WE/AR Blog The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Reality (VR) in Retail
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The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Reality (VR) in Retail

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By Oleg Boiko
12 min read
17.04.2022

Virtual reality in retail transforms the shopping experience for many customers around the world and sets a new standard for the future of retail. Customers started to get used to online shopping when everything everywhere is technology-oriented. Now, the customers expect their shopping experience to become even more comfortable. The need created a proposition, and virtual reality appeared on the market.

Differences Between AR and VR in Retail

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Virtual reality (VR) in shopping is often associated with other technology that allows customers to interact with the product virtually – augmented reality or AR. Both follow the same goal and use similar technology to make the shopping experience more comfortable for customers. However, they have differences.

  • Mainly, augmented reality lets shoppers see the real world with the imposed digital elements, while virtual reality shopping experience transfers them to virtual settings. For instance, shops with augmented reality technology can let you interact with items without actually trying them on. You see the dress you like but doubt whether it will fit in with your favorite jeans or the jacket you rarely take off? AR technology will allow you to see how the items will look together as if you went to the store and tried everything together. 
  • Virtual reality completely transforms reality rather than enhances it. For example, you would like to visit a new shop but cannot travel there right now, a virtual reality tour will let you see everything just as if you were there physically. With VR technology in retail, you can visit New York Fashion Week while still sitting on the couch in the comfort of your home. 

Virtual Reality in Retail Market: Statistics

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While the AR and adoption of the 3D technology was the first step for the retail industry to start making online shopping better for consumers, VR is the next step they take. This decision is supported by the raw statistics, not only by accepting the trend. Some of the numbers for you to see for yourself:

1. 94% increase in conversions – what Shopify, one of the biggest platforms for e-commerce, experienced after implementation of the AR in their stores. 

2. 174% increase in overall revenue – the result MOSCOT, the NY-based manufacturer of eyeglasses, received after implementing a virtual try-on function on their website.

3. $30.7 billion – the value of the augmented reality market, according to Statista.

4. 810 million – the number of active mobile users trying the technology, as stated in the same Statista report.

These numbers only predict the growth of the VR shopping market. The forecast made by Market Research Future expects the global virtual reality in the retail market to reach USD 20.9 billion by the end of the forecasted period, which is the year 2023.

Virtual Reality in Retail: Benefits

Virtual reality in stores proves to grow financial gainings, help in marketing campaigns, and increase customer experience and sales.

Engagement with customers

The most useful function of VR in retail is making the connection between customers and brands stronger. With VR and AR, customers can feel the product, try it on, and see it in their ordinary environment. An immersive shopping experience creates a feeling of physical and emotional connection between the customers and a brand. For instance, the North Face introduced their customers better to their identity by showing a virtual landscape of Nepal.

Personalization of the VR shopping experience

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We always feel closer to the things that sparked the strongest emotions in us. While using VR technology, customers can personalize their shopping journey and feel the product. For instance, you can be a designer and personalize the jacket using virtual tools before making an order.

Use of marketing tools in VR

The whole point of marketing is showing off the product in the market and making it more appealing to the customer. Letting customers see all the benefits is the goal marketers set before them. VR shows these benefits better than any other technology. It shows in the example of Adidas in 2017. The company showed a 360-degree view of the mountain-climbing journey of two athletes that were sponsored by one of their business divisions.

Effective Merchandising

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When the customers can virtually travel the shop’s area, see the products on the shelves, pick them up, examine and add them to a cart, it can show invaluable data to the retailers. After all, product merchandising is the most important part of the retail industry. Many retailers found that having a virtual showroom helps to know exactly how to distribute products on the shelf without guessing.

Test of New Products or Marketing Studies

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Before making any significant product launch or ad campaign, many companies run acceptance testing, during which the VR technology is extremely helpful. For instance, if the retailer wants to test the new collection before introducing it to the customers in physical shops worldwide, they can virtually showcase it to customers from around the world using VR.

Data Analytics

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Virtual reality shopping gives marketing analytics a huge load of data that can be used to improve brand awareness and customer experience. For instance, eye-tracking technology built into the mobile VR headsets helped Kellog’s to understand how customers are choosing the products on the shelves. It helps to see what items they find the most attractive and what products do not catch their attention at all.

Digital Twin Adoption Help in Cutting Carbon Emissions

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When buyers around the world travel to other countries to see the different collections of their favorite brands, this trips add to the carbon emissions hurtful to the atmosphere. When brands started to present virtual models of the shops, also called digital twins, customers lost the need to travel to see the clothes. Customers could virtually see and feel the clothes. Actually, Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative expects the digital twins model to contribute to a 20% reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

How VR Is Used in Retail Business

After seeing the benefits of VR in the retail industry, the retailers started implementing the technology in different ways in their work.

V-Commerce as a Separate Area of E-commerce

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E-commerce has already found a solid place in the commercial industry and became more popular than physical retail. Selling the items through the Internet using virtual reality started to interest retailers in a way that was separated into the sub-category called V-commerce.

The ability for customers to have virtual experiences with products helped to find a solution to one of the most prominent problems of e-commerce – reducing the number of shoppers that abandon their shopping carts before purchase. Before that, the number was extraordinary – 78%.

Virtual Encounters With Customers

Virtual reality allows a brand and a customer to have closer interactions. The opportunity for customers to have a virtual tour of the store adds to the excellent customer experience. Brands can add the opportunity for a customer to ask questions and communicate with them just as if they had a conversation with the consultant in a store.

In-Store VR

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When people see the product they like in the store, they immediately imagine how to use it. VR allows them to go beyond imagination and actually see and try the product in virtual reality using the headset. For instance, after putting the VR headsets in the kitchen goods and gadgets store, customers can see how they will do the smoothies in a blender in the virtual reality.

Product Configurator

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Virtual reality in the retail industry transformed when the VR product configurator was introduced. The technology allows customers to see the product in the virtual settings, moderate it, change its looks and customize it to their liking. The VR product configurator is mostly used in the retail industry when the products in the store can be changed and moderated for the customers’ choice.

Virtual Store Tour

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Retailers use virtual reality shop tours to show that they are open to customers and want them to feel their culture and identity. By using the technology, brands can interact with customers and allow them to visit the virtual settings of the store without actually stepping foot outside their apartment.

Staff Training

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The virtual reality retail industry is useful not only for the customers of the shops but also for the staff. Training for the employees became more effective after introducing the VR. For instance, every potential situation that staff was only informed about can be lived through virtual technology. Employees can solve difficult situations, interact with customers, and learn more about the products, to be more prepared for their future job. While the product range always widens, the training has to be constant without being a burden.

Virtual Reality in Retail Examples

VR transformed the reality of the shopping industry, and the brands won’t stop with what they already have. You can see the enormous impact by the examples of how the retail industry is taking advantage of the virtual shopping experience.

Alibaba

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The concept of a virtual reality store has great use in online shopping giant Alibaba’s strategy. The store introduced a promo for digitally created store that customers can walk through, choose the things they want to buy, see the clothes’ contents and prices, and then add them to the cart.

Toms

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Shoe company Toms’ shows a great example of in-store VR. In 100 of their shops, the company inserted a place with VR headsets that show a promotional video offering customers to donate a pair of shoes for every pair they buy to the children of Peru.

Volvo

Volvo presented a great way to use VR for marketing purposes. The company used Google Cardboard for their Volvo Reality app to let drivers try riding through the different virtual locations and understand whether they want to make a purchase or not. The initiative proved to be so effective that other car companies started to use it.

Mastercard and Swarowski

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The other good example of virtual reality shopping online is the application produced by Mastercard and Swarowski. The jewelry house promoted its collection of home decorations by letting customers see the items in the virtual reality home, choose them and pay for them using Mastercard.

Impact of COVID-19 on VR in Retail

As the COVID-19 pandemic significantly reduced the work of stores that didn’t have any online presence, it just as much prompted the development of everything that was led on the Internet. Every business that allowed customers to use it while being isolated in their homes prospered, and every other one started to look into ways of how they could move online.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, the VR industry rose by 50% compared to the previous year. It showed that VR, and VR retail, in particular, gained more competitive strength over other marketing activities, such as online stores, and physical, TV or radio advertising.

Virtual reality retail stores started to appear more often, and customers got used to the new reality. In 2020, almost 32% were using AR and VR technology for shopping. In general, the main influence that COVID-19 had on the VR industry is transforming it from a niche technology to one of the prominent methods of promoting retail and engaging with audiences.

Stages of VR Implementation in an Existing Business

If a business that already exists on the market decides to introduce a VR project to its customers, it can do it using four simple steps.

Step 1. Design the project. 

First, you need to create a framework for the VR project. Introducing virtual reality to your customers isn’t easy, and it has to align with the marketing and sales goals. Create a design project that will work for the customers and be useful for your business.

Step 2. Create 3D content.

3D content is the core of any VR project. You can gather the references and contact outside designers or create everything inside the team. Make up the 3D images that answer the goals you set in the first step.

Step 3. Move 3D to VR framework.

After you have the ready 3D images, you can make up the VR framework with them. Now you can add everything missing in the 3D images, like voice-over, interactions, and road maps.

Step 4. Test, Deploy, Analyze.

After you have the ready VR project, you can test it on your customers, collect the data and analyze the results.

More info you can check on Virtual Reality App Development page.

How VR Is Changing Retail

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Virtual reality started to take over almost every business industry, and retail is not standing aside. The shopping industry is the one that people use every day to fulfill their needs and, of course, they want it to improve and offer more comfortable services. The stores introduce shopping in VR in any possible way they can: using in-store VR, offering virtual store tours,  and even inventing v-commerce. The numbers prove how effective the technology is and how much customers love it.

Surely, VR is helpful technology for retail business, but implementation takes time and effort of the skilled professionals. There is always better to address the company that has done similar projects in the past. If you need expert help in making a VR project that will elevate your sales and increase customer experience, WE/AR Studio professionals are here to help.