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Is Virtual Reality the Future of eCommerce?

Sam O'Reilly
14 November 2016 12:32

The internet has a massive impact on the way that people shop. You can buy almost anything online and this has caused problems for physical stores. However, the traditional retail space could be set to make a comeback with the increasing popularity and evolution of technology in Virtual Reality! VR is becoming more and more accessible with the availability of cheaper technology like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR that are compatible with your smartphone. The immersive environment that VR offers will provide the perfect platform for the most engaging eCommerce experience yet. 

VR has really started to take off in China. November 11th is an unofficial Chinese holiday known as 'Singles Day' which has a similar concept to Black Friday with stores hosting massive sales. One of the highlights of the 2016 Singles Day was the Buy+ Virtual Reality experience that let users digitally explore the shops, examine the products and purchase items all from the comfort of their chair. Check out this video that showcases the experience:

When shopping online, consumers are always craving engaging content. Content that will grab hold and keep their attention, to give them the best possible experience. There are many ways that eCommerce websites can create content to engage their consumers but technology is always evolving and the way that consumers engage with your brand could be changing...

Virtual Reality shopping isn't completely here yet but you can take inspiration from it to make your eCommerce website a strong competitor for engagement. VR exceeds at, what I like to call, 'The Experience'. Having the control to move around freely and to interact with everything really engages customers.

You may ask 'But how can customers get that experience from my website?' Great question! There are many ways to make your website more engaging. One way, for example, would be showroom videos. You could upload a really well-produced video tour of your showroom to your website so that your customers get an idea of how it looks. This will help, not only to engage your customer but to also make your business easier to connect to and seem more human.

An important feature to add to your website is images. This is especially important for an eCommerce website as images are very important for customer engagement. The images that you use should be high quality and a good representation of your product/service. Staging your photography with lifestyle photographs help to further engagement. Vero did research on the importance of images and found that from the 5000 campaigns that they analysed, the ones with images had a 42% higher click through rate. 

You could also use Google Maps Street View. You may not be aware but you can now get a Street View tour of the inside of your showroom, allowing your customers to take a digital tour with full control. Here is an example of the Street View in one of the most exciting places I could think of, Diagon Alley! Feel free to explore and experience it for yourself.


There are also social aspects to VR eCommerce that are very appealing. You may have noticed in the video, there are people that interact with the user on several occasions. There was the American guy in the car, the shop clerk and the Japanese girl who wants to go shopping with you. These social aspects are important for engagement because it's something personal that really speaks to the customer. It also makes your brand seem more human.

There's a study from the New York Daily News that shows that people are more likely to spend more money when they shop with friends. They surveyed 1000 people and found that 64% of them would end up spending more money when shopping with friends. The reason for this was because people were 'showing off in front of friends' and 'succumbing to peer pressure and buying things we wouldn't ordinary buy'. 

'How can I get my eCommerce website to be social like that?' Another great question! Although there isn't really anything that can replicate social shopping for your website like VR can, there are some things that you can add.

Social media share buttons can be helpful. I'm sure you've seen them before but if you haven't, they're buttons that you can add to your website that lets the user share it with their friends on their social media. Along with social media share buttons, a 'send to a friend' button could be added so that customers can send a link to your product directly to their friends through email or social media direct messaging. Another thing that you can add to your website to make it more social is a review/comment section. Having a review/comment section will give your customers an easy access platform to communicate on.

Do you have any more examples or ideas for engaging content? Disagree with anything I said? Leave a comment and let me know!