These days, getting people to care about physical retail shopping is becoming more and more challenging. However, immersive retail – the combination of various technologies used to create an enhanced shopping experience for retail operators and customers alike – is changing the retail landscape, attracting customers, and building brand loyalty in new and innovative ways.
What is an Immersive Experience?
An immersive retail experience uses augmented reality, virtual reality, and a mix of the two to envelop customers in a brand by touching on the five senses. It also allows retail owners and operators greater flexibility and control in managing their retail spaces in online and physical locations.
An immersive experience uses one or more technologies linked together to enhance everyday life by drawing a person into a new or augmented reality. No matter how they’re used, all immersive experiences seek to make daily life more engaging or satisfying through technology. The most frequent types of technologies used to create immersive experiences include:
Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality (AR) adds a layer of computer-simulated information to the real world, usually through devices like smartphones and cameras. Rather than creating an entirely new virtual world, AR is considered more of an enhancement of the world around you by adding or subtracting from existing information. A good example of AR in applications is the Skyview app. This popular app allows you to move your phone over the sky and see where constellations are in real-time.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual reality (VR) uses digital simulation to stimulate as many senses as possible, immersing the user in a virtual world that looks and feels real. The most intense VR experiences require special hardware and accessories like headsets, but not all VR experiences require them. Lancome Paris and Estee Lauder are just two examples of brands that have showcased their products in impressive interactive VR showrooms.
As you probably guessed, mixed reality (MR) combines elements of AR and VR to ultimately create an enhanced version of an AR experience. Instead of simply adding to or subtracting from existing information, it often integrates actual virtual objects into the experience to make it even more immersive than AR alone but less intensive than VR. A good example of MR in applications is the Time Immersive app, which uses objects in your home to combine the real and virtual worlds and bring new experiences to life.
360 Degree Content
By now, mostly everyone is familiar with 360-degree content. This refers to an interactive or explorable photo or video, which is shot in all directions simultaneously, allowing the viewer to rotate the viewing angle and see what’s “around” it. Some good examples of 360-degree content in applications are Expedia’s video series on travel destinations and Carvana’s 360-degree automobile viewing feature.
Digital twins are virtual models of real-life processes, objects, or systems that simulate near-exact versions of physical things to study or optimize them. While this technology is most commonly used in healthcare and the automobile industry, it’s also used to simulate retail locations for floor planning, online viewing, and optimization.
How do Immersive Experiences Encourage Customers to Visit Physical Stores?
Getting today’s consumers to care about physical retail shopping is becoming a challenge, but immersive experiences offer some innovative solutions. Over the last few years, e-commerce has exploded, and many retail stores have shifted to online shops. As they navigate operations in a phygital landscape, retailers have come up with immersive experiences to attract new customers and create brand loyalty. Technology and immersive retail experiences have helped businesses paint a clear picture of the customer experience, improve service delivery, personalize the buyer experience, and remain competitive in the industry.
Increases Customer Engagement
One of the main goals of an immersive retail experience is to get customers to interact with the products a shop sells. Retailers can achieve this through the use of interactive displays. Customers can utilize interactive displays, which are more stimulating than traditional physical stores with less technology.
Retailers have adopted things like interactive fitting room mirrors, which allow customers to browse the store’s inventory, get recommendations based on size and style, interact with a salesperson, request clothing through the mirror, and much more.
Increases Customer Satisfaction
Virtual reality has become more prevalent in retail shops as retailers use it to make their customer’s purchasing decisions easier. Customers can visualize a product in use with VR, leaving them more satisfied with purchases and encouraging them to return to the store.
For example, a customer can interact with a virtual bedroom and have options to customize items in various colors and sizes and place them in different locations. Then, they can tour the room to see how everything looks and feels once it’s put together. This type of immersive experience helps them decide what they need.
Eases the Shopping Process
The overall experience is an essential aspect of shopping that retailers need to optimize constantly to improve profitability, productivity, and customer engagement. Immersive technologies in their various forms are being put to use to ease the shopping process in many ways.
VR allows customers to add items to their shopping cart and continue browsing or trying on products, making it easier for shoppers to make purchase decisions. From virtual queuing systems to digital signage and touchscreens to RFID chips on shopping bags in online apps, retailers have been innovating many ways to manage footfall without damaging the customer’s experience.
The Future is Now.
Recent studies have shown that 47% of surveyed consumers admitted that immersive technology helps them feel a deeper connection with the brands and products they interact with, while 61% of surveyed consumers would choose to buy from brands that use immersive technologies over ones that don’t.
In today’s retail climate, immersive experiences are essential because they help consumers engage with a brand without feeling like they’re being advertised to – they’re simply enjoying a unique shopping experience.