E-commerce is entering a new era. Consumer expectations are higher than ever and customer behavior is changing fast. In the last couple of years, we saw the rise of chatbots and AI-powered virtual assistants. This year, e-commerce is becoming more immersive with Virtual Reality (VR) stores.
Easy-to-implement and cost-efficient, immersive Virtual Reality (VR) stores have the potential to fundamentally change the way brands, retailers, and artists engage with their customers.
So let’s dig into the specifics.
Technology has been a great tool to make our lives better. We saw POS systems become digitized, the development of e-commerce platforms, virtual assistants, and more advances that resulted in better communication, faster sales operations, and an increase in revenue.
At the center of each business, customer experience resides. Over the years, companies delivering great customer experiences have been continuously adapting to consumers’ ever-changing needs. We have seen the rise of user-generated content on platforms such as Tiktok, Twitter, and Youtube which changed the narrative of how brands and retailers communicate with their customers. Loyalty programs, Affiliate programs, Paid Advertising, and many more tools are being used to build a great customer experience before, during, and after any contact with a product.
This leads us to the next step in continuing this trajectory of success. Retailers, brands, and creators can now bring their physical store experience to a global scale without having to compromise any of the attributed customer experience by going through e-commerce. It can even go beyond that.
Three ways retailers can take advantage of Virtual Reality stores, include improving retention rates and engagement with customers, increasing interactivity on the e-commerce experience, and driving additional sales.
A win-win situation? Let's dig deeper into how virtual reality is enhancing customer experience in retail.
Semantic network analysis results using R: The relationship of two words reported commonly together. Source
Numerous academic studies and market research on the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in retailing and marketing have risen in response to the development of Virtual Reality (VR) and its practical uses. The majority of the research has focused on consumer responses driven by VR, including purchasing intention and customer satisfaction. In fact, research led by Park et al. in 2018, confirmed that feelings present through VR positively influence pleasure and arousal, which led consumers to find the store more attractive.
Elements such as the architectural environment which includes layout, furniture, and other physical components; the humanitarian touch which includes fellow customers, shop assistants, and employees; and the informational environment which includes price tags, ad placements, and other data displays play a huge role in attracting customers to a brand, big or small.
Images from a VR store
The reasoning behind these results is that shoppers can project themselves in a digital environment that simulates the look and feel of a real store, completed by product demonstrations, interactive displays, and more personal communication with their preferred brands in a safe and comfortable setting. Retailers providing a fun experience for their customers prove effort and care towards them which contributes to a sentimental connection towards the brand.
It is important to note that VR is becoming more and more accessible every day with over 171 million users worldwide, expected to increase by 27% and reach a total of 216 million VR users in 2025.
This makes it a great market opportunity for merchants looking to improve their customer experience, stay relevant and upsell with new generations such as Gen Z, especially since big manufacturing giants are racing to offer the best hardware and affordable product on the market including Oculus, Apple, Samsung, Sony and many more.
More demanding than ever, Millennial and Gen Z customers are now expecting an experience that surpasses just purchasing from a store. An experience that is convenient, fun, and transparent. People want to experience shopping in a way that no other current solutions can provide. They want to touch, feel, and try the items that they plan on purchasing, even if it is just a pair of shoes. There is no substitute for in-store purchases and retailers have taken note.