Retail Stores Turning to Virtual Reality to Make Shopping More Interesting
The next thing that you may find at the mall could be a virtual reality headset.
This technology is no longer restricted to just video games. Virtual reality is now coming to movie theaters, amusement parks, classrooms, and even shopping malls. This technology offers a major opportunity for the retailers to try to attract the fickle shoppers to their stores, certainly as the consumers shift more of their purchasing interests online.
How Virtual Reality change the way of shopping?
Lowe’s, Ikea, North Face, and Toms are already turning to virtual reality to boost their brands, sell more products, and make shopping more interesting and fun.
A report from digital agency SapientNitro said, “Virtual reality is going to fundamentally transform the human experience of shopping,” expecting that it would “lift sales for those retailers who get ahead of the curve.”
Lowe’s has added a revolutionary edge to the often frustrating procedure of transforming a bathroom or kitchen.
In 19 stores around the United States – though none in California – the home improvement chain has installed virtual reality systems that allow the shoppers to watch their 3D design of their plans to renovate.
It’s named the Holoroom. Its simulated space can be modified with separate room sizes, colors, equipment, and finishing. Shoppers can give the dimensions of their room to Lowe’s and they are allowed to fill it from a selection of thousands of products that Lowe’s sells.
Then they can put on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to watch all the elements looks together (an employee can change the parts of the room while the customer is still looking). The design can also be viewed on YouTube 360 by using a Google Cardboard viewer at home, which Lowe’s gives for free through vending machines that are on site.
Kyle Nel, executive director at the Lowe’s Innovation Labs, said, the Hologram helps the nudge people to get over the big obstacle when it comes to redesigning a room by imagining how those changes will look in actual life.
“If you think about the way people conceptualize remodels now, it’s really abstract,” Nel said. “They go and get a little swatch here and one there and lay it on a table.”
Nel said, by using virtual reality, people can get a much more immersive and “holistic” view of how a different paint color and a slab of marble can change a whole room – significantly increasing the possibility that they will go with Lowe’s for this plan.
He said, “It removes five steps along the way. Anyone who has done a renovation has a really visceral reaction.”
Virtual reality headsets mimic the sounds and sights that you find in the real world, using a combination of graphics, motion-tracking, and algorithms. The next step for the Lowe’s is to incorporate Google’s Project Tango and Microsoft HoloLens, where the virtual reality objects can be placed on top of the real objects.
Neil said, “You can stand in your own kitchen and overlay a fridge on top of your own fridge. It’s uncannily real.”
Although, the industry of virtual reality is still in the initial stages. According to advisory firm Digi-Capital, its annual revenue is predicted to rise from less than $1 billion to $30 billion by 2020. Piper Jaffray predicts, annual sales of headsets may hit half a billion by the year 2025.
Later on, as consumers buy their own headsets and as virtual reality becomes more mainstream, most parts of v-commerce could move away from the stores into the homes. This means that you will be able to walk to the store and search for new jeans, all without leaving your couch.
But the analysts say that the companies should have to be smart in utilizing virtual reality so that it remains brand relevant and doesn’t look gimmicky.
Virtual Reality Shopping: Aid for Retailers
Virtual reality is also being used to increase an experimental characteristic to in-store shopping, dissimilar to the actual buying of products. Retailers are dipping their feet in virtual reality for the same reason as they are adding the other facilities such as curbside pickup, to attract the people back into the store. They figure that the sci-fi aspect of virtual reality is a type of entertainment that cannot be copied from behind a computer screen.
Ron Friedman, a retail expert at accounting and advisory firm Marcum at Los Angeles, “Retailers have been down for so long, they have got to differentiate themselves to get people to shop.”
Toms first started its business as a food company before branching into coffee and eyewear. Last year, Toms had bought a lot of virtual reality headsets from Samsung and have put them into more than 100 stores around the world. The video shown shows a trip to Peru as part of the popular one-for-one campaign of the company, in which it donates a pair of shoes for each pair it sells; viewers can see a video with panoramic scenes of a schoolyard as the children are handed shoes boxes.
On a recent weekday, Tyler Costin, 32, put on a Samsung Gear VR headset while he was shopping at the Toms store in Venice.
He said, “That’s amazing,” rotating his chair to take in the 360-degree views. Cotin lifted his hand at one point to greet the students before rapidly putting it back down. He said, “you want to wave back.”
The producer of Westwood, who had never utilized a virtual reality headset before, said that the experience was “pretty incredible.”
Costing said, “It’s like you are there,” joking that “Peru was lovely that time of the year.”
That type of immediacy is why virtual reality is better than traditional videos and photographs, Toms founder Blake Mycoskie said.
Mycoskie said, “It just touches more of your senses. It gives you a more immersive experience — you really get the feel of motion.”
Sensory drama doesn’t come cheap. Filming costs about $250,000, and outfitting each store costs about $1,000 each, Mycoskie said. The greatest expense comes on training at least one employee per shop to run the equipment and walk customers through the procedure.
But Mycoskie said that virtual reality is worth it. He further said, Toms is in the middle of editing a second virtual reality video that will be introduced in May.
He said, “There is so much e-commerce today, you have to come up with a new reason to go to stores.”
North Face, an outdoor recreation band, released two virtual reality videos in 2015. Three of its stores contains virtual reality headsets, including the one in San Francisco.
The first video that debuted in March 2015, featured the Moab Desert in Utah and rock climbing in Yosemite. For the second video that featured Alameda, California, the company partnered with Outside magazine to issue the Google Cardboard to subscribers so they could watch footage of Nepal on their smartphone.
Virtual reality is a good way to bring the wilderness inside, said Todd Spaletto, the president of North Face.
He wrote in his email, these videos “let people see the beauty of these places.” It’s “one unique way we can introduce and encourage people to get outside.”
Friedman said, the addition of virtual reality components to the stores will especially a lure to millennial shoppers, who are more inclined to do all their work even buying online and tech-savvy.
However, mostly retail virtual reality is taking place in the stores. Ikea launched an app last week so people who own an HTC Vive can look inside a virtual kitchen. You can look inside the drawers and change the color of cabinets.
But some experts say that these types of practical applications will be few and far between. Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester Research, said, most retailers will grab virtual reality for the gimmicky glare factor.
Mulpuru also said that the gear which is required for this technology makes virtual reality inaccessible for most of the consumers. Virtual reality headsets are still expensive. The Oculus Rift costs about $600 and HTV Vive costs about $800. However, more affordable versions are the Samsung Gear VR, which costs about $100, and the Google Cardboard, which costs about $15.
She added, “Unless VR devices come down in price and are widely accessible. The truth is you can probably get a good enough way of simulating something just with photography.” Whether or not it’s useful, lots of companies are investing in the virtual reality gold rush and there’s sure to be many more in the coming months and years.
In January, Two Bits Circus, a Los Angeles firm that helps companies to organize tech-infused events, opened a division of virtual reality. The company helped Verizon to create a virtual reality project for the preceding year’s Super Bowl, where people got an experience of playing an NFL game. That simulation is now available in the Verizon store at the Third Street Promenade that’s located in Santa Monica, California.