When people ask me for predictions, I typically point them to someone else. I'm not much of a futurist, but I have a pretty good track record on seeing how technology advancements will impact buying behavior. One technology that I've been fairly quiet about has been augmented reality and virtual reality. It's all cool, but I believe we're still a few years away from practical use.
If you're a retail store, though, I'm going to be a bit bold on predicting the impact. The impact of ecommerce and mcommerce is having a much more dramatic impact on retail traffic than ever before. Retail sales continue to plummet… and it can't simply be sold as an economy problem.
Consumers have learned to trust online shopping. With same day shipping in many cities, there's just not much of a reason to stand in line at the local store anymore. From groceries to cars, online to door delivery is going mainstream. The only reason consumers haven't totally adopted online sales is that there's still the touch and experience factor.
But augmented reality and virtual reality will change that.
While industry experts predict gaming and travel niches to benefit the most, they agree that VR/AR technologies will change the way we shop as well. Just like mobile devices revolutionized eCommerce (mCommerce accounts for more than 34% of all eCommerce transactions globally), VR and AR technologies will change eCommerce world we know in the nearest future.
This infographic from Maven E-commerce brings the reality of this technology to life. Here are a couple examples where augmented and virtual reality provide a better experience than the floor of a store.
- Buying new furniture? No more measurements and guessing… just use augmented reality to place the products in real time in your room.
- Buying a car? Why not step into a virtual reality room at the dealer and test out your next car with the make, model, colors and add-ons you're looking for. And get a virtual tour of all the features.
- Buying clothes? See how you look in them at home, even ensuring the proper sizing.
Virtual furniture, mobile immersive catalogs, gamification, virtual vehicle tours, virtual dressing rooms… anything is possible to enhance the shopping experience from the comfort of your office or living room couch. Retailers who won't adopt will be quickly left behind. Consumers realize it, too. In the last year, the people who have said virtual reality will change the way they shop has increased from 37% to 63%.