Virtual reality — VR for short — is catching on quite a bit lately. You see it in experiences provided through smartphones, as well as in headsets created by companies like HTC and Oculus for both gaming and other uses. And very soon, you could be seeing virtual reality make inroads into the retail industry, providing customers new and innovative ways to view products, put themselves in the shoes of someone using a product, and make purchases.
So what are these interesting new uses you could see for VR in retail? How could this exciting technology be used to not only transport consumers to a totally different place but also help retailers push more sales and increase revenue? We’ve compiled a number of retail applications for VR below. Let’s dive in!
Showrooms are often used by retailers to show a lot of very similar items side by side. In most cases, customers can get a nice close-up look at a product and compare it to other competing products in the genre. And, occasionally, products in a showroom can be set up with a surrounding set to look as they would in the home, giving consumers an opportunity to imagine how something like a refrigerator or washing machine might look in their own abode. Virtual reality could allow consumers to view products in this same way, providing the showroom experience to them anywhere they’re able to put on a VR headset. When customers are able to view items in a more intimate fashion, they’re far more likely to pull the trigger on a purchase — especially if the product is a big-ticket item, which many would rather see in person first before plunking any money down.
Virtual Fashion Shows
Clothes shopping is hard! You can go to your favorite store and take a look at everything they have to offer, but you might not find anything you like. If you’re lucky enough to find something that speaks to you, you still have to find the right size and try it on. And even then, it’s hard to get some kind of idea how that clothing is going to look on you at different angles — you only have a mirror! A virtual fashion show could knock out several of these problems and actually serve you in a way you didn’t even think about. How do you learn about the newest styles before they’re popular? If you’re able to attend a virtual fashion show, you could see items before they’re hot. You’ll also get the benefit of seeing someone else wear them, and because it’s happening in virtual reality, you could see the clothing on a computer-generated model built to match your body type. And finally, you’ll be able to learn about who is selling the piece and make a purchase, all without leaving your couch. Sounds neat, doesn’t it?
Understandably so, some people are quite eager to part with their money before they see what they’re paying for. And more often than not, people will not spend money at all if they can’t see what they’re buying in person when that item costs a lot of money. Pictures and videos can sell smaller products. Some companies even use 3D renderings to let someone turn the item around and get a full look at it. But when you’re talking about something like a house, or an office building, or a yacht, for example, photos and videos are probably not going to do the job. VR replicates the experience of being in person to the point of letting someone walk around and see something as though they’re on the premises, which can help steer them toward agreeing to buy.
Virtual Test Drives
We’re already starting to see this gaming, and it’s only a matter of time until virtual reality gets to the point where it can not only make you feel like you’re in a place right next to a product (or, possibly, in the product), but can also recreate the experience of using the product. For retailers who are selling items like automobiles or products that you really can’t get a feel for unless you’re using it, virtual reality is going to be a huge boon toward convincing more customers to purchase products. Imagine being thousands of miles away from a great new deal for a car. You don’t want to miss out on the deal, but you can’t just go and buy the product immediately — it’s too far away! You could put on your VR headset, hook up a steering wheel and take a virtual test drive of the car. You’ll get a look at the interior, get a feel for how the car handles, and give yourself enough information to make a buying decision without traveling all that way for something you might not want.
Virtual reality is taking off in a big way, and an off-shoot of virtual reality is, as well. It’s called augmented reality, and as the name states, it augments our current reality with the technology found in virtual reality. AR headsets allow you to peer into the real world while still seeing virtual items placed in it, which could have wonderful implications for retailers who sell items like furniture. What if you could walk into your living room, pick out a couch on your phone, and using augmented reality, see that couch plop down right in the space you want it? It’s actually possible right now on a mobile phone, but as augmented reality continues to advance and headsets become more commonplace and the placement of virtual objects in real space gets better, AR will feel more lifelike and will give customers a better idea of how products fit into their homes and their lives.