Could We Really Go Shopping In VR?

Just one of the multiple ways in which VR can be experienced, shopping online in virtual reality stores looks a certainty at some point to become one of the most widely used applications of the technology.


Over the last ten years our shopping habits have changed. With the likes of Amazon building up an online superstore where you can get pretty much anything you want – within days and sometimes without delivery charged – we’re turning more and more to the Internet for our shopping needs.


It’s convenient, there are a wide set of choices for anything we want, and often there are good deals to be had by shopping around. The future of online shopping is set in concrete.


But everything evolves. Everything can be improved. The way in which we shop has an interesting change looming on the horizon – a change which will result from the seemingly unstoppable impact that virtual reality will have on almost every area of our lives.


So is shopping ripe for the VR treatment?


Already we can pull up a pair of trainers, a shirt, or a skirt on a website, change the colours, and zoom in to see the finest detail.


The question will be ‘how does shopping in virtual reality improve that?’


The reality may well be that it doesn’t. At least not on some levels.


And where it’s questionable might be in those aspects of the shopping experience that do work well in real life. Part of the fun for many of us is in the physical exercise of heading off to the local shopping centre to stroll around with friends, try stuff on, pick it up, see how it looks either on or in our hands, and  generally make it an enjoyable outing.


Virtual reality shopping of course can’t match that.


But what it can do is create a sense of reality in a shop type environment that saves you having to travel, and once social vr solutions are developed you’ll even be able to visit a virtual mall with friends and chat about the experience at the same time.


It won’t be as real as the real thing, but it will add some extra spice to the flatness of standard online shopping.


Men should love it!


So the next time you pull on your gloves and woolly hat for an exciting day at the shops, spare some thought on whether donning your virtual reality headset could get you there a lot quicker.


The Way It Works


Imagine walking into a store and then head towards the area you want, or just stroll through looking here and there.


In a virtual reality experience it’s the same. But instead of picking up items to examine them for info and price, you just need to look at them for a few seconds. This will cause information to pop up including suggested uses, how to use or wear it, demonstrations.

You want to buy? Tap the headset to place the item in a checkout cart.


Just as you’ll see ads pop up on websites now that are associated with items you’ve searched before, the store will ‘remember’ over time what you’ve looked at before, eventually delivering items it ‘knows’ you might be interested in.


When you combine all this with the power of augmented reality, you can start to see some interesting aspects developing. You could ‘see’ what an object would look like in your own home, for example, by placing a 3D image of it into a 3D rendering of your kitchen, lounge, or bedroom. At the same time altering the colour of the object to anything you choose.



What’s In It For The Stores?


If shopping migrates significantly into virtual reality, could that lower the amount we spend?


That seems unlikely. If anything, the relaxed state a shopper is in could encourage more spending. Impulse buys could see an increase, and those stores which do present VR as a method of seeing their products could gain a distinguishing advantage.


Where the technology could offer big benefits for store turnover figures is in the area of user preferences. For the store there is a great opportunity, they can also cause related items or sales items to appear alongside whatever you’re looking at.


Another useful aspect for the stores is in planning the use of space, positioning of products, and testing consumer reactions. All can be done that much more quicker in virtual reality. Tests could even be carried out with different placements for different shoppers, with the results analysed to see which worked best.


The up front build and testin of new stores can also see benefits, allowing testing in advance that could prevent costly design mistakes that can’t easily be rectified later.



Which Stores Are Offering Virtual Reality Shopping Solutions?


Tommy Hilfiger were the first to showcase a clothing collection with their 2015 catwalk show, which can be seen in select stores around the world with a Samsung Gear VR headset. Many of us would never have a chance to see or visit such an event, but in VR we can.


Samsung are understandably among the forerunners, with their NY flagship store having been transformed into a play area built to showcase VR experiences.


In the lead up to Christmas of 2015 the big US store JC Penney met shoppers with a virtual reality experience that took them from the confines of the mall to the North Pole. Tried in stores in New York, Ohio, Arizona and Virginia, the experience was based on the popular “Twas The Flight Before Christmas” and featured a virtual Santa Claus along with snowmen and reindeers.


EBay – in a partnership with Myer – are the latest big name to dip their toes into VR shopping. They’ve created what’s believed to be the first fully fledged virtual reality department store, with the first 15000 potential shoppers being offered free glasses known as shopticals.

The store comes in the form of an app designed to give the VR experience in combination with a smartphone and Samsung Gear VR or a number of other cheaper cardboard type headsets. Once inside the store you’ll be surrounded by virtual goods just the same as you are in a land-based real world store.

Goods in the store are set in categories – similar to the way you’ll see them in aisles. You just stare at anything you want to look at closer to activate the VR imaging, while easily being able to add anything you want to buy to a shopping cart.

Australian shoppers are the first to get the chance to try out the new store.


 As for actually putting on your headset at home and going to buy something like a pair of trainers, we’re not quite there yet. But it’s only a matter of time.


We may not have to wait long. Early in 2016 it was reported that shopping giant Amazon were looking to hire a ‘head of VR’ to lead a dedicated internal team. The signs are strong that Amazon intend to use virtual reality to let their Customers do their Amazon shopping on a virtual store.


All in all, virtual reality technology is revolutionary. And the impact it will have on the way we do many things in life will be revolutionary. Shopping is just one of those aspects of daily life which are ripe for seeing new and exciting ways to carry them out. It seems sure to be one of the applications of VR that’ll be classed in the top 20 in years to come.