Augmented reality, virtual reality and the future of eCommerce

By Ciaran Bollard, CEO of Kooomo

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are transforming the retail landscape, by combining the best of online and offline shopping, and allowing consumers to visualise products in real time, from the comfort of their own homes. Retailers looking to get ahead of competitors and enrich the customer journey must therefore consider the benefits that AR and VR can offer them, with immersive eCommerce technologies proving extremely valuable in overcoming the challenges brought about by Covid-19.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key AR and VR technologies that are shaping retail, as well as what’s next on retailers’ agendas as we move through 2021.

The 3D virtual showroom

The most popular AR and VR eCommerce experience to date is the 3D virtual showroom. To clarify, when we talk about this showroom, we don’t just mean a virtual copy of a physical store, but a technological interface that enables customers to experiment with items the same way they would in person. High definition, 3D images, AR and VR environments work to extend the physical space with a virtual one, bringing shopping assistance to a whole new level and enhancing the “try-before-you-buy” experience.

Many subsectors are already taking advantage of the 3D virtual showroom, including fashion and homeware with virtual changing rooms, try-on apps for cosmetics, and 3D placement for furniture and interior design. Retailers that haven’t yet looked into virtual showcasing should therefore ensure this is a priority moving forward, as what was once considered a “nice to have” becomes a “must have” in the wake of the pandemic.

The at-home photoshoot

Today, there are a number of AR and VR solutions that businesses can use to maintain high-quality shoots while working remotely. For example, technologies have been introduced that enable retailers to test models’ poses and facial expressions before finalising the shot, as well as possible backgrounds and lighting. Taking this one step further, 2020 witnessed the rise of the virtual runway, where designers are able to showcase their collections through online platforms and panel discussions take place via social media.

Gamification

And finally, the next phase of AR and VR set to transform retail is the gamification of the online shopping experience. This means applying game-like features to a non-game context, which not only helps to drive user engagement but also pushes consumers towards certain behaviours. For example, features such as badges, levels, performance charts and scoreboards work on a reward basis, thereby nudging consumers towards a behaviour and rewarding them for it. Gamification can also improve customer acquisition and retention, by providing users with the opportunity to share their experiences with friends.

Ultimately, the retail experience is not just about what you buy any more, it’s also about being socially connected, and providing something much more meaningful and complex to keep users engaged. Retailers looking to thrive must therefore bolster their eCommerce offerings with AR and VR technologies, and adopt new methods to interact with customers throughout their shopping journey.

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