The e-commerce sector is constantly changing, much like consumers and retail in general. Not only is it impossible to implement every new technology, but it’s also a bad idea to try. However, failing to stay up to date with emerging technologies and consider how they can help you down the road is also a bad idea. 

Virtual reality might be something you should look into more carefully as a merchant if you want to offer a unique experience, build and strengthen relationships with your clients, and/or leave a lasting impression.

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Virtual Reality Growth and Statistics

In the realm of mainstream technology, virtual reality is beginning to gain traction. In reality, 50.2 million individuals will use VR technology at least once a month by 2020, according to eMarketer’s projection from the previous year.

Researchers predict that when VR becomes more widely available, its use will pick up speed and reach 64 million users by 2022.

What is Virtual Reality and Ecommerce?

A visually immersive environment is referred to as virtual reality. In addition to the more sophisticated “headset” VR made possible by gadgets like the HTC Vive or Oculus Quest, it can also refer to 360-degree images, films, or product demos. 

Retailers usually find that the use cases either enhance or reinvent in-store experiences, or digitally replicate the advantages of physical shopping.

Let’s examine some of the current uses of virtual reality (VR) by retailers as well as some of the promising uses that could arise in the coming years.

Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality

As virtual and augmented technologies continue to advance, it can occasionally be challenging to tell which is which. The Franklin Institute, a science and technology museum, provides the following definitions:

Virtual reality refers to an entirely synthetic environment that offers an immersive experience, with nothing from the “real” world outside of it.

However, augmented reality incorporates digital features into a live view of the world, usually through a smartphone. It does not fully obscure real life. Right now, AR technology is a little more developed than VR.

While extended reality (XR) refers to all technologies that improve senses, mixed reality (MR) incorporates aspects of both augmented reality and virtual reality. It consists of MR, AR, and VR.

Applications of VR for Ecommerce

It’s important to caution against “shiny toy” mentality before we get started. Since virtual reality is still very new, many people find it to be quite impressive. However, just because VR is available doesn’t mean you should utilize it. 

Make sure everything you come up with directly contributes to your objectives and enhances the customer experience or encourages customers to convert.

Here are a few ways virtual reality is beginning to be considered by online retailers.

1. Virtual Stores.

One use for the technology is virtual showrooms, which let clients view your online virtual retail from the comfort of their own homes. It might be possible for customers to peruse clothing racks in a manner akin to that of a store. Additionally, they could get together virtually with pals and go shopping in real time.

Market watch released a piece on technology that make online purchasing easier in October 2020. Wormhole, one of such technologies, is a platform “that uses avatars to create real-world simulations of group shopping.”

However, this kind of technology has been developing for many years. In order to establish “the world’s first Virtual Reality (VR) Department Store,” eBay and Myer announced their collaboration in 2016.

2. Virtual try-before-you-buy.

Incorporating virtual reality headsets into your physical store might yield many advantages. If your items come in a variety of configurations, a virtual reality headset can be a wonderful way for customers to see the options without requiring you to keep them all in your showroom.

Rather than letting customers pick upgrades from a list on a computer screen, Audi’s 2017 Oculus Rift headset allowed customers to visualize their dream car in three dimensions and configure every detail, including the engine, body kit, and paint color. 

The in-store commerce experience can benefit greatly from these immersive representations and interactions, which can help customers truly comprehend what they’re evaluating and what they desire.

3. In-store experience that surprises and delights.

While it may seem paradoxical, virtual reality (VR) is a terrific tool to use in physical establishments to provide customers with an unforgettable shopping experience, especially while COVID-19 is still spreading. A virtual reality campaign that immersed customers in Yosemite National Park was introduced by The North Face in 2015.

In this Digiday article, Eric Oliver, The North Face’s then-director of digital marketing, stated, “We felt like this was a great way to enhance our storytelling, use technology, and transport people to the outdoors.” The North Face’s brand objective is to “inspire a life of exploration.”

4. Live events.

We haven’t been able to host events in person very often since the start of COVID-19. However, the lesson that all of us took away from it was that, occasionally, virtual gatherings may still offer a comparable chance for people to come together and share the same experience simultaneously. 

Shops that put a lot of effort into creating a sense of community among their customers frequently include live events, pop-up stores, and other initiatives. Finding that community even in the absence of face-to-face communication may be possible with virtual reality.

5. Interactive education.

Virtual reality (VR) can be a useful tool to provide clients with an immersive learning experience if your product is difficult to use or if they lack confidence in it. This was accomplished by Lowe’s using their Holoroom technology, a virtual reality program that immerses users in the operation of a particular tool or project.

