When I was 5 years old I used to go on biweekly trips to local stores with my parents. Whether it was food, clothes, or furniture, I was excited to get ready to go on the adventure.
We had to schedule it into the week because the planning, travel, product selection, purchase, and travel back took time and effort.
Fast forward to today and it takes us <2 minutes to click “buy” on BigBasket (or Amazon or DoorDash or HelloFresh or any other eCommerce site available today) to add our items to the cart and purchase them.
Cheaper, faster, easier, and more personalized. Why wouldn’t we?
Amazon’s disruption not only wiped out the immediate go-to brick and mortar option for retail, but pioneered the eCommerce revolution that many hadn’t seen coming.
However, several retail corporations and industries have done a swell job of adapting to eCommerce — by understanding why it was doing well, getting in early, and adapting to high standards in the new playing ground.
For example, DoorDash is the alternative to my weekly in-personal grocery shopping. As an online food ordering and food delivery platform — with a 56% market share, it is the largest food delivery company in the United States.
Also, according to IBM’s 2020 U.S. Retail Index report — “the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital shopping by roughly five years.”
Following soon after, the recent 2021 Mastercard Retail E-volution Report mentioned that
eCommerce can’t be the last revolution that’s coming to the retail industry.
Have you started thinking about what might be next?
Do you want to know what the next major incoming shift to the retail industry is that you should invest in early to start using to…
- increase conversion rates
- gain greater data analytics
- build stronger emotional relationships
and more with your customers?
Keep reading, and you’ll learn about an emerging technology worth investing in for your industry, business, or product.
Ps. This is relevant for both existing eCommerce retailers and brick and mortar retails.
Here’s a hint🤫
“According to a Neilsen global survey called ‘Augmented Retail: The new consumer reality’ from 2019, consumers listed Augmented and Virtual Reality as the top technologies they’re seeking to assist them in their daily lives.
vCommerce, an all-encompassing term, coined by Alan Smithson, describes virtual and augmented reality commerce.
Simply put, virtual reality (VR) immerses you into a different world, while augmented reality (AR) alters the world you are already in. Mixed reality (MR) can encompass parts of both.
All of these different types of immersive environments are referred to as extended reality (XR).
Here are some ways it’s being used right now by customers…
1) Virtual Try-ons & Showrooms
One of the main reasons brick and mortar retail still exists and hasn’t completely been taken over by eCommerce is because customers want to try on and test products before they purchase them.
Virtual Try-ons or VTOs are a form of AR that “puts products into context of purchase” for a potential customer without them actually having the product with them.
It gives shoppers the option to ‘try on’ products before they buy them.
Example 1: Ray Ban’s virtual try-on lets customers digitally overlay different sunglasses onto their faces to check out which one looks the best on them without a brick and mortar store nearby.
Example 2: IKEA’s Place app lets you use AR to assess how types of furniture would look around your home/office before you purchase them.
Example 3: Facebook and Michael Kors partnered to use them too to create fitting room like spaces to boost the power of advertisements to sell products.
VTOs are being used for makeup (e.g. L’Oréal), furniture (e.g. IKEA Place), glasses (e.g. JC Penny, Glasses USA), watches (e.g. Popsci Apple Watch), shoes, acrylic nails (Sally Hansen, Maybelline), and many more.
More on VTOs here👇🏽
Virtual Showrooms, such as the one created by MetaVRse, “allow customers take tours of any space or facility and interact with all kinds of objects ranging from a complete catalog of industrial machines to small tools or engineering processes.”
This can be used to visualize and interact with any retail product in 3D from guitars to cameras to watches to fishing rods — you name it. Check this out in motion by viewing the MetaVRse Virtual Showroom below👇🏽
The MetaVRse Engine makes it easy to share and distribute 3D content on all platforms.
2) On Demand Expertise
Several studies and surveys show that retail customers spend a considerable amount of time looking for and assessing product-related information before making a purchase.
