Virtual reality has been on the edge of the mainstream for many generations. There have been numerous iterations, reinventions and bold predictions. When it comes to retail though, I’m still waiting for that breakthrough moment that gets general shoppers like me, not just tech enthusiasts, rushing for their wallet.
Devices like the Facebook-owned Oculus, PlayStation VR and the Android phone utilising Google Daydream have made some inroads in innovation and are on the way to getting consumers to live their best VR life.
To assist the sales of their latest smartphones, both Samsung and Huawei have recently utilised VR, tied together with an ‘anti-gravity’ rig for an ultra-immersive space experience. It aims to entice shoppers off the streets and into their stores to try something new and exciting.
Drawing people in-store is one thing, enhancing their purchase experience is another. Bentley uses the HTC Vive VR at car events to bring to life the full lifestyle that comes with owning such a prestigious car. Set in a remote village square in the south of France, users sit at an outdoor restaurant table with a bottle of champagne in front of them and a convertible Bentley sat in the sunshine. How very, well, Bentley.
VR can be used as a bit of fun to get people interacting with a brand and it can heighten the ownership experience by putting buyers in fantasy scenarios. Making customers smile is a huge part of the shopping experience.
VR for customer engagement is just one use of the technology in retail. VR has also found a home in the training and development of retail teams. Walmart has started to train its team members using a specially developed programme. They found that because it felt more like a game, their employees were more excited to learn and picked up information quicker.
Imagine being able to walk through your next house or drive your next car on a race track, all using VR? Or instead of sitting an exam for Ikea about shelf stacking, playing an interactive game? The possibilities are endless, although for now, still rather expensive. But, as more people develop and learn, the price of running these projects will likely fall. If so, I’m confident that in the near future, more retail spaces could adopt VR as a way of enhancing the shopping experience.
While expecting consumers to go out and buy VR tech is a bit of a stretch, showing them an experience in a shopping centre could help them form positive opinions about your brand and build affinity. Anything that adds fun to shopping is a big bonus for me. Right now, I’m off to see if my local shopping centre has a new VR experience for me to try.