The traditional retail experience has had to compete with the internet, and stores may have to look to virtual reality (VR) if they want to keep up.

The retail industry is ever evolving, creating new customer experiences that are memorable and unique. Businesses are differentiating themselves through technological hybridisations to appeal to their consumers in innovative ways. People are already using the internet to do their grocery shopping or browse through eCommerce websites. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are set to completely transform the shopping experience and change the market in the same way the internet did. According to Goldman Sachs, the market for AR and VR in retail will reach $1.6 billion by 2025. Statistics show that two-thirds of internet users would be interested in virtual reality, and 63% said such technologies would change the way they shop. VR in the retail industry is still in its initial stage. But, the promise of something new and innovative is already appealing. It lets audiences adhere to aspects of modernity in an era where technology dominates. Virtual reality in retail can be used to plan, design, research, and even enhances the customer experience. It offers several benefits when considering how to appeal to consumers’ wants and needs, especially when they’re constantly changing. VR in retail offers a competitive advantage by keeping up to date with current patterns and trends. It accomplishes all this while also creating a fun shopping experience.

How VR Improves Online Shopping Experiences

VR lets customers take their shopping experience outside of the store. It’s an extension of online shopping, though this leap allows shoppers to experience the products, not just see them. Alibaba has already embraced the concept, introducing the idea recently for ‘Singles Day’. Shoppers could explore a virtual store, picking up and examining items in 3D before deciding to purchase them with just a look. Visualising products online with an added element of personalisation lets people fully engage and invest in your business. People want to see what a product will look like in relation to quality and style before they spend their hard-earned money on it. With over half of people suggesting that VR would change the way they shop, it seems the idea has a promising future in the world of retail. With almost six million units of VR devices expected to be sold by the end of 2019, more and more people will have access to virtual reality experiences. That’s a sizeable audience that can’t be left untapped. It gives you a USP that other competitors might be slow to adopt. It’s also likely to generate higher levels of revenue through the appeal of personalisation and efficiency. But it’s not only online shopping experiences that can benefit from virtual reality…

Innovating In-Store Experiences with VR

With more people using the internet to do their shopping online, it’s important to still give your customers a reason to physically come into the store. For many, shopping can be dull and more like a chore than a fun, personal experience. VR can change this point of view. It lets your customers engage with your brand and products in a whole new way. It’s especially convenient when the product in question is large or cumbersome, like a car. Lexus is one of many car manufacturers using VR let potential buyers to test drive the car without even leaving the showroom. It’s not something that’s normally offered in your everyday shopping experience. You attract more people who want to take the car for a drive with none of the effort - people you could convert into new sales. It creates a new and exciting environment, modernising the 21st-century shopping experience and bringing something unique to your latest offering. It can even be used to display new shopping centres and experiences that are arriving soon. Using VR to propose what is coming in the future is a useful tactic to appeal to potential clients, business partners, and even employees. By displaying features such as new shopping centres and products, people get more of a feel for what your business is about and its personality. Last year, Amazon opened 10 virtual reality kiosks in shopping malls across India. It allowed consumers to take hot air balloon rides and walk through rooms with various products on display where they could find out more about them. Using Oculus Touch, shoppers could even handle products and try them on. It could mean the end of traditional shop displays, as all products would be in a virtual environment. It has the potential to change how shops work altogether and could be the shake-up needed to save the high street.

VR in Market Research and Planning

VR’s presence in retail goes beyond its inclusion in-store; it can be used for research purposes before the general public are even involved in the process. Marketing psychology has a new tool in its repertoire with VR - planning stores doesn’t have to be guesswork when you can trial potential layouts before you build them. Displaying various products and services through VR can let you understand whether your proposed ideas will be successful before they are released into physical stores. It lets you as a business owner understand what individuals expect and how they want to interact with your brand. It can be particularly useful in the travel industry. It gives consumers an idea of what their holiday will be like before they spend their money. Not only will this make them excited about the idea of booking a holiday (and therefore be more likely to spend money booking with you), but also lets the company save time and money on features such as descriptions, photography, and videography. Everything is tied together through a digital environment. Since customers tend to buy an experience rather than a product when looking for a holiday, VR is the perfect alternative to let consumers get the full experience and try before they buy. You can even find videos on YouTube, such as this one, that let you visit different islands and countries, and even dive into the sea. The concept has already been trialed by AT&T, Samsung, and Carnival Corporation, who created a virtual space that let users hit the high seas on a luxury cruise. Headsets were set up at AT&T stores across America, enticing consumers looking to see something new. Users could also enter a competition to win an actual cruise. It created engagement with the brands and brought in people who otherwise may not have been interested. It can also be used for home design, an idea embraced by the likes of IKEA. Their virtual reality app is 98% accurate in terms of how precise it is. It allows you to get a feel for the texture, pattern, and even how the lighting in your room will affect the look of the furniture. You can bring your plans to life in a matter of minutes to design your perfect living space. It has an incredible amount of depth to it too, even allowing you to open the drawers in the kitchen. Letting consumers view products in context is preferential in terms of ease and efficiency. But it also benefits the retailer by offering a feature which is personal and appeals to the needs of the modern consumer.

The Real Benefits of VR for Retailers

It’s clear that virtual reality has a place in retail. Whether this is predominantly for e-commerce or in-store shopping experiences is uncertain and will depend on mainstream adoption trends. But what we can be sure of is that with the current advances in technology, we will be seeing a lot more of an impact of VR on our shopping experiences in one way or another. VR offers competitive advantages of appealing to consumers in new and innovative ways. In our current society, people want something fun and unique. The average shopping experience is not enough for the modern-day shopper in terms of how they want to invest their money. By offering people a fresh technological experience that can also benefit how they shop and search for products, it’s highly likely that people will adapt to the introduction of VR in retail. What consumers look for in the traditional retail experience continues to change, and you need to change with them. Many companies have already failed to adapt to the modern world and this trend will only continue. The ones who will survive are the ones willing to embrace technological advancements and bring them into their shopping experience. Whether it’s in-home or in-store, VR is the change we need. Virtual reality in retail holds the potential to create unique brand experiences that drive conversions, repeat visits and higher revenue. If you’d like to find out more about how virtual reality can benefit your retail business, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Here at Antycip, we offer a range of products and services that will help to enhance the way customers interact with your retail brand. Want to stay up to date with what we're doing? Follow us on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Instagram.


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