AR can make it easy, accessible, and intuitive to access information that can sway purchase decision making by overlaying relevant information that can help the buyer make the best purchases for them.
As a customer, walking through an aisle or skimming through product options, the decision making process can be made more confidently by surfacing video tutorials, product recommendations, and reviews within their view of the room so they can make a purchase that truly matches their distinct desire.
For example, the surfaced information can include recipes possible to make when walking through a fruits and vegetable isle. “How to”s and product comparisons could also be included.
This will save the time that we know shoppers spend looking for and considering product-related information before deciding on what and how much of something to purchase.
An example of this being used is by Max Factor Makeup Artist in My Pocket which is powered by the Blippar app.
For far too long have industries created standardized experiences despite the fact that the cognitive diversity and experiences of who their work is for. Each individual is so distinct from another that the optimum experience cannot be objective for all.
We are now seeing industries recognizing this. With the rise of personalized medication in the healthcare industry and the early stages of personalized education (online, self-paced courses for now) in the education industry.
In retail however, although we have seen online advertisements customized to what shoppers might want using data analytics…
Is that all that can be done?
As referenced by this article, AR can be used to create personalized shopping assistants that can highlight items in both an eCommerce setting and brick and mortar retail setting for each customer — based on their shopping list or past purchases.
The recommendations or offers can be presented right within their field of view as they look around the store. It can also be used as a way-finding tool to help navigate shoppers through a large store.
This AR can even specify the type of products a friend/family member may want when a shopper is going to buy a present for them, or block out any products that are out of the shopper’s budget or that they may be allergic to — you get the point.
Other purchase friction can be eliminated like
- language barriers when recognizing and understanding what products do
- answering customer questions immediately via a chatbot
- skimming through a visual product catalog with filter keys instead of having to walk through aisles and aisles for selection/try-on.
Data analytics here is not only helpful for making the customer experience easier and specialized to them, but is extremely useful for the retailers.
For example, it can be used to drive foot traffic to departments customers may not visit otherwise, and also zero in on average customer profiles retailers. Retailers can use this information to expand/diverse that.
What vCommerce can do for you
Monetary Benefits | The Bottom Line📈
Increase revenue and conversion rates
The conversion rates increase for retailers using AR because it decreases the friction during purchase decision making as a customer can not only go through the experience faster (as outlined earlier) but also understand exactly what it’s like to own their potential purchase.
The confidence and clarity that AR (and predictive data analytics) gives to customers when making a retail purchase is 🔑.
The impact isn’t fluffy potential, it’s already been done
- Shopify recently released new data that interactions with products having AR content showed a 94% higher conversion rate than products without AR.
- Houzz, a leading online platform for home re-modelling and design, recently introduced a new AR feature which lets shoppers “virtually cover their floors with tile, true to scale, and preview how it would look in their homes.” Their CEO, Adi Tatarko, shared that “customers spend 2.7 times more in apps that offer AR and more importantly, customers AR were 11 times more likely to make a purchase.”
- L’Oréal’s Chief Digital Officer, Lubomira Rochet said, “we now consider virtual try-on to be the base of any experience. At the end of the day, the only barrier to buying [a product] is wondering what it will look like.” They experienced a 3-fold increase in conversions after implementing the technology throughout their website.
- Estée Lauder recorded a 133% increase in usage of its virtual lipstick try-on during the COVID-19 lockdown, indicating that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of XR further.
- Macy’s ran pilot VR programs in 3 stores and found that “VR-influenced furniture sales had increased by more than 60% versus non-VR furniture sales”. They also led to >2% merchandise return rate. Since then, they’ve expanded the VR programs from three stores to a 100 stores.
Data Collection & Analytics📈
VTOs capture collect important data — “from geolocating the consumer to heat maps of product views to cloud maps of their actual space”, retailers can use this data to understand consumer experiences and decision making deeper — using it to improve their overall experience further.
