Ever since digital technology came into being, businesses have been trying to find the best way to tap into its purchasing potential. Companies are just now starting to combine the power of e-commerce, digital technology, AI and mix it into a VR and AR gumbo called V-commerce. Although most businesses have some sort of an e-commerce strategy, from ordering online to building an online store, retailers are just now understanding the power implementing a strong V-commerce strategy.
You might be wondering if V-commerce is right for your business—only if you want your brand to appeal to tech-savvy customers. No pressure…
More and more retailers are looking into and investing in V-commerce. This is because audiences are engaging, connecting, and doing business through their devices, and it only makes sense that shopping would follow suit. Consumers want, no, expect retailers to make it easier for them to window shop, compare, save, and then, quickly purchase items.
You’re Already Familiar with V-Commerce
If you’ve heard of Alexa, Siri, and Cortana or any other voice-activated technology you’ve already dipped your toe into the V-commerce waters. These virtual assistants have made it easier for users to shop from their homes and businesses. However, we’re going to focus on in-store technologies, or should we say, virtual-store technologies.
The Difference Between VR and AR
When it comes to V-Commerce and virtual stores, retailers are tapping virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). For those who aren’t as tech-savvy, the different ways that VR and AR are incorporated into V-Commerce, can be confusing. Here’s an easy way to tell them apart:
- VR: Consumers put on a headset to view a virtual store or product.
- AR: Shoppers can view products on or in a virtual showroom and get product information with their smartphones, compare and purchase. Note: there are AR headsets but for the sake of clarity, we won’t delve into that.
What VR Offers
Shopping with VR headset may seem weird for some consumers but retailers have become a little more adventurous when it comes to creating VR experiences for buyers. One of the biggest VR selling points: the 3D component—allowing consumers to see the actual size, and features of products. Other VR offerings include:
- Giving consumers a 360-degree view products
- A chance to see how products look in their nature habitat
- Allow retailers to tell more in-depth stories about their brands
What AR Offers
Many stores are starting to offer virtual store options where all you need is to be able to download the mobile app and scan a QR code or NFC tags to make a purchase. Other AR offerings include:
- You can still see the outside world around you with AR, unlike an VR headset which encloses you
- You don’t need to augment reality visually, sound can also be used—like voice-activated technologies
- Data can be projected onto a real-time worldview
What About MR?
We can hear a few of you saying, “You left out Mixed Reality (MR)”. We didn’t want to confuse things, but we will. MR is pretty much like it sounds, a mix of virtual and the real world interacting with each other in real time. This “hybrid reality” is the newest advancement in VR. And just to complicate things, some people view AR and MR as the same thing.
V-Commerce Advantages and Success Stories
Here are some companies that are successfully using AR and VR technology with a few advantages to consider.
Converse—With their AR app this shoe mogul allows customers to try on footwear by projecting the shoe of their choice over the foot of the buyer, when they point their foot at the camera.
Ikea—Their app lets viewers see how 3-D model projections of Ikea furniture will look in the space of the customer’s choosing. This is a fun and useful app, check out The Verge write up on it.
Samsung—Using the Gear VR headset, Samsung put viewers on a “virtual” Carnival Cruise as a way to entice them to enter a contest to win “real-world” cruise
Once you scan the item you want, it’s delivered wherever you want. No loading things into carts or baskets and no waiting in line.
Consumers buy directly from the manufacture. No middleman. No markup from the retailer. We’re talking about “direct-to-consumer” purchasing. For retailers, running online/virtual stores are cheaper than maintaining a brick and mortar one.
Virtual stores are usually places that get lots of foot traffic: airports, bus terminals, subways, etc. This means that people on the run and travelers can shop as they go about their travel day and have items waiting for them when they get home or to the place they’re staying.
The only drawback is that buyers can’t hold or try on the items they’re purchasing. But if customers know what they want, the virtual store is perfect for the tech savvy customer. And since this consumer holds purchasing power in the palm of their hands, any V-Commerce strategy retailers can implement is a smart one.
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