From gaming to military defense, medicine to entertainment, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) are rapidly transforming the way we interact with technology. Once the stuff of science fiction, AR and VR are becoming a part of our everyday lives, opening up new possibilities for how we learn, work, and play.
"We do have One More Thing"
These famous words repeated by Apple CEO Tim Cook, at the 2023 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, made it clear that we had only scratched the surface of what's possible with extended reality technologies.
In The Beginning
Before the Metaverse, the world of VR for consumers was primarily focused on creating immersive experiences within a specific application or game. Virtual reality was typically associated with gaming and entertainment, with limited use in other industries. The limited use cases made VR headsets less accessible to the general public.
One of the earliest instances of AR being used in mainstream applications was in sports, where the technology was used to overlay graphics and data on live sports broadcasts. This helped viewers better understand key statistics and insights in real-time, giving them an enhanced viewing experience. The use of photo and video filters in social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram, as well as in mobile games such as Pokemon GO, made Augmented Reality more popular; evolving the way in which we combine both the physical and the digital world.
VR & AR Today, And Tomorrow
As Extended Reality technologies continue to advance, they are poised to revolutionize yet another aspect of our lives - Online Shopping. The traditional online shopping experience has largely been confined to two-dimensional screens, where consumers browse through images and descriptions of products before making a purchase decision. However, the integration of AR and VR into the online shopping landscape is taking this experience to a whole new level, with brands like Adidas, Sephora, L'oreal and Ikea, blurring the lines between the digital and physical worlds. The global AR market is expected to rise up to $128 billion by 2028, and this creates an opportunity for more ecommerce brands to take advantage of emerging technologies like extended reality to stay ahead of the competition.
Try Before You Buy: Virtual Fitting Rooms and Product Visualization
One of the most exciting prospects of AR and VR in online shopping is the concept of virtual fitting rooms. Imagine being able to try on clothes, accessories, and even cosmetics virtually, all from the comfort of your own home. According to a report by Foresight Factory’s Future of Shopping, 3 in 10 customers want virtual dressing rooms instead of going to a store for clothes. Through the magic of AR, shoppers can see how a particular outfit, piece of jewelry, or makeup would look on them in real time, eliminating the uncertainty of purchasing items without trying them on first. This not only enhances the convenience of online shopping but also reduces the likelihood of returns, benefiting both shoppers and retailers. Add Multiplayer Shopping features to the mix, and the experience becomes more interactive and immersive.
In a similar vein, VR technology can provide immersive product visualization experiences. Instead of simply viewing static images, shoppers can virtually interact with products, examining them from every angle and even simulating usage scenarios. For instance, a potential car buyer could step into a virtual showroom, explore the vehicle's interior and exterior, and even take a simulated test drive. This level of engagement and interaction can lead to more informed purchase decisions and increased customer satisfaction.
Bringing the Store to You: Virtual Retail Spaces
The concept of a brick-and-mortar store is being reimagined in the virtual realm. With AR and VR, retailers have the opportunity to create virtual stores that replicate the physical shopping experience, complete with aisles, shelves, and displays. Shoppers can navigate through these virtual spaces using their devices or VR headsets, browsing products as if they were strolling down the aisles of a real store. This not only recreates the excitement of in-person shopping but also allows retailers to showcase their products in creative and captivating ways.
Moreover, these virtual retail spaces can transcend physical limitations. A small boutique in one corner of the world can reach a global audience, and unique pop-up shops can appear in the digital realm, offering limited-time experiences that are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Brands can also experiment with different store layouts and designs to see what resonates best with their customers, all without the constraints of physical construction.
AR-Powered Assistance: Enhancing Customer Support
Customer support is an integral part of the shopping experience, and AR technology can enhance it in innovative ways. Imagine having a virtual assistant guide you through a complex assembly process for a piece of furniture, overlaying step-by-step instructions onto the physical product in your home. Or picture receiving real-time product information and reviews by simply pointing your smartphone at an item on a store's website. AR can bridge the gap between online shopping and in-person assistance, providing consumers with the guidance and information they need to make informed decisions.
The integration of AR and VR into the world of online shopping holds immense potential to reshape the way we browse, select, and purchase products. As these technologies continue to evolve and become more accessible, consumers can look forward to a more immersive, interactive, and personalized shopping experience. Retailers, too, stand to benefit by offering innovative solutions that cater to the changing preferences of their customers.
With the boundaries between physical and digital realities blurring, the future of online shopping is indeed a thrilling prospect — one where shopping isn't just an activity, but an experience that transcends screens and pixels.