Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) have come a long way in a short while. Businesses across the world are embracing the use of AR/VR technology by tailoring their products for the virtual sphere. Within the next four months, it's possible that over 8,600 brick-and-mortar stores will shut down due to the rise of e-commerce. V-commerce is the natural next step, and though they may seem like an unusual pairing, retail and VR make great partners.
Ikea recently unveiled its online virtual reality experience in Australia, which allows customers to be immersed by in-store floor sets as if they were there, then make purchases and have them delivered. The technology allows users to visualize the size and color of furniture pieces in 3-D rather than rely on a flat computer screen image. Similarly, Lowe’s incorporated VR into its shopping experience with the Holoroom. Customers give the dimensions of a real-world space and Lowe’s fills it (digitally) with products. The customer then put on an Oculus headset and experiences what their furnished room will look like. Products can even be switched around while the headset is in use, empowering consumers to personalize their room while in-store.
Other retailers are also realizing the power of VR in driving consumer engagement, and have implemented specific VR/AR campaigns to their overall brand strategies. For example, footwear company TOMS uses VR to show consumers their one-for-one mission in action: When a customer puts on a head mounted display (HMD), they will be instantly transported to Peru and witness the TOMS team distributing shoes to children in need. This allows customers to see firsthand the effect their purchase has on a child’s life, while also forming a deeper connection with the brand and ensuring their loyalty to it. Bullfrog Spas is using VR to provide consumers with an immersive way to experience its jetted tubs. Potential buyers are now able to sample Bullfrog Spas’ merchandise in-store or off-site, allowing the retailer to cover significantly more ground.
With countless retail businesses shutting down due to the rising popularity of online shopping, virtual and augmented reality are welcome updates to the contemporary retail experience — ones that can provide additional revenue streams to fledgling brands willing to adopt this relatively new technology.
Kimberly Cooper is the CEO and co-founder of Spatialand, a VR platform and toolset aimed at helping creators easily design and update immersive content destinations.