Shopping in Virtual Reality: Taking Stores to the Virtual World

25 Sep. 21
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Ask anyone with a bit of knowledge about the tech industry, and they’ll probably let you know that virtual reality (VR) is going to be the next big thing. This is hard to argue with, as a number of industries are now utilizing this new technology for everything from developing new and exciting video games, to sports training conducted with some of the top players in the NFL. What this shows us is that VR is rapidly changing the ways we live our lives and go about completing tasks.

The long-struggling retail industry is just one of many business sectors which could benefit from a virtual reality rejuvenation. For years, retail stores have fought against the titans of online commerce such as Amazon and eBay. And while many large companies like Wal-Mart, SuperStore, BestBuy, and others continue to thrive in the retail world; others have not been so lucky. The truth is, as times change and technology advances rapidly; the world changes. Take Blockbuster and Netflix for example. How much longer until we’re doing all our shopping online, with retail a thing of the past?

The Pandemic Problem and the VR Solution

Curbside pickup became the go-to at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was largely due to the fact that it was the safest way for many businesses to continue to operate with minimal risk to the public they were servicing. The problem with curb-side pickup, however, is that it still has a physical pickup zone or you may still need to enter a storefront to browse before making your purchase. So how can VR change this? How can we take the problem of the pandemic and simplify it?

Virtual reality has near endless possibilities when it comes to what it can do. VR, in effect, could be used to completely transform the shopping system and revolutionize commerce. One could argue we’re already seeing this on a smaller scale, given how much online shopping increased between 2019 to 2021; but if you’re able to introduce a technology like VR which allows for easy to browse items from the comfort and safety of your customers home; you’re likely to see a boom in revenue.

How Does VR Improve Online Shopping?

You might be wondering how VR actually improves the already sound process of purchasing things online. While you may think VR is just a useless accessory to add to the process, you might be missing out on some benefits only possible through virtual reality. Consider first the importance of being able to see and feel a product in front of you. The best we can achieve online for this is the ability to zoom in on and enhance product photos; but that doesn’t necessarily give you a real idea of what you’re buying, how large it is, the scale in comparison to your home, and where you’ll keep the item, and other factors you can only really know upon physically seeing the object. This means, through VR you’ll be able to interact with these products as if it were reality; checking them over in real-time to make sure they’re up to your specifications and will fit into your home or lifestyle.

Making VR Work In-Store

Perhaps you and your team aren’t fully ready to go online only with your VR. One way you can test the waters is by offering in-store demos of VR technology. This can be implemented fairly easily, at the cost of only a VR headset and whichever software or apps you choose to install for it. From there, you can offer customer demos for your business; everything from allowing them to browse soon-to-be-released products, to providing exciting VR experiences for them to explore. Many businesses already use VR as a means for attracting customers. Lexus uses VR to allow customers to test drive their potential purchases without leaving the showroom, and locations such as Gamestop, Wal-Mart, and other companies which sell VR equipment often allow for customers to try the technology before they buy. This clearly demonstrates the buzz that VR can stir up in your store, and it may become a great way to boost your customer engagements and raise revenue as well.

R&D in VR

The research and development phase for a product can quickly become costly and time-consuming for any business looking to launch a new product or service. One way to circumvent this issue is through the use of VR in your research and development phase. By using 3D models and headsets, you can create general mockups of your product and test them in a variety of scenarios in real-time. While this will seem initially more time consuming than regular R&D methods, you’ll be saving an abundance of money on everything from materials, services, and having to pay third party workers who assist with your products R&D. Taking things through the lenses of VR simplifies and cheapens the process, and helps you launch your best products as soon as possible.

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