VR in Retail: Bridging the Gap Between In-store and Online
Virtual reality has been making its mark on the retail industry for some time. We’ve seen it creeping in to fashion houses, homeware stores and the automotive industry – clearly this tech is an effective retail tool. But can it bridge the growing gap between in-store and online shopping?
Consumers love convenience and for a long time now, in-store shopping has been suffering. With the ease and accessibility browsing online brings, it’s unsurprising that it’s becoming our preferred way to shop. Virtual Reality retail experiences have the ability to, in part, close this gap. A VR experience has the same familiar sensory results that a physical shopping experience has, whilst also combining the creativity and interactivity of online shopping.
But how would virtual retail work? VR in retail is, and will likely become, very different from how we currently shop within the digital sphere. As the technology develops, you may be able to virtually peruse the shops in all your avatar glory.
Imagine creating your avatar to the exact height and size specifications as yourself. Not sure those jeans will look good? Nothing in your bumper delivery fits? In fact, we seem to be wasting a lot of our time returning items bought online. In the US of the $1.2 trillion in worldwide footwear and apparel sales, $62.4 billion were returned for improper fit in 2015.
It’s early days in the virtual world of Avatars, but companies like ‘Body Labs’, will let you create a free avatar through their ShapeX website. All you do is enter your height, weight, and send a photo. ShapeX then automatically email a list of body part measurements to the user, making it easier to build avatars. So, if your avatar isn’t werkin’ it, then it’s likely you won’t be either. No longer will you fall foul to a wardrobe brimming with clothes unlikely to ever see the light of day.
It’s not just the fashion industry that is benefitting from this tech. Home improvements are also big VR business. With the average UK family spending approximately £35 a week on household goods and services; tech investment in this area seems inevitable.
Earlier this year, IKEA Australia launched their first Virtual Reality store. Normally, a trip to IKEA requires some extensive planning; how you’re going to get there (is it an IKEA law that they must be situated in some obscure part of town?), what you’re going to buy, (meatballs or a hot dog?) and which argument you’re going to have. Forget the mammoth journey, with this tech, you can walk those pine clad aisles from the comfort of your own (let’s face it, probably IKEA) sofa.
Full Sensory Overload
As hard as it may try, at this moment in tech time, VR cannot fully compete with the physicality and sensory nature of a real shopping experience. Nip down to your local high street and you can touch, check the quality, even sniff and taste (if that’s your kind of thing) all your potential purchases. This tech can give you a more realistic insight than just plain old web browsing and the potential for 5D features and sensory VR is clearly huge, but until someone develops smell-o-vision there’s some way for it to come.
So, does VR have a place in retail? Is it bridging the gap between in store and online shopping? – We certainly think so. It’s hard to imagine a world with no normal shops or a world in which we no longer browse the web endlessly. But, this kind of retail has brought us a new way to shop, perhaps we will soon be lucky enough to have all these separate ways of shopping available to the masses. A combination of the three will surely make for retail bliss.