Virtual reality has always been something that seemed like a far off fantasy – until now.
Retailers are beginning to experiment with virtual reality as a way to “transform the customer experience.”
VR often times gets confused with augmented reality; the difference is that blends fictionalized reality with real life, whereas VR is purely interactive.
Samsung is on the forefront of the VR revolution with their device, Samsung GearVR by Oculus. The device has been released in about 130 AT&T stores and on Carnival Cruise. Samsung even describes their flagship in New York as a “digital playground,” catering to customer experience.
Many retail companies, from Lowe’s to Tommy Hilfiger are using this technology to their advantage to give customers an experience in order to further engage them with their brand – Hilfiger used the VR device to give customers a front row seat at his fashion show, as well as a backstage experience.
One of the key advantages of having a brick-and-mortar store is providing entertainment and a shopping experience.You can’t get the effect of a shopping experience through e-commerce; it’s something unique to a retail establishment. With VR, that is now possible.
VR can be compared to e-commerce in that both emphasize reaching a brand wherever and whenever one wants. For VR to be successful in the retail landscape, it needs to be something that can be injected into their everyday lives and with their mobile devices.
Retailers are taking advantage of VR technologies to provide a simulated in-store shopping experience for the online channel, especially for merchandise that is hard to return, such as furniture. Lowe’s introduced the “Holoroom” in 2014, which allows for homeowners or interior designers to see things in their own space.
Customers will soon be able to immerse themselves in a store, getting an up-close look at the products as if they were there in person.
This can be used as a multimedia promotional tool that combines still images and video in order to stimulate something for a viewer. This in turn can drive them to make a purchase or encourage a call to action after interacting with the VR device.
It also has the potential to add emotion to e-commerce, something that gets lost within the screen. Ironically enough, VR’s digital nature will help customers feel emotion during the shopping and decision process.
Even though VR is in its beginnings, it is going to be something heavily considered by retailers (among other industries) to emphasize customer experience, ultimately finding a way to promote their own longevity.