Consumer shopping behavior is rapidly evolving. According to data, AR and VR are driving the new digital shopping experience, with the global virtual reality retail market expected to hit a market value of $20.9 billion by the end of 2023.
Major retailers and brands such as Armani are already offering their customers cutting-edge VR experiences. Your brand can also leverage the benefits of a VR shopping experience by investing in virtual stores, WebVR, and VR product configurators.
So, how do you get started?
Here’s what you need to know about VR shopping experiences and how your brand can offer them to your consumers.
What is Virtual Shopping?
Virtual shopping is a distinctive shopping experience enjoyed primarily through VR technology. Virtual shopping allows users to browse and purchase goods from an online store as they would in a physical store.
This means they can virtually interact with the products as if they were physically at hand, browse the entire store catalog, and talk to a customer representative interactively and in real time.
Virtual shopping delivers a breathtaking omnichannel experience that seamlessly combines online and offline shopping.
Despite being a new and growing technology, VR is attracting a massive audience, with data showing that there are about 810 million active VR and AR users globally.
The Use Cases of a VR Shopping Experience
VR shopping is a broad concept with several use cases in retail. Here are the most compelling ones.
E-commerce is a powerful and popular form of retail. Brands lacking an e-commerce presence or platform face more significant challenges in selling their products and reaching their audience. While this status quo is not expected to change soon, v-commerce is bound to be the trailblazer of new digital shopping experiences.
V-commerce allows customers to have virtual experiences with products, improving engagement, which is one of the most perennial problems with e-commerce. Better engagement leads to fewer cart abandonment and product returns.
When customers see a product they love in your store, they start imagining how they can use it. VR brings to the fore their imagination, allowing them to actually try and see the product virtually, better understanding how it will serve them.
For instance, a gadgets store can implement in-store VR to show customers interested in a blender how they can use it to make their favorite smoothies and develop a greater love for the product.
Virtual stores provide an excellent way for brands to showcase their products to their customers, introduce them to their culture and make them feel part of their identity. Customers can have a complete shopping experience in a virtual store without leaving their apartment and have the product delivered to their doorstep.
Virtual stores allow the brands we work with to personalize their shopping experiences and address each customer’s unique needs, boosting customer loyalty and engagement.
Alibaba is another major brand that has adopted the concept of virtual stores, launching its unique implementation recently that allows for a complete shopping experience up to checkout.
VR Product Configurator
Personalization in shopping goes as far as product configuration. Customers want the flexibility of choosing unique features they’d like for their products based on their tastes and needs.
With VR, you can implement a versatile VR product configurator that allows customers to see the products in a virtual setting, modify them, and interactively see the effect of their modifications.
What You Need to Develop a VR Store
Developing a VR store requires special tools and technologies to get the features working. From the brand’s end, software tends to be the most essential tool needed. From the customer’s end, depending on your implementation, they may need a VR headset.
VR headsets are becoming more popular, with data showing annual sales should exceed 27 million headsets by 2028.
Therefore, with increasing mass adoption of the hardware, your brand should focus on the following.
Game Development Engines
Game engines are an essential part of VR software development. They allow you to bring all your assets and 3D products together and build realistic visuals with immersive experiences. These game engines are also essential if your brand plans to use gamification in its VR shopping experiences strategy.
Some of the most popular game development engines for VR include:
- Unreal Engine
VR shopping experiences can be enjoyed outside game engines, using devices that can access the internet via a browser. WebVR is the most preferred method of implementing VR immersive shopping experiences because of its versatility and low barrier to entry.
With WebVR, customers don’t have to download specialized software or an app to experience your store’s VR experience. You also don’t have to market this software and publish it on marketplaces like Oculus Home and Steam.
With WebVR, your online VR shopping experience lives alongside your online store, with customers able to use the same checkout options and features to complete their purchases.
Digital Asset Creation and Management
3D digital assets are essential in creating a VR retail experience. They define the virtual products and allow your customers to interact with them.
Digital artists use software such as 3ds Max and Maya to create digital assets from your products, with high-quality animations, textures, and effects to allow customers to interact with them.
How You Can Create a Personalized VR Shopping Experience
If your business already exists in online retail but lacks a VR shopping experience, here’s how you can implement it and add a new experience for your shoppers.
- Design the project – With the help of a VR shopping experience expert, you can design a framework for your VR project that aligns with your business goals and fits your budget.
- Create 3D assets – You can use 3D artists and designers to create digital 3D models of your products, which will be used as assets in the virtual world.
- Create the VR framework – Using the 3D assets, you can implement your VR framework. Depending on the desired experience, you can add voiceovers and roadmaps.
- Test, Deploy, and Analyze – Once your VR project is ready, you can test it, deploy a stable version, and analyze its data to improve the experience.
Get Guidance from an Expert
VR shopping experiences are the next big thing in retail. Customers want more interaction and engagement while shopping for better decision-making. Talk to an expert and learn how VR will empower the next stage of your business.