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The future of eCommerce and virtual reality

Friday 16 March 2018
The future of e-commerce and virtual reality

Has virtual reality gone from fiction to reality? It might be the next big thing in eCommerce.

Although most eCommerce companies choose to compete over prices and product ranges, it’s now proven that consumer experience is what will really help your business make the difference. Leaders in Consumer Experience deliver, on average, 17% of revenue growth within 5 years, whereas poorer consumer experience departments deliver only 3% over the same period.

Improved consumer experiences have become one of the main key success factors for retailers to win and retain shoppers. Indeed, today, a totally satisfied customer contributes 2.6 times as much revenue as a somewhat satisfied customer, and 14 times as much revenue as a somewhat dissatisfied customer.

So how do you make sure your shoppers’ expectations are met and exceeded?

Virtual Reality could be the answer...

Virtual and Augmented Reality in a nutshell

According to the Virtual Reality Society, VR is the creation of a virtual, three-dimensional environment presented to our senses in such a way that we experience it as if we were really there. The environment can be experienced by a person, who instantly becomes part of this virtual world and is able to look around, manipulate objects, or perform a series of actions within that virtual world.

Augmented reality is slightly different, as it integrates digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it.

Virtual and Augmented Reality both use a host of technologies and are technically complex tools, but with the technology becoming cheaper and more widespread, its potential becomes endless and the VR and AR phenomenon keeps getting bigger and bigger.

The numbers - and what it means for eCommerce

We all know virtual reality has dramatically impacted the entertainment industry: roller coasters, extreme experiences, cinema.... But could it be the next best tool for eCommerce businesses?

For the eCommerce space, this revolutionary technology is all about delivering users the best experience possible in the most convenient way, from their homes, sofas, or computers.

Industry analyst firm CCS Insight published a report predicting the VR market to be worth $4 billion by 2018. A recent report put out by Walker Sands also showed that 35% of online shoppers said they would be more comfortable buying products if they could try them in a virtual world before purchasing, and approximately 40% of consumers would be willing to spend more on a product if it offered an augmented reality experience. The worldwide market for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality headsets grew 25.5% year over year in the second quarter of 2017 as shipments reached 2.1 million, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). There could be more than 171 million active VR users by 2018, mainly due to better hardware and falling costs - making VR affordable and reliable to everyone, whether they’re consumers or businesses.

It seems like VR and AR will be for Generation Z what smartphones are to millennials.

But that’s not all. According to one of Google’s Consumer Surveys, 41% of adults are interested in giving virtual reality a try. And with over 190 different VR headsets on sale on Amazon, it seems like virtual reality is by far one of the biggest emerging technologies this year.

With online retail being one of the most competitive markets, virtual reality might be the ideal way for businesses to improve their customer experience by letting shoppers interact with items in a much more personal way than usual. By offering shoppers a way to experience items in the way they want to, prior to purchase, it seems like virtual reality is the perfect fit for the eCommerce industry.

Implementing Virtual or Augmented Reality to your eCommerce website

Consumers and shoppers are looking for as much transparency as possible when researching and buying products online. Giving them the opportunity to access more product information with virtual or augmented reality can encourage shoppers to make a purchase decision faster, which I experienced myself.

To implement VR or AR to your business, you can opt for third-party extensions, allowing your customers to visualise their products in real time, and creating a seamless customer experience to help you eliminate doubt and increase conversions.

‘Augment’ is a company helping online retailers implement augmented reality. Whether customers choose to visualise their product in their home, office or garden, customers can rotate around the product, and see what it would look like in a natural setting.

VR image 1

Augment lets users picture what products would look like in their home

VR and AR extensions and apps help customers make a purchase decision faster - will this look good in the kitchen? What colour should we get? Is the living room spacious enough?

The technology answers all of these questions. It also allows customers to personalise products and visualise them just as well as if they were in-store, increasing sales, and improving the overall customer satisfaction.

Delivering a more interactive customer experience gives consumers the impression of getting the offline experience and service they would get in-store, which obviously boosts on-site confidence.


In a world where omni-channel strategies are the way forward, virtual and augmented reality seems to be the perfect technology to create a simple and seamless experience both online and offline.

In 2017, 75.6% of consumers abandoned their carts whilst shopping online. Giving consumers the possibility to check whether or not a product could be right for them is truly a game changer for big online retailers.

Virtually trying on a shirt or sunglasses, checking whether or not that table would fit in the living area, or what coffee machine would look best in the kitchen… All of these improve customer experience, customer satisfaction, and conversion rates, and can now be implemented to any customer buying journey.

Virtual and augmented reality technology is taking over eCommerce. Will you be implementing it in 2018?


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