Weathering the Covid-19 Storm: How Immersive Virtual Experiences Will Pave the Way for Retail

By Anna Brettle, Founder and Director of Stellar Global Ltd

Quite understandably, many consumers will be hesitant to return to the high-street in the coming months due to health and safety concerns. And, as the threat of COVID-19 still infiltrates almost every aspect of our lives, many shoppers will look to minimise their physical interaction in public spaces – meaning physical high-street stores could suffer from decreased footfall should they not have alternate services in place.

Whilst this may seem a troubling reality, these stores have no time to waste in despair – especially in the wake of prolonged retail closures. Instead, they must work to build engaging, yet simple, virtual experiences that interact with a consumer base no matter the location. Most importantly, these experiences must still cater to individual needs.

An obvious challenge in this respect is ensuring that the communication and service available in-store translates to a digital format. Whilst this won’t be an easy task, it’s by no means impossible. Together, the retail sector will need to rely on creativity and innovation to bring an authentic shopping experience to the digital space – and there are so many ways of achieving this!

If a consumer is looking to better understand how a product works, brands can look towards virtual demonstrations. This could see an ambassador explain the key benefits of the product whilst answering any questions that remain in a bespoke live session. If they’re looking for further support following a purchase, we can rely on masterclasses that allow transparent communication and solidifies brand loyalty. If you’re a clothing brand, then why not invest in AI technology that can bring that changing room experience into the comfort of a living room. If you’re not a clothing brand, why not invite your consumers into immersive environments that allow them to tour prospective services or observe in-store demonstrations!

Of course, our virtual presence is not restricted to our onsite platform alone and, as such, we’ll need to build our communities across social media, live streaming platforms as well as through email marketing. Not only will this broaden our online reach, but it will allow us to create a community that exceeds the physical!

In short, there is no limit to creativity and, if used correctly, we can still offer customers a genuine and deep understanding of a product – so that they feel empowered and informed when making a purchase. Done well, there is no reason a brand might not flourish in our modern retail landscape!

While the arrival of the pandemic has undeniably increased this transition to digital, the need has been apparent for years. For some brands, this was a welcome change. Yet, for others, it was an inconvenient disruption. So, whilst some got to work to provide a clean digital presence, others began to develop original formats to appeal to consumers – from product sampling events, to pop up shows to festival formats.

It would be ignorant to say that either of these out-performed the other because when utilised correctly, they both prove to have astonishing results. However, the pandemic has called the rivalry to an end and retailers must now ensure their physical and digital presence resonate with one another.

In the long-awaited post-pandemic world, we predict that the demand for physical experiences will surge. However, we won’t be waving goodbye to our technological awakenings. They’ll likely bleed into our physical environments to offer bespoke and exciting experiences for consumers whilst providing brands with long-lasting and confident methodology!

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