The topic of virtual and/or augmented reality is hot these days, with worldwide spending on its development projected to increase by at least 100% every year through 2021. This rapid growth is due in large part to the investments and innovations being made by such tech giants as Apple, Google and Facebook. And one area that is expected to be impacted most significantly once the adoption of this technology becomes more widespread is retail. Let’s take a look at a few of the changes consumers can expect.
VR/AR will revolutionize the computer-based shopping experience through simulation of ownership. That is, buyers will be able to see and better understand what it will be like if they complete the purchase and buy an item. This will lead to improved purchasing decisions and greater consumer confidence. There are a number of different ways online retailers can deliver this kind of experience to their shoppers, including the following:
Rather than simply viewing pictures of a vehicle, home or tourist destination online, consumers will be able to virtually tour them for a better idea of what they’re going to get for their investment. For instance, a person planning a vacation will be able to remotely explore the beach or other resort amenities to see which destination is the most desirable. Or, someone shopping for a new car can see what it’s like to test drive a certain make or model right from the comfort of their own home.
Shopping for clothing online will become much more of a science than the guessing game it is today. That’s because with VR/AR, shoppers will be able to create virtual self-representations and view true-to-life fitting of virtual products. The same goes for measuring pieces of furniture for your home or comparing the size of an existing plant to one you’re considering ordering online. Essentially, shoppers will be able to compare products virtually with tremendous accuracy.
Product Use Simulations
Want to know how a particular product you’re evaluating will behave at various times during the day? Curious to know what a certain color might look like in different lighting or even weather situations? VR/AR will allow shoppers to simulate product use cases as if they were actually physically present.
The second area where virtual and augmented reality will disrupt the online retail experience is through what’s known as spatially referenced shopping. This term refers to the virtual navigation of a shop in a way that simulates the physical experience of walking through in person. There are two distinct advantages to this approach versus traditional computer-based shopping:
The human brain is adept at remembering certain things based on visual-spatial interactions. For instance, most people can easily recall that the milk is located at the back corner of the supermarket, even after just one shopping trip. VR/AR shopping can simulate this memory-triggering mechanism, enabling faster and more positive shopping experiences.
When people shop online, they typically stick to the items they originally came to a site to purchase. When they shop in stores, on the other hand, they are more likely to walk around and browse other items, which can lead impulse buys. By incorporating the ability to browse virtually, retailers can capitalize on those serendipitous discoveries and additional, unplanned purchases.
Of course, these features and benefits are not yet something most consumers will be able to experience until sometime in the future. However, as more and more companies begin to invest in developing and bringing these technologies to market, the closer we will come to making traditional screen-based shopping a thing of the past.