Virtual shopping: Visiting online stores through the power of virtual reality. Perhaps you already have a rough idea of how virtual shopping works, or perhaps you have already tried apps that let you try on different hair colours and styles. But what exactly is virtual shopping and what kind of opportunities does it bring? Continue reading to learn more!
What is Virtual Shopping?
As the name suggests, virtual shopping is about shopping in virtual reality. However, virtual shopping does not always have to take place with VR glasses. Virtual reality and the real environment can mix, be it in your living room or in a local brick and mortar store. This concept is known as augmented reality. Sounds wild? Well, check this out!
Virtual shopping is all about looking at products, trying them on, and/or having models demonstrate them for you – and everything looks totally real! You can move around freely in virtual reality while shopping, try out different clothing styles, or for instance, sit in a car and have models demonstrate clothing.
The concept of virtual shopping has picked up a lot of steam due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stores and providers in other industries have also become bolder and various strategies for virtual marketing have emerged.
Off to the sofa: Virtual shopping at home
Up until a few years ago, virtual shopping at home was only possible with VR glasses. Most consumers do not have such devices at home, which means that the target group had been rather small. People who have shopped with VR glasses in the past are usually more enthusiastic about technology than the general public.
Now, however, there are numerous companies that offer apps for smartphones, which you can use to shop comfortably from home. There are different apps which can be used for virtual furniture shopping, such as IKEA Place. With the use of this app, you can scan your room and place furniture inside to see what it would look like with sofas, tables and chairs from the shop. The principle is similar to the AR effects that you may know from Instagram Stories: From the wreath of flowers on your head to the rainbow in your garden, you can conjure up things on your display.
Virtual changing rooms and product tests
In the make-up and fashion sector, such apps are becoming increasingly popular. L’Oréal offers its own application that turns the smartphone into a mirror and makes it possible to try on hairstyles or make-up on your own face. The advantage of testing the product virtually and not in a store is that you can see yourself with the new hair colour you want, for example, and think about whether you like the result. Alternatively, such applications are conceivable as a supplement to the test options in the store: you can do a make-up swatch on the back of your hand and also test the nuance on your face using the VR app.
H&M is working on a solution that goes even further: a virtual fitting app. In selected H&M stores, customers will be able to have their bodies scanned and have an avatar created with their exact body measurements, essentially creating a digital reflection. The associated app, which is currently being developed, helps to select suitable clothing items. A fitting guide helps users find the right styles and sizes. This way, H&M not only wants to create purchase incentives, but also reduce the number of returns. In the past, H&M had already tested a VR concept in a small store, where a selection of items of clothing was available for customers to try on virtually. They selected a piece of clothing and then entered a virtual dressing room, where the sweater or dress was projected directly onto their bodies in a mirror. The future is not as far off as it appears!
Another instance of this concept was conducted two years ago, by Zara, when they tested a virtual reality display in around 120 stores, on which customers could have virtual models show them their clothes. The clothes on the rail could be easily scanned with a smartphone.
Virtual showrooms in stores
As already explained, IKEA makes use of different technologies. But apart from using the IKEA Place app, you can also use virtual showrooms in selected IKEA stores. In virtual showrooms on special VR terminals, customers can set up rooms with IKEA furniture before the parts end up in the shopping cart or in their own living room. In contrast to the real showrooms, (i.e. the fully furnished rooms in the furniture exhibition) customers can implement their own ideas in the virtual showroom. With one click, the colour of the sofa cover can be changed, as well as wall colours. It is also possible to display the facility at different times of the day and under different lighting conditions. You don’t have all these options at home when shopping online or when shopping at IKEA. If you can see the table in your own kitchen, the purchase decision will be easier.
Virtual shopping for high-priced products
Deciding on a new car or a new apartment is not easy. It’s not just about the money, but also about the many objects and details that must be chosen from. When it comes to these things that require explanation and thought, you often have a lot of questions. After all, you want to know exactly what you’re spending money on. Since such purchase decisions are usually not made after an inspection or test drive and the whole thing is quite time-consuming, VR experiences can support the purchase decision. Interested parties can also try out vehicles as often as they like and configure their vehicle exactly according to their own wishes. Similar to the furniture, you get an impression of the car here, what it looks like in a certain colour and how the desired extra equipment can be operated without the car dealer having this version in the dealership.
Another industry at the forefront of virtual reality is real-estate. A virtual preview of the apartment is now part of the standard program for many brokers. There are advantages for both sides: On the one hand, the broker has less work, since many interested parties often drop out after the first viewing. On the other hand, as a potential tenant or buyer, you can visit the apartment as often as you like. You also save time if it becomes clear after the first virtual inspection that the apartment does not meet your expectations.
Virtual shopping is still in its infancy, but it is increasingly becoming a part of how we conduct business as consumers. We are excited to see what the developments will look like in the coming years! If you are active as an influencer and regularly shop for clothes or interior pieces, stylink is certainly an attractive earning opportunity for you in the future. You can find out how to earn money on social media with our remuneration platform in our FAQ.