Benefits of Using Virtual Reality in Your Online Store

The specific benefits for you depend on the kind of experience you wish to build, which will vary depending on the specifics of your e-commerce enterprise.

1. Create a memorable customer experience

According to a McKinsey analysis on AR and VR, people will be able to immerse themselves in ever-expanding virtual worlds and feel central to them, especially since virtual reality technology is still relatively new.

2. Spark word of mouth.

A virtual reality experience is not only memorable but also shareable, as Linnworks puts it: “It gets customers talking about you and sharing their experiences on social media.” Word-of-mouth advertising is a potent tool, particularly when it’s lively and genuine.

3. Strengthen consumers’ bond with your brand.

Immersing customers in a virtual reality experience is the best way to implement “show, don’t tell.” According to a McKinsey analysis, you can “enable a form of telepresence It transports viewers to a completely new environment and “evokes levels of empathy as if one were present.”

4. Encourage individuals to buy with greater confidence.

In certain respects, virtual reality technology can simulate the real world. Customers may examine the product from every angle, gain a better understanding of its size and proportions, and rely less on product descriptions in situations where language difficulties arise using 360-degree product views.

In the end, VR technology has the potential to boost online buyers’ confidence in their purchases, resulting in higher conversion rates and fewer returns when used correctly.

Implementing Ecommerce VR

It could be difficult to get your e-commerce virtual reality tool off the ground and into the hands and/or brains of your customers because this is a relatively new business. Once you have located an expert team to guide you through the process, here are the steps you should take.

1. Determine your goals.

“Using VR” isn’t the objective. It’s crucial to have a clear goal in mind before putting this new, sophisticated technology into practice. One of the following may be your objective, although there are many other examples as well:

  • Draw media attention by offering a unique shopping experience. 
  • Provide a more engaging manner for customers to interact with your items.
  • Reduce the number of returns by providing more thorough product information.

2. Determine the type of experience you want to provide.

There is a little more tact to this work. For example, you could design an in-store Yosemite VR experience for North Face, or an interactive experience where customers can engage with items, friends, or even shopping assistants. You could also design a product-based deliverable like the one from Audi.

3. Develop your VR experience.

The existing VR capabilities are your only restriction. Unless you’re already an expert in VR creation, you should definitely think about the following:

The Technology

What technological sophistication is required to achieve the experience of your dreams? Whether you want an engaging or passive experience, as well as whether you want the experience to facilitate people moving around a place, will determine this.

Developers

It’s critical to locate a developer with VR experience. Keep in mind that since this is a relatively new technology, finding the appropriate person could take a little longer.

Additionally, according to Annie Eaton, CEO and co-founder of Futurus, speaking with Ecommerce Guide, “developers that work on apps or websites typically aren’t the right kind of developers for creating virtual reality environments.” A visual programmer, who is a cross between a designer and a coder, is required.

Hardware

What hardware would your users require in order to interact with the experience you’re designing? If the experience is going to be provided in-store, room-scale hardware that offers a very reliable and engaging experience might be taken into consideration. 

However, you’ll need to select hardware that is reachable by your audience if you want customers to interact with this on their own. The majority of consumers cannot afford the now popular mainstream headsets due to their high price.

4. Test your user experience and performance consistently.

For virtual reality to offer an entirely ideal experience, there needs to be a close collaboration between the technical functioning and the user experience. 

Verify that every component functions properly and reacts to human involvement as anticipated, if any. 

Examine the experience from the perspective of a novice to identify any usability issues, such as clumsy navigation or a confusing user interface.

Make sure the typical user won’t feel queasy or uncomfortable during the experience.

5. Spread the word about your awesome new virtual reality project.

It is imperative that you spread the word about your amazing work. However, keep in mind that you are still marketing your store, your product, and your experience—you are not marketing virtual reality to them. VR is merely a tool. 

Additionally, marketers should think about the audience’s experience with the program. Giving free headsets to your audience, as eBay and Myer did to promote their virtual department store, is one method to engage participants who are participating from home.

Conclusion

VR technology is expected to revolutionize online shopping by providing customers with thrilling and captivating experiences as it develops and becomes more widely available.

If you’re looking for an e-commerce development business to help you with the creation of a mobile app, Appic Softwares is an excellent choice. We have a talented development team available to help you with any and all of your requirements.

Why then are you acting so cautiously?

Give us a call right now!