Be it shopping for clothing, luxury goods, or technology, the line between offline and online shopping is becoming more and more blurred.
This is why we see a growing interest in Virtual Reality in retail, which could (if it hasn’t already done so) completely change the shopping experience of consumers.
Technology changes rapidly, and it is impossible to predict where the next breakthrough will be. However, it is already possible to assess the potential of existing technologies and predict the future of retail in 3-5 years.
VR in Retail: Omnipresent Trend or Dubious Asset?
Despite the low interest in shopping using virtual reality, VR solutions show a whopping conversion rate and high order value. It’s a fruitful asset for retailers actively battling for audience engagement.
Today’s retailers are not just selling products, but also impressions and emotions. In this way, they induce customers to form an emotional attachment to the brand and, as a result, perhaps build an ever-lasting relationship with the customer.
No wonder such big names as IKEA, Timberland, and Amazon are heavily invested in virtual reality
ABI Research estimates the capacity of the VR market for retailers at $10 billion by 2022-2023.
Most of them are fashion, beauty, furniture, and interior design industries. The bandwagon is a virtual fitting room to help their customers choose the right product without leaving their homes.
These sellers see VR as a method of addressing challenges such as advertising, promotion, fitting, sales, and consumer education.
However, experts’ opinions on the future of VR in retail marketing are divided. Some believe that these technologies have the potential to completely change the market landscape and the buying process itself. As a result of the widespread use of VR in retail, the line between offline and online shopping will be more blurred and it will completely change purchase scenarios.
Others are more skeptical: VR is indeed a useful tool but it has not widely changed retailers’ business level or customers’ behavior yet.
Perhaps the full potential of VR in retail industries will be unleashed with wider implementation across different retail verticals. Individual companies and startups have already reaped the benefits in implementing VR solutions for new retail spaces, staff training, centralized warehouse management, and space control through virtual and augmented reality segments.
Despite being a relatively nascent technology, VR shows huge leverage in different industries such as e-commerce, beauty, and makeup, or travel and tourism.
In addition, video chats, online educational services, online shopping, VR, and AR solutions have seen a huge demand during the COVID pandemic. In the next 3-5 years, experts expect fairly widespread use of VR technologies.
Employee Training With VR
Employee briefs and training have also made inroads in the VR retail sector. This long-term investment has already shown results, even though some training equipment is either expensive or resource-consuming.
A case in a point could be shoplifting scenarios or the management of busy shopping days during a Super Saturday or Black Friday.
New employees sometimes find themselves in a virtual environment that simulates their future work environment and presents solutions to mitigate possible emergencies. The ability to learn from examples allows for the practicing of complex scenarios that trainees would not normally have had access to in traditional learning environments.
Technology also allows employees to absorb information through real-time applications, save time on traditional forms of learning, and helps them to gain a foothold in a working environment. It provides insights and practice in various customer support scenarios including stressful conversations with customers, guidelines and training on new equipment, logistics, and employee assessment.
Some of the biggest VR Players in the Retail Sector
Gucci has signed a contract with a Wannaby startup, which develops applications with virtual reality. Now you can try on sneakers right from your bed: just choose a model, point the camera at your feet and see how the new shoes will look.
Earlier, Wannaby developed applications where you can virtually repaint your nails in any color. When the user selects a nail polish color, a link to Amazon appears on the screen with the brand and price.
American firm MAC Cosmetics began installing AR-stands in their stores, which work like interactive mirrors. With their help, customers can see how this or that makeup will look on the face.
L’Oreal has created interactive virtual reality advertising for Facebook and Instagram users. Users can see how the company’s cosmetics will look on them right from their smartphones.
Timberland offered shoppers the opportunity to try on any item without entering the store using a virtual fitting room.
IKEA released an app that allows users to see how the furniture fits the interior of their room.
VR: The Future of Retail?
As customers` buying decisions become more dependent on emotions and interactive experiences, VR will become an increasingly popular tool for a great number of retailers.
Although virtual reality has not yet come close to fully realizing its potential, investments from tech giants like Google and Facebook show that it’s probably just the right time to jump on the bandwagon.