simulate real-world experiences in some ways. In cases of language barriers, customers can view 360-degree product views to see how the product appears from different angles, better understand its scale and proportions, and less reliance on product descriptions.
Virtual reality technology, if used well, could ultimately increase conversion rates and decrease returns for online shoppers.
VR implementation in e-commerce
It might be a challenging task to get your eCommerce virtual reality tool off the ground and into the hands and/or minds of your consumers when it is a relatively new industry. The following steps should be followed once you have found an experienced team to assist you.
1. Determine your objectives.
The goal is not to use VR. When you implement this new, complex technology, you should know exactly what you want to accomplish. One example of your goal could be one of the following, but there are many others as well:
Create a unique shopping experience to gain press attention
Your products should be more experiential for customers
Communicate robust product information to reduce return rates
2. Identify what type of experience to provide.
There is a tactical element to this piece. Creating an experiential deliverable like North Face’s Yosemite VR experience in the store; a product-based experience, like Audi’s; an interactive experience that allows customers to interact with products, friends, and shopping assistants; and so much more is possible.
3. Create your VR experience.
You are only limited by the current VR capabilities. There are certain things you will probably have to consider until you become a VR development whiz:
Technology:Does technology need to be at a certain level to create your ideal experience? There will be a difference depending on whether you want a passive or interactive experience, and whether you want the users to walk through an environment while they experience it.
Developers:The most important thing is to find a developer with experience in VR. It might take a little longer to find the right candidate as this is a relatively new technology.
Hardware:For your users to experience what you’re creating, what kind of hardware will they need? A room-scale hardware solution that provides a highly immersive experience should be considered if you plan on delivering the experience in-store.
You’ll have to choose hardware that is readily accessible if you wish for consumers to engage with this independently. Most of the mainstream headsets available today are still quite expensive, putting them beyond the reach of most consumers.
4. Always test the usability and performance of your website.
To provide the best virtual reality experience, both the technical functionality and the user experience must be tightly interlinked.
If applicable, ensure that all elements operate correctly and respond appropriately to human intervention.
Try to think about the experience as a beginner to find usability issues such as a confusing interface or poor navigation.
It should be a comfortable experience for the average user without causing them discomfort or nausea.
5. Let others know about your exciting VR initiative.
Keeping people up to date with your cool projects is important. Nevertheless, you should keep in mind that you are still marketing your store, your product, and your experience to them – not VR. Virtual reality is merely a tool.
Consumers will also want to consider how the show will be experienced by marketers. To promote your virtual department store, you can give your audience a headset if they are participating from home, as eBay and Myer did.
The field of virtual reality has come a long way over the past 5-10 years, but there is still much to be done. Enterprises with higher budgets and more advanced developers will benefit from the applications. The return on investment might not be as high for midmarket brands when the technologies are priced at the high end. below.
As a result, as technology advances ever more rapidly, every retailer would do well to at least consider what might be possible and what sort of impact it may have.