Simulation of real-world objects applied to the retail industry is making a significant impact. The ever-growing online retail industry is now overtaking traditional retail markets. This being true for any type of product or service, there is an urgent need to understand the growing importance of VR in the retail industry. Virtual reality can be extensively extended to several retail markets like Home products, consumer electronics, clothing, food, beverages, etc., making the buying experience very realistic. The touch and feel aspect of real-time buying can be simulated using 3D virtual reality so much that the consumer often forgets that he is not in physical contact with the object/ service he wishes to purchase.
Earlier virtual reality simulation was confined to two-dimensional images and drawings, failing to push the consumer to experience a real-time purchasing scenario completely. With the advent and nurturing of 3D virtual reality, hepatic technology, and more, the retail industry can provide realistic experiences of their products and services.
Virtual reality can again be categorized as hardware type of VR, software type, and service type virtual reality.
According to Valuates Reports, investments in virtual reality in the retail industry will grow to USD 5455 million in 2028, from USD 2007 million in 2021. These predictions and forecasts are based on the fundamental aspect that consumers can visualize and access any product or brand they wish to purchase from any remote corner of the world through virtual stores. This is also based on the fact that the virtual reality retail market is a market where there are no boundaries or constraints imposed on products and services by either space or time.
In retail industries like the apparel industry, cosmetic industry, interior and space designing, etc., virtual reality allows the consumer or prospective buyer to customize the product how they wish. Say they can use their photograph and see themselves in various costumes that the store has on display, try several hair color shades and check without actually dying their hair, go and arrange interiors the way they wish to, in prospective homes, etc.
Let’s take a look at a few case studies:
In 2018 BMW took an innovative decision to launch its X2 line of cars at the CES2018 conducted in Los Angeles via virtual reality. They wanted the user to feel and experience the car interiors and have a behind-the-wheel experience completely through virtual reality. It was noticed that after the virtual reality test drive, customers dipped their heads while getting off the car to avoid bumping into the roofline of the car. And this was without the use of ‘haptics’ in their virtual reality tour!
Volkswagen also made investments in 2018 in virtual reality. By that time itself, it conducted training for 1000 people through virtual reality. It used HTC Vive customized virtual reality tools. It has utilized tools like LoopMotion to track the customer’s hand movements while driving.
Audi also incorporated many enhancements as compared to both BMW and Volkswagen. It used a simulated LeMans race pitstop. This is a ‘hepatic’ technology (based on giving the user a tangible experience of real-time situations. This technology uses mechanical sensors and other vibration and sound sensors to capture the user feedback and experience.)
In collaboration with Myers, the eBay store experimented with launching a virtual store that was compatible with android mobiles and devices. Their main focus was on the in-house shopping experience and was not on brand enhancement. Here the user was given a choice to shop based on his/her interests by choosing the categories, and the software tracked interests so that it could pop up only the interesting categories for further usage.
Ikea now has an app that allows users to experience an immersive virtual tour and test furniture available in their stores in desirable spaces. This contributes significantly to buying decisions as consumers get a feel of how the furniture would look in their apartments even before buying them.
There is an immense potential for the futuristic usage of immersive virtual reality with developed telepresence and enhanced usability in the retail industry. The next generation of online shopping will rely quite heavily on virtual reality. Market research, virtual reality training, and grocery store modifications are a few retail domains where virtual reality technology will be necessary.