Accurate eye tracking in VR shopping would allow the retailer to understand shelf placement focus and priority from the customer’s perspective — gold data for store designers, packaging designers, and marketers.
Another use case, is using VR to “visualize and test new stores, packaging, signage, and even lighting before a store is even built.”
As Alan Smithson discussed in his article on “The Virtual Future of Retail”, it costs millions of dollars to build a store and run testers to collect valuable data on shopper’s habits.
Instead with just a fraction of that cost, you could create a VR environment that unlimited shoppers could access, all from their bedrooms.
An easy and efficient option for both the retailer and the customer💖
Personalized advertising, assuring customers of their purchase decisions, content/product recommendations can all be boosted too using data analytics.
Building brand awareness🚀
An emotional connection to brands has been recognized as one the primary reasons why one may be preferred over another during purchase decision making.
According to Psychology Today, “fMRI neuro-imagery shows that consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts),” when choosing a brand.
vCommerce will allow retailers to have potential customers experience their brand over just consuming factual information about them.
This gives all of you retailers a huge opportunity. Picture this🌆
You’ve been spending time playing virtual reality games with bicycling adventures or races, and when you go to purchase your next actual bicycle, you recognize the brand of one from your experience winning your last virtual race.
The association of the virtual experience and the emotions attached to it will connect to the retail brand, increasing the likelihood that you will purchase that brand over any other on the rack you don’t have an emotional relationship with.
Companies you already know, have got in early
If you’ve read ‘til here, you already know major brands like IKEA, Ray Bans, Maybelline, Sally Hansen, JC Penny, Facebook, Michael Kors, Gucci and more have got in early in terms of using AR to grow…making both their financial team and their customers very happy.
- Lego teamed with Metaio to create an app which allows customers to visualize what a Lego construction would be like after completion.
- Converse launched the “Converse Sampler App” allowing shoppers to angle their camera to their feet and take a snapshot of the shoes they are interested in before purchase. The pictures can be shared with friends and family for feedback.
- Toyota launched the Hybrid AR app, allowing customers to understand their C-HR model. Created with agency Brandwidth, the app works by “overlaying images of the inner workings of the Hybrid drivetrain onto physical vehicles.”
- Amazon (ModiFace) — “L’Oréal has rolled out Modiface to Amazon customers on mobile, allowing them to also digitally overlay make-up looks onto live photos and videos.”
- YouTube introduced its ‘AR Beauty Try On’ feature, which is an ‘interactive ad’ with a split screen allowing users to watch a tutorial and try on the look at the same time.
- The Gap released their “DressingRoom” app that allows users to try out a dress on a virtual mirror. This replaces the time and effort needed to go to an in-person fitting room while allowing shoppers to still try-on outfits and pick ones that match their style and size.
What comes next?
I can see what it’ll look like…but how will it feel?
A current limitation is that most vCommerce applications don’t enable customers to know what it’s like to feel, hold, or carry the products. For furniture material, or clothing this may be helpful information.
However, with the integration of XR and Haptic technology (simulates sense of touch and force) advancing, this too will become possible.
As amazing as XR technology is, it also comes with potential risks and drawbacks. Like any other technology that collects data, there are security breach risks.
Because consumer and employee data are at the heart of so many developing XR products, retailers should remain mindful of privacy compliance and litigation risk.
In the U.S., a variety of state and federal laws require consent, among other things, before certain data can be collected or used.
There is also a global trend, under laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe to give consumers more rights and control over their own information in ways from, how it is managed and stored, to how it is shared or sold.
Integrity comes first.
“Early adopters of immersive technologies will dominate the industry similar to those who embraced the internet” — Alan Smithson
The progress in vCommerce isn’t slowing down anytime soon, so the question is, how do you think XR could benefit what you’re currently working on?
Let’s get creative🎉
Check out MetaVRse — perhaps, we can help you turn that vision into (extended) reality🚀
P.s. most others were hyperlinked throughout the article