To some, the idea of virtual reality may still seem like an abstract concept or a futuristic technology we won’t see in this lifetime, but it’s actually a lot closer to being commercialised than one might think, with many retailers trialing forms of virtual reality as part of their marketing strategies. It might sound like a mere trend destined to wither away into extinction (as we all hope selfies and #YOLO will too), but it looks like virtual reality could be here to stay.
As an exciting and engaging idea, it’s bound to work well in a retail environment and has the potential to become a powerful marketing tool with which to drive sales and offer the consumer a unique and memorable experience.
When introduced into the bustling world of the high street, virtual reality can make shopping an even more immersive experience. Topshop dabbled in virtual reality recently, unveiling a virtual version of their catwalk show from London Fashion Week in their flagship store on Oxford Circus. The store was fitted with units which shoppers could use to experience the fashion show in real-time. Virtual reality uses a combination of video and sound to play on your senses, making it a far more engaging and memorable experience that’s much different from simply looking at a photo.
Pepsi also tried their hand at virtual reality recently. The company replaced a panel of glass at an busy Oxford Street bus stop with a screen which appeared to be a window looking out at the street, but with surreal objects such as flying saucers appearing on the “street”, much to the delight (and fright) of passers by.
These are great examples of ways in which virtual reality could make shopping a more engaging experience. Imagine fashion stores with virtual mannequins modelling clothing lines or book shops could immerse their customers in the fantasy worlds of Game of Thrones or J. R. R. Tolkien.
And it doesn’t stop there. Ecommerce retailers could also take advantage of virtual reality – take Debenhams for example, who, for a limited time, released a virtual changing room app which allowed users to view themselves in clothes without trying them on. Ecommerce merchants may already be used to the concept of virtual reality (inventory management software, for example, is like managing a virtual inventory) but they really could benefit of this kind of app, allowing their customers to get a clearer idea of the goods they wish to buy, even without them being tangible at the point of purchase.
Google Glass could also play a part in revolutionising retail. Instead of fumbling around in your bag or pocket for your phone (say you want to search for the lowest price, find contact information or get directions) everything is there without the user even having to move. That means you have free use of your hands to get your wallet out, carry bags, push a trolley all without the need for a phone.
Google Glass could also make interacting with the web while in a store much more seamless. If the user has their Glass device to their Google account, it will have access to their internet search history and emails, allowing it to pick out items it thinks the person will like, based on their tastes. For instance, if a shopper often buys from Zara online, a promotion could be sent to them when they walk past a Zara store and Glass recognises the clothing chain’s logo.
Although virtual reality isn’t a new concept, it’s only just becoming actualised, but with an array of uses for it already materialising, there’s no denying this technology has the potential to revolutionize the face of the high street as we know it.
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