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VR and the Shopping Experience

Technology is taking the experience of online shopping to the next level. Find out how big brands are improving Customer Experience with Virtual Reality (VR).

It wasn't too long ago when a shopaholic's buying choices were limited to what was available in the inventory of a brick-and-mortar store. And then online shopping happened, and shoppers were no longer bound to buy what they could readily have. They wanted more and they got more - all from the comfort of their homes, at their convenience and a wider range of choices than ever before. However, shopping online, do not give the experience of going to the mall and picking the items that you want. Technology is taking this experience to the next level. With VR shopping, it gives you the convenience of shopping online with the experience of being in the mall at the same time.

VR technology gives the online retailer a chance to reach customers in an unprecedented `way. The technology allows the customers, on the other hand, to see the products in 3D, test drive the item, try on clothes and shoes without going to the shop in person. In addition to that, the client will be able to get the content information such as ingredients, height, weight, package to mention just but a few about the product.

VR shopping was first introduced in China in 2016. A company known as Alibaba introduced a VR shopping experience known as Buy+. Buy+ has a VR headset which allows you to wander through your favorite online store, check through the items on display and add the ones you want to buy to your shopping cart. To add a product to your cart with Buy+, you only need to stare at the item for a long time. According to a report by Vice, more than 30,000 online shoppers used Buy+ within one hour of its launch. It is estimated that there are 171 million active VR shoppers today.

For you to enjoy VR online shopping, you will need a VR headset. The VR online shopping works just like the normal online shopping. It has a virtual shopping cart and after you have selected the items you need, you can pay for them by providing your card information.

Companies Offering VR Shopping

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Currently, there are several big online companies are offering VR shopping experience. In May 2016, Ikea Australia started the VR shopping. Their VR was built using the HTC Vive and it is available for use for all iOS, Android and desktop versions. The Ikea VR shopping allows a shopper to wander through the store and even navigate in between the furniture. When you find an item you like, by choosing a blue dot, the price and description of the product will be displayed for you.

In the same year, eBay Australia also started their “first virtual reality department store.” Amazon is also working to make VR shopping a reality for their customers. Another company that is coming up with VR shopping is Gatsby. According to Anastasia Cifuentes, the co-Founder of Gatsby, “We’re really trying to get close to what it’s like being there, and we want it to be very intimate, … All the little details on how you move, we’re really focusing on how to have that just right.” Their app is still in the development stage and it will be operational soon. The Gatsby VR shopping headset has buttons which you can use to rotate an item so that you can see it from all angles. If you click on the product, details of the product will be displayed for you and if you are satisfied, you can add it to your shopping cart.

Another company offering VR shopping experience to its customers is Lowe, an home improvement and DIY company. They have a Holoroom where customers with the help of VR headsets can see the possible renovations that they can do in their homes. With Lowe, a salesperson can, “personalize the virtual space with individual room sizes, equipment, colors, and finishing. Customers can select from literally thousands of Lowe’s products, swapping out choices even while in simulation mode. They can even view their design at home on YouTube 360 with a Google Cardboard viewer, which Lowe’s provides free of charge.”

Benefits of Using VR Shopping

The following are some of the benefits that an online shopper will get from using the VR during shopping.

1. Trying on items before buying – a customer can try on an item such as a garment with the help of the virtual dressing room. This ensures that you buy the right size of the garment. With the help of body mapping technology such as True Fit, a buyer can get the right size of either dress or shoe. Apart from that, it has security whereby a buyer cannot be videotaped more especially the female buyers.

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2. A true feeling of the item – most of the online shopping is based on the client reading the product description or other customer’s reviews. But with VR, a client will get the real feel of the product. The experience helps the buyer to make a better choice of the product.

3. Socializing – VR shopping allows a buyer to shop with a friend at the same time even if they are in different locations. Despite the physical distance between the friends, they can go online shopping together via the VR technology.

4. Emotional play - according to the Institute of Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California, a retailer can play with the emotions of a customer. “This is where VR shines. …You can put people in simulations that bring up an emotion, and then teach them ways to deal with that emotion in an appropriate fashion.”

Uses of VR Shopping

VR can be used for shopping for different items online. For instance:

• A buyer can use VR to try on clothes, shoes, and make-up.

• A customer can use VR to inspect items such as shoes, furniture from all angles to ensure it meets their specifications before buying.

• A retailer can use the VR to present the brand of the business to clients. For example, a retailer can put the image of his store for customers to identify the shop.

• VR is used to bridge the gap between online shops and the brick-and-mortar shops. This reduces the need for a customer to queue in a store to shop. Hence a client can shop from the comfort of his home.

In conclusion, VR shopping will not give you a similar experience of personal shopping in a mall, but it is way better than the normal online shopping. However, as technology advances, VR shopping is likely to give you the in-person shopping experience. VR is becoming more accessible and cheaper. Nowadays, you can experience the VR shopping from your smartphone. All you need is a Google Cardboard set for $10 and you are good to enjoy VR shopping experience.

VR together with other technologies can change the online shopping experience. It helps to solve the primary challenges of online shopping by integrating both emotional and physical feelings into online shopping. The role of VR in shopping will continue to expand as the years pass by and it is likely to revolutionize the online shopping experience.

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