With the increased interest in the metaverse, VR capability is becoming important in the retail sector. The global virtual reality market was valued at $21.83 billion in 2021. It is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15% from 2022 to 2030 – and the increased interest in immersive experiences facilitates the growth via gloves, headsets, glasses, and bodysuits.

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of 3D imagery that provides a seemingly real interaction by the person experiencing it. VR has grown in popularity in recent years, changing the dynamic of multiple industries, including retail. Retail is one of the most competitive industries in the economy. Still, like other competitive industries, retailers must be able to adapt to their surroundings and offer bigger, better experiences to make sales.  What is Virtual Reality in Retail?

VR can create simulations for shoppers and employees in a retail setting using special hardware and software. These simulations often focus on the company’s products or other business processes. Some of the unique experiences that can be found within retail VR include:

  • Virtual Shopping Mall – The virtual shopping mall experience includes the ability to browse a single store or entire chain from the comfort of a VR headset without leaving the house. These simulations make it possible for customers to explore new brands.
  • Product Configuration – Some retail establishments go above and beyond to accommodate their client’s wants and needs. The use of 3-D product configurators lets shoppers select their product build, design choices, and functionality through a series of interactive options and results in a 3D model of the updated changes.
  • Virtual Stores – Virtual stores offer a virtual shopping experience, they are more individualized to the brand. These simulations recreate and mimic the brand down to the store design and features and let customers explore at their own pace with no pressure. These provide the option to purchase, gamification features, and influencer engagement.
  • Product Simulations/Previews – Instead of keeping a full stock of products on the premises (or when new products are about to launch), retailers may use VR to let customers enter a fully immersed digital world where they can see the products in an interactive experience. Through virtual pop-ups, companies are experiencing increases in sales and product engagement. The immersive experience changes the way that shoppers experience the brand.

The Importance of Implementing VR in Retail Branding

There has been an uptick in adopting eCommerce and other “hands-free” shopping experiences due to COVID-19. The increase in demand has created an increased need for technologies to facilitate these numbers and expand upon the immersive technologies being implemented to increase consumer experience.

3D, AR, and VR are changing the retail experience, with 68% of consumers in APAC and 58% in Europe reporting that they have advocated for immersive technological experiences. These reports also indicate that close to 20% of the population in the United States will enhance their experiences with VR. The use of VR will make it possible for retail customers to experience things like “try-before-you-buy” and replace the manual processes with digital ones within the retail infrastructure.

The Outlook of Virtual Reality in Retail

Virtual reality takes many of the physical restraints out of the retail industry and allows its reach to expand to larger audiences – including shoppers in remote areas. The global virtual reality in retail market size is expected to reach $5,455 million by 2028, increasing from a value of $2,007 million in 2021 and growing at a CAGR of 13.82%. In addition to the benefits that customers gain from the implementation of VR in retail, there is also a benefit to the employees in the industry. Training can be facilitated on a larger scale when done virtually. Training through VR is also more cost-effective and can cover a greater area than conventional training practices alone.

Advantages of Implementing VR in Retail

The advantages of VR in retail establishments often depend on the type of experience a retailer wants its customer or employee to have. For this reason, the type of VR experience that the user experience is highly dependent on the needs the brand has and expresses to the software designer. It is through these experiences that customers get a one-of-a-kind memorable experience. These experiences can help spark word-of-mouth referrals and strengthen the surety of customers making purchases of the brand.

How to Implement VR in Your Retail Brand

Implementing VR in your retail brand can be complicated, especially since many VR solutions are still in their infancy. Once you find the right hardware and software solutions for your brand to implement VR, some steps need to be followed to follow through with the process.

Determine Your VR Retail Goals

Simply deciding to implement VR is not the goal – businesses have to know exactly what they want to achieve by implementing the technology. Some of the goals that a retail establishment might wish to achieve by implementing VR into its brand may include gaining press attention with a unique shopping experience, creating an experimental way for customers to experience your products, and reducing return rates by communicating the product information clearly to the consumer. Customers who gain exposure to the products beforehand are more likely to purchase them – which has been seen in several brands worldwide by offering a pop-up option using VR.

Decide on the Experience to Deliver

Retailers have to determine what they want to achieve before they can decide what the best way to deliver the experience is. The type of experience a business chooses to deliver with VR is highly dependent on the overall goals of implementation. For example, is the goal to show off new products? If so, it might be beneficial to offer a VR experience that allows for testing prototypes. Looking for a way to make consumers feel more at home while shopping? A virtual tour might be what you need to provide before they visit. VR experiences create an anxiety-free shopping experience for those who otherwise might have reservations about shopping in person.

Develop the Right Retail VR Experience

Technology, hardware, and the developers who create the software are crucial parts of the retail VR experience process. Developers are the ones who help to create the technology that creates the interactive experience. To implement a unique experience, the hardware and software used need to be custom-tailored to the goal that the business wishes to achieve, like VR headsets and corresponding software. These are the tools necessary to bring the experience to fruition.

With so many different options available, retail establishments can implement VR solutions that not only complement their brand but also create a more interactive experience for both employees and consumers. Consumers can experience a unique shopping experience that transcends the traditional marketplace shopping experience. Companies who implement VR experiences for their employees make it possible to train employees (especially those companies with employees worldwide) and ensure everyone is on the same page. VR capabilities in the workforce create opportunities that might not have been available in other situations.

Author Bio:

Marc Loeb is the Global Sales Director of ByondXR, a retail technology company that developed a proprietary eCommerce platform to help brands and retailers create and manage virtual stores and showrooms that disrupt the industry by providing scalable immersive solutions that increase customer engagement and sales. Marc has over 25 years of experience in Technology, Business development, and eCommerce. His past experiences include CEO of a Global direct-to-consumer eCommerce company shipping to over 150 countries worldwide and President of Kellwood Company global apparel manufacturer.  Marc holds an MBA from The Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University, and certifications from HKUST Business School in Hong Kong in digital marketing.

 



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