As COVID-19 continues to push many consumers away from crowded streets, brands need to rethink their customer experience strategies outside of their physical and websites.
While the numbers change by country and industry, there is one thing all brands can agree with is that the virtual has grown rapidly.
One year ago, fashion retailers invested heavily to increase visits to their physical stores in city centers and malls. In 2021, the situation is completely different.
As COVID-19 continues to push many consumers off the high streets, brands need to rethink their customer service strategies outside of their stores and beyond their websites and apps – as they step onto the scene, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have become viable options.
The development of virtual reality and augmented reality in retail
The AR applications have become common. Many retailers in particular offer a try-before-buy experience, such as seeing furniture and products at home with consumer brands such as Ikea and even virtually trying on luxury clothing such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
In the past six months, as retailers around the world have had to rethink how best to grab consumers’ attention, loyalty and purchases, virtual reality has quickly transformed from a gadget to a significant part of their overall brand positioning and sales arsenal.
Take, for example, the American jewelry brand Kendra Scott. The pandemic forced the brand to temporarily close its chain of stores. In response, it introduced a range of solutions allowing customers to virtually try different earring styles on the couch.
A recent global survey by Nielsen found that consumers already mentioned Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality as the best technologies they would like to use in their daily lives in 2020. The majority added that they are willing to use AR or VR to evaluate products as part of the purchasing process. This number has increased dramatically during the pandemic.
Recently, Exporis also confirmed the effectiveness of AR as a sales tool. Data for the third quarter showed that consumer interactions with AR products showed a 90% higher conversion rate than non-augmented reality products. AR and VR, alongside with the Omni-Channel eCommerce strategy could accelerate the growth of small e-commerce businesses.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality: Beyond Reality
The potential of using virtual reality (VR) in e-commerce is equally visible; it allows retailers to create much more immersive and engaging experiences that mimic those of physical stores, and in some cases, add enhancements that aren’t even possible in the real world.
Take the work of Imperial Avenue, for example, to recreate the flagship store of Karen Millen in VR. Wherever they are, customers can browse the virtual store and purchase the items they find there. Virtual stores are available on most platforms and include access points that allow customers to get more information about different products as well as other interactive features.
Alibaba.com has gone even further with its Buy + Shopping platform. This platform allows customers to not only navigate through the department store, but also recreate parts of New York City, and even take a Times Square Taxi to a virtual version of Macy’s.
However, VR and AR not only recreate the real world: eBay Australia and Myer, a leader in Australia and New Zealand, have created a virtual experience in a department store that instead of replicating the common patterns, has no walls, ceilings or even no escalator, allowing customers to can fly through endless product spaces.
Exporis eCommerce Team.