Blog V-Commerce: Revolution That Started with AR in Retail
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V-Commerce: Revolution That Started with AR in Retail
By Veronika Petrenko
8 min read

We are on the edge of the revolution that will merge the real and digital worlds, and this revolution starts with the world of commerce. Strange as it may seem.

However, why “strange as it may seem?” Columbus and Magellan crossed the oceans and discovered new continents looking for new trade routes. It’s different today: though the number of square meters on the planet is limited, virtual/parallel dimensions are limitless. So welcome to the world of v-commerce – the world of infinite shopping. It’s the world in which retailers use augmented reality and virtual reality as effectively as never before. And gain real profit.

Sci-fi directors and marketers noticed this revolution among the first. This is the big market from Luc Besson’s  “Valerian and the city of thousand planets” – a hyper-dimension with the infinite number of goods that you see wearing a pair of VR glasses.

This is Dennis Villeneuve and his  “Blade Runner 049.” Close future in which heroes interact with holograms that get alive to advertise goods and services.

This is the ad of one of the European marketplaces that plays with the idea of instant shopping possibilities.

Such things show that the paradigm of shopping is changing rapidly: we don’t need to go to the stores to buy clothes and we don’t even need to choose goods on websites. Simply put: e-commerce is transforming into v-commerce.

What is V-commerce?

V-commerce is a radically new paradigm of online business. It’s the story about burning bridges  between customers and products, it’s the story about “it looked better on the website!” You can’t imagine the world of the future without IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AR/VR ( Augmented/Virtual Reality), of course.

V-commerce is a real experience in a virtual space where you can explore goods and buy them in one click. VR/ AR apps help companies with the implementation of the best features v-commerce can offer:  “try before you buy option”, visualization, and experimentalism. To open AR/VR apps you don’t even need additional devices, your smartphone is absolutely enough. It seems that almost all top brands, such as Ikea, BMW, IKEA or L’Oreal, have implemented the principles of v-commerce in life.

V-commerce is actually nothing but the improvement of e-commerce with the help of virtual spaces and the opportunity to test any product before paying for it. In other words, it’s a win-win for companies and customers.

V-commerce Benefits for Retailers

VR/AR technologies are meant to produce real WOW effect. That’s first and the most obvious benefit of VR/AR solutions for companies. Emotional hook created by VR/AR applications is stunning because most people who see AR/VR apps exclaim: “It’s awesome!

VR/AR give a serious competitive advantage to any company.  They let the brand play on the territory of technological innovations. As a result, it’s easier for brands to reach a younger target audience- generations Z and A. In 3-5 years these technologies will be mainstream and the absolute necessity.

AR/VR solutions help to optimize resources effectively. All product line is easily stored inside one augmented reality application. All the vehicle line with all the configurations.

V-commerce for Customers

For buyers, AR/VR mean the absolute comfort and emotional engagement. In the world of consumerism, with the infinite choice of goods and services, buyers are looking for emotions and experiences more than for anything else. This is the age of the experiential economy.  AR/VR apps surprise customers, make them laugh, and amaze them. Augmented reality applications let customers interact with goods directly destroying barriers.

For instance, a virtual reality dealership gives customers a chance to see how their car will look in different configurations in different colors. It solves the problem of the buyer’s remorse once and for all. No more it looked different on the website.

Virtual car dealerships

To choose the car a customer needs to spend 4-5 hours in a car dealership. During this time a client will only have the possibility to look through 4-5 cars and listen to the infinite number of dealer’s stories. If the necessary model is absent,  a customer will have to go to another dealership. Customers are limited in their options today: they can either agree to customize a car model in 2D online or… test their phantasy imagining a car in a different color with a different configuration.

A virtual car dealership which can be accessed from any place of the world is a great alternative to archaic shopping models. A virtual car dealership works 24/7, there is a whole car model line there, and, most important, there are no annoying dealers there.

Cadillac has recently opened such a studio where customers can experiment with configurations, colors, textures, and accessories.

It’s hard to impress anyone with virtual test drives as well. BMW offers you to take a test drive with a supermodel in its 360 video. Lexus creates psychedelic worlds for road trips. Volvo attracts a younger target audience placing a bet on virtual reality.

Virtual stores

Amazon, Alibaba, and Shopify – e-commerce giants got augmented.

Amazon. The pioneer of electronic commerce  (and the richest company in the world)  has added  AR view to one of the options in its mobile application for shopping. So customers can take a look at a realistic 3D model of any product. You want to know for sure if your new sofa fits in the design of your apartment or if your Bluetooth dynamic will match the design of your office?

Shopify. Îne of the biggest marketplaces for e-commerce, is making V-commerce accessible to more than 600 K merchants all over the world. The company understands that without this option sellers and buyers will soon feel disappointed. It can be the biggest augmented shopping platform in the world in several years.

Alibaba. Asian monopolist entered the technology race and introduced the platform for virtual shopping. The company opened 60 virtual stores for the holiday business to attract new customers. The company is experimenting with virtual and augmented reality all the time adding new AR/VR features or creating partnerships with Starbucks for a unique customer experience.

Big world retailers came to the conclusion that you “go v-commerce or go home.” First of all, AR/VR helps to optimize costs for lease, salary to sales managers and expenditures on goods returns. But that’s not the most important thing.  For such giants, as Ikea, L’Oreal or Pepsi, it’s crucial to stand out and build a winning brand positioning. You see, augmented reality benefits for retail and shopping go beyond material benefits: they give brands unique perception.

L’Oreal. AR app created by  L’Oreal MakeUpGenius lets customers try on all the lipsticks, shades, and tones online without leaving the place. And buy all the products in one click.

IKEA. IKEA went even further and helped clients to test themselves in the role of interior designers: they got the chance to furnish their apartments experimenting with textures and colors. Create a perfect composition from a personal perspective and build the place of your dreams.

In the end, people were taking photos with sofas placed on the streets!

ALLO Virtual Store. In Ukraine, only one company joined the V-commerce race by opening the first ever AR-based virtual store of electronics. It was more than a trick to attract customers and more than a gimmick to produce a WOW effect. The company had to solve a serious problem: extending the product line and selling bulky goods, such as fridges or washing machines in the same physical stores. Yet placing them in the existing physical stores was not possible without relocation. How much does augmented reality store cost? Less than opening new physical stores.

Instead of going the beaten track, ALLO decided to open a virtual reality store – the infinite space for shopping.  AR apps for iOS and Android were built to give customers access to real goods. Any customer from any place in the world can see the how, for instance, a fridge will look at his/her kitchen, if it fits the design. He can even open it and look inside.

Animations are the trick and the catch of this application. It was created to hook customers emotionally, to remind them that they are just kids. They say that there are three things you can watch forever: fire boiling, water flowing, and virtual juice running from a virtual juicer.  And it’s just an augmented reality shopping app.

What’s Next for V-commerce?

Will AR glasses substitute smartphones? People are still arguing about it! I imagine the world where people in AR glasses work, travel, and communicate easier and more effectively. The lenses of these AR glasses reflect all the necessary information in the most adequate and comfortable way with the help of tables, graphs, and videos… AR applications in real life are limitless: you come to the conference and see all the data about all the attendees in real time. You can choose a vase for your mom from your own kitchen.

After some time, AR lenses will substitute for AR glasses, and customers won’t notice the difference between the real world and the augmented world.

Projected AR comes next. It’s the technology that gives customers a chance to see the digital information overlaid over physical reality. No devices are needed: just a projector and a camera. Augmented reality benefits for retail and shopping, manufacture, e-commerce, education, training are limitless, customers just need to find out how to use AR